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irritable bowel syndrome, psychological distress, women



  1. Jarrett, Monica
  2. Heitkemper, Margaret
  3. Cain, Kevin C.
  4. Tuftin, Marlys
  5. Walker, Edward A.
  6. Bond, Eleanor F.
  7. Levy, Rona L.


Background: Individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are reported to experience more symptoms compatible with psychopathologic disorders, abnormal personality traits, and psychological distress. Conversely, individuals with psychiatric disorders report higher levels of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms compatible with IBS. Thus, psychological distress may contribute to GI symptoms in individuals with IBS.


Objectives: To examine psychological distress in women with IBS, women with similar GI symptoms but not diagnosed (IBS nonpatients, IBS-NP), and asymptomatic Control women.


Methods: The women (N = 97) were interviewed, completed questionnaires, and maintained daily diaries for 2 months. Across-women and within-woman analyses were used to calculate the results.


Results: The IBS and IBS-NP groups had a higher percentage of lifetime psychopathology and recalled psychological distress. At least 40% of the women in the IBS and IBS-NP groups had positive relationships between daily psychological distress and daily GI symptoms.


Conclusions: Psychological distress is an important component of the IBS symptom experience and should be considered when treatment strategies are designed.