This is a far more complicated question than you might think. Not only are there the obvious financial costs to Irritable bowel syndrome and functional abdominal pain—which is what most people first consider—but there are also significant costs to a family’s time and, most importantly, to their emotions.
How much having a functional GI disorder costs you financially depends, in part, on your treatment approach to treating them. The most common patient medical conditions I work with are:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Functional abdominal pain (FAP).
- Functional dyspepsia (FD).
- Abdominal migraine (AM).
- Cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS).
The prescription medications most commonly used for these conditions can be quite costly. In addition, families often purchase homeopathic and other over-the-counter remedies that, even though they have not been proven to be effective, they hope will help. Further frustrating the situation, one of the medications that clinicians frequently prescribe for functional GI issues was found to be as effective as placebo after four weeks of treatment.
Other common financial costs include:
- Homeopathic treatments.
- Patient’s or parent’s time off from work.
- Sub-specialist clinician visits (1–2 appointments): Approximately $30 copay (with insurance) and $100-$200/visit (without insurance).
- Lab tests:
- Blood tests.
- Stool tests.
Given this treatment protocol, the annual cost for treating a child with FGIDs can be as much as several thousand dollars. That’s no small amount, particularly given the fact that most families live paycheck to paycheck. This factor can add additional stress to an already difficult situation.
Beyond the financial is a cost that is harder to pin down: time. Functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders represent the second-leading cause of school absence in children in the United States. These children may then fall behind in their schoolwork, and are not able to spend as much time with their friends, thus missing out on socialization, which is important at any age.
Additionally, their parents may need to stay home from work to care for them. In some cases, the parents may need to physically be with their child during the day and unable to do any work while they are home.
How much time does this add up to, exactly? Obviously, this varies from family to family, so there isn’t an exact number we could put on it. But it often starts in the morning when the child wakes up and may extend till bedtime. Many parents feel the need to stay near their child throughout the day to monitor and care for them. This really adds up! And the impact on your regularly disrupted sleep can be significant as well.
Imagining the other activities you could do with this lost time illustrates the impact these conditions can have on your precious time. With the time you’d get back from dealing with a functional GI disorder, you could:
- Sleep more.
- Go to school or work.
- Play sports.
- Study/do homework.
- Paint, dance, or play a musical instrument.
- Watch television.
But the most significant of all the costs related to the functional GI disorders are the emotional costs, which can be devastating to the child (and to the parents as well). Some of the most common emotional costs I observe in my patients are:
- Loss of self-esteem.
- Loss of self-confidence.
- Embarrassment, humiliation, and shame:
- This often occurs when their peers find out about the problem.
- Sadly, family members sometimes tease these children.
- Even worse, sometimes parents make their sons or daughters feel shame.
- About the money it costs to take them to see their health care professionals, or for medications.
- About the extra time their parents have to stay home to take care of them.
- Fear of other kids finding out.
And sometimes parents feel not only frustrated and sad, but they may, at times, be a bit irritated or annoyed with their child.
The effects of these costs can run deep and often last years after the physical problem has ended. Being particularly aware of and sensitive to this fact is essential for anyone interacting with a child who struggles with these conditions.
The Cost of Medicalizing the Problem
When test results come back normal—as they usually do with functional GI issues—parents often ask, “What do you mean, there’s nothing wrong with my child? Of course there is! She can’t go to school! He can’t play soccer! He can’t fall asleep at night due to the pain!”
They may feel guilty and worried that they are bad parents because their child has this problem. When parents are told that there is nothing physical to explain the problem, they sometimes believe this means they did (or didn’t do) something to cause it.
They may push their clinicians to order more tests “to be sure that we’re not missing anything medical.” This not only drives up the financial costs, but also gives the child the message that there is a medical disease, rather than a functional problem, that needs to be addressed and treated.
Furthermore, if a child sees his parents pushing for more tests, then he may believe that there is something medically wrong that the doctors are missing, and undermine his confidence in his healthcare provider.
I had the privilege of recently attending a lecture given by Carlo di Lorenzo, MD, who is one of the premier pediatric gastroenterologists in the world. He said, “There are societal and medical biases against mind/body disturbances.” Further, he points out that running more tests frequently:
- Delays the diagnosis of a FGID.
- Is not cost-effective.
- Makes it so that there is no limit to the diagnostic work-up.
- Increases uncertainty.
- Postpones treatment.
Instead, Dr. di Lorenzo tells his patients’ parents:
- We know exactly what your child has.
- No more tests are needed.
