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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Mood color choice helps to predict response to hypnotherapy in patients with irritable bowel syndrome

Helen R Carruthers1, Julie Morris2, Nicholas Tarrier3 and Peter J Whorwell1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

2 Department of Medical Statistics, Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, UK

3 Division of Clinical Psychology, School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010, 10:75  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-10-75

Published: 7 December 2010

Abstract

Background

Approximately two thirds of patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) respond well to hypnotherapy. However, it is time consuming as well as expensive to provide and therefore a way of predicting outcome would be extremely useful. The use of imagery and color form an integral part of the hypnotherapeutic process and we have hypothesised that investigating color and how it relates to mood might help to predict response to treatment. In order to undertake this study we have previously developed and validated a method of presenting colors to individuals for research purposes called the Manchester Color Wheel (MCW). Using this instrument we have been able to classify colors into positive, neutral and negative shades and this study aimed to assess their predictive role in hypnotherapy.

Methods

156 consecutive IBS patients (aged 14-74, mean 42.0 years, 127 (81%) females, 29 (19%) males) were studied. Before treatment, each patient was asked to relate their mood to a color on the MCW as well as completing the IBS Symptom Severity Score, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression (HAD) Scale, the Non-colonic Symptom Scale, the Quality of Life Scale and the Tellegen Absorption Scale (TAS) which is a measure of hypnotisability. Following hypnotherapy all these measures were repeated with the exception of the TAS.

Results

For patients with a positive mood color the odds of responding to hypnotherapy were nine times higher than that of those choosing either a neutral or negative color or no color at all (odds ratio: 8.889; p = 0.042). Furthermore, a high TAS score and the presence of HAD anxiety also had good predictive value (odds ratio: 4.024; p = 0.092, 3.917; p < 0.001 respectively) with these markers and a positive mood color being independent of each other. In addition, these factors could be combined to give an even stronger prediction of outcome. Twice as many responders (63, 77.8%) had a positive mood color or were anxious or had a high TAS score compared with 32 (42.7%) without these factors (p < 0.001).

Conclusion

A positive mood color, especially when combined with HAD anxiety and a high TAS score, predict a good response to hypnotherapy.