Role of a health psychologist in the management of functional esophageal complaints

Megan E. Riehl*, S. Kinsinger, P. J. Kahrilas, J. E. Pandolfino, L. Keefer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Upper gastrointestinal complaints are common among patients in a gastrointestinal clinic. Outside of typical gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms that are treated with medication, the symptom presentations of esophageal patients, particularly those with functional conditions, are often difficult to treat and account for high health-care utilization. This manuscript describes the role of a health psychologist in the treatment of esophageal disorders using behavioral medicine interventions. Observations over the course of a 1-year period indicate that the sample presents with a relatively low level of psychological distress but reports negative effects of their symptoms on health-related quality of life. Five case examples of commonly treated disorders (globus, non-cardiac chest pain, functional dysphagia, rumination syndrome, supragastric belching) are described to highlight how behavioral treatment can improve patients' symptoms, decrease health-care utilization, and improve overall quality of life in a timely and relatively simple manner. Successful treatment outcomes are associated with a collaborative working alliance between patient, health psychologist, and gastroenterologist. Results indicate the benefit of referring appropriate esophageal patients to a health psychologist with specialization in gastroenterology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)428-436
Number of pages9
JournalDiseases of the Esophagus
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2015


  • behavioral medicine
  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • esophageal symptoms
  • health psychology
  • medical hypnosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology

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