The role of stress in symptom exacerbation among IBS patients – Source: Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Feb 2008

Over 200 treatment-seeking irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients completed 4 weeks of daily prospective measures of stress and gastrointestinal symptoms as well as retrospective measures of stress (life events over 12 months, hassles over 1 month). We also obtained the stress measures on 66 non-ill controls.

Irritable bowel syndrome patients report more frequent hassles than controls and a greater stress impact than controls. Using structural equation modeling, we found that the data were consistent with:

  • A model of robust autocorrelation effects of both week-to-week gastrointestinal (GI) symptom indices (r=.84) and stress indices (r=.73),
  • As well as strong concurrent effects of stress on IBS symptoms (r=.90)
  • And vice versa (r=.41).

The data also were consistent with a model where there were effects of stress in Week t upon GI symptoms in Week t+1 and t+2, but they were mediated through the concurrent week effects and/or autocorrelation effects. There were no statistically significant independent pathways from stress in Week t to GI symptoms in Week t+1 or t+2.

Thus, there is more support for a reciprocal relation [mutual activation] between stress and symptoms than there is for a causal relation.

Source: Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Feb 2008;64(2):119-28, PMID: 18222125, by Blanchard EB, Lackner JM, Jaccard J, Rowell D, Carosella AM, Powell C, Sanders K, Krasner S, Kuhn E, Center for Stress and Anxiety Disorders, University at Albany and University at Buffalo-SUNY, New York; Florida International University, Miami, USA. [E-mail: ]

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