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Psychological Factors

  • IBS activity is strongly related to psychological symptoms, including distress/anxiety (e.g., feeling wound up, inability to relax, feelings of panic and worry) and depression (e.g., loss of interest in enjoyable activities, feeling sad and unhappy, slowed down, lacking energy).
  • Psychologists and medical professionals have found consistent relationships between IBS and a range of concerns including diminished energy, impaired sense of control (due to an unknown syndrome course), impaired body image, increased isolation and fear, and feeling ‘dirty’.
  • Rates of reported psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression in IBS cohorts are higher (up to 50%) than in comparison to other chronic disease illness groups.
  • In comparison to healthy controls (and other illness groups such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease and colon cancer), individuals with more severe IBS report more psychiatric distress. Not surprisingly, IBS sufferers also report reduced self-esteem, increased body image concerns and sexual problems.
  • Psychological factors are known to have a long term effect on the physiological system, particularly on gastrointestinal motility and the immune response.

Risk factors for the development of psychological distress in IBS

Risk factors for the development of psychological distress in IBS include:

  • Stress (daily hassles, major life events)
  • Symptoms exacerbation
  • Comorbid psychiatric diagnosis (e.g., Generalised Anxiety, Panic Disorder)
  • Appraisal of uncertainty
  • Emotion-focused rather than problem focused coping
  • Lack of information about the disease course and treatment
  • Lack of social support
  • Inability to grieve over lost body image
  • Persistent anger or denial over illness
  • Feeling out of control
  • Significant degree of social impairment


If you are interested in other gastrointestinal-focused information and intervention websites developed and hosted at
Swinburne University of Technology,
please go to:

IBDclinic.org.au for individuals with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Gastroparesisclinic.org for individuals with Gastroparesis


This website and its content is not intended or recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions.

© 2014 Swinburne University of Technology | CRICOS number 00111D