- I have seen this before.
- I am not worried about your child.
- Let’s talk about stress and anxiety.
And Dr. di Lorenzo stated that hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy are the most effective treatments for these conditions. (You can read more research on these treatments below.)
The Cost of Patients Taking on “The Sick Role”
Finally, when patients believe that there is nothing they can do to help themselves, this can lead to a negative self-fulfilling prophecy, preventing them from having a better quality of life. They may stay home from school, pull back from family and friends, and feel dejected, discouraged, and even depressed. This is perhaps the greatest—and saddest—cost of all.
The Solution to FGIDs
However, there is a simple solution to all of these costs. My specialized program, Controlling Your Gut Feelings®, is a comprehensive home video series that incorporates medical hypnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies, and motivational interviewing methods based on evidence-based medical research.
I have taken my years of working one-on-one with children and adolescents—and coaching their parents—and distilled down all my most effective treatment techniques into an easy-to-understand video series that you can do in the privacy of your own home. And, most importantly, you can actually achieve results quickly without medication!
Using medical hypnosis—otherwise known as visualization or guided meditation—your child can learn how to overcome their challenge and acquire a skill that they can carry with them into adulthood that can be applied to countless life circumstances. The same is true for the CBT skills that your child will learn from this program.
Controlling Your Gut Feelings is available for only $149 with a 60-day money-back guarantee because we are convinced that your child will see results quickly.
Imagine your child waking up comfortably and confidently every day. How will their life—and yours—be different? When I ask my patients and their parents this question, they often say:
I’ll be able to confidently go to school!
I won’t have to worry about where the closest bathroom is!
I won’t worry about having an accident in my pants during soccer or play practice.
I’ll be more self-confident.
I’ll feel better about myself.
If you’re ready for your child to start being comfortable, confident, and in control as early as today, click here to get your program.
1. Vlieger, A., Menko-Frankenhuis, C., Walfkamp, S.C.S., Tromp, E., & Benninga, M. (2007). Hypnotherapy for children with functional abdominal pain or irritable bowel syndrome: A randomized controlled trial. Gastroenterology, 133(5),1430–1436.
2. Vlieger, A., Rutten, J.M., Govers, A.M.A.P., Frankenhuis, C., and Benninga, M.A. (2012). Long-term follow-up of gut-directed hypnotherapy vs. standard care in children with functional abdominal pain or irritable bowel syndrome. Gastroenterology, 10.1038/ajg.2011.487.
3. Rutten, J.M., Vlieger, A.M., Frankenhuis, C., George, E.K., Groeneweg, M., Norbruis, O.F., et al. (2014). Gut-directed hypnotherapy in children with irritable bowel syndrome or functional abdominal pain (syndrome): a randomized controlled trial on self exercises at home using CD versus individual therapy by qualified therapists. BioMed Central Pediatrics, 4(14), 140.
4. Rutten, J.M., Reitsma, J.B., Vlieger, A.M., et al. (2013). Gut-directed hypnotherapy for functional abdominal pain or irritable bowel syndrome in children: A systematic review. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 98, 252–257.
5. Rutten, J.M., Vlieger, A.M., Frankenhuis, C., George, E.K., Groeneweg, M., Norbruis, O.F., et al. (2017). Home-based hypnotherapy self-exercises vs. individual hypnotherapy with a therapist for treatment of pediatric irritable bowel syndrome, functional abdominal pain: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Pediatrics, 171(5), 470–477.
6. Palermo, T.M., Law E.F., Fales, J., Bromberg, M.H., Jessen-Fiddick, T., & Tai, G. (2016). Internet-delivered cognitive-behavioral treatment for adolescents with chronic pain and their parents: a randomized controlled multicenter trial. Pain, 157(1), 174–185.
7. Levy, R.L., Langer, S.L., Walker, L.S., Romano, J.M., Christie, D.L., Youssef, N. et al. (2010). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for children with functional abdominal pain and their parents decreases pain and other symptoms. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 105(4), 946–956.
8. van der Veek, S.M.C., Derkx, B.H., Benninga, M.A., Boer, F., & de Haan, E. (2013). Cognitive behavior therapy for pediatric functional abdominal pain: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics, 132(5), e1163–1172.
9. Saps, M., Youssef, N., Miranda, A., Nurko, S., Hyman, P., Cocjin, J., et al. (2010). Multicenter, randomized placebo-controlled trial of amitriptyline in children with functional gastrointestinal disorders. Gastroenterology, 137(4), 1261–1269.