Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Mark A. Lumley


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a central sensitization gastrointestinal disorder that affects 10-15% of the population. Psychosocial factors, including stress, social support, emotional processes, and trauma, have been shown to play a role in the development of IBS and the severity of symptoms. Effect sizes for psychological treatments are modest, indicating individual differences in effectiveness. A subset of patients with IBS may benefit from Emotional Awareness and Expression Training (EAET), a novel intervention that encourages the awareness and expression of emotions. In this study, 106 participants with IBS were randomized into one of two interventions—Relaxation Training or EAET—or a Waitlist Control group. Participants completed measures of IBS symptom severity and quality of life, emotional processes, and trauma. Moderator analyses were used to test whether individuals with more ambivalence over emotional expression, greater perceived social constraints, and more traumatic experiences are more likely to benefit from EAET than those with lower scores on these constructs. Results indicated that overall, the hypothesized and exploratory moderators moderate the effects of treatment group on health outcomes for RT compared to WLC, but not EAET compared to RT or WLC as hypothesized. Specifically, although both interventions (EAET and RT) appeared to result in improved health outcomes at 1- and 12-week follow-up (Thakur et al., 2016), it seems that RT was especially helpful for certain individuals, which may indicate that EAET is more helpful to a greater number of patients with IBS while RT is differentially helpful for certain groups.