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The irritable bowel syndrome is discussed together with some of its theories, methods of investigation and various treatment regimens. Eight case histories are reported. In each patient, symptoms appeared to be precipitated by situations interpreted by that patient as stressful. A programme of prospective desensitization using hypnosis is described. Where symptoms of depression were additionally present, antidepressant medication was prescribed. This was subsequently phased out as and when indicated. Where patients had been taking antidiarrhoeal or antispasmodic drugs, various stool bulking agents or benzodiazepines, these were also slowly discontinued as treatment progressed. Cases were followed up from 3 months to 12 years. In 2 cases recurrence of symptoms was again successfully treated. There was no recurrence of any of the bowel symptoms in any other patient. The results support the view that the irritable bowel syndrome is psychogenic in origin.