'Driven' Personalities May Encourage Irritable Bowel

Anxiety, restlessness could exacerbate the disease, experts say

FRIDAY, March 9, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- People who are overly anxious or "driven" are more susceptible to tough-to-treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a British study suggests.

The study, published in the current issue of the journal Gut, looked at 620 people who had gastroenteritis triggered by a bacterial infection.

Before their bout of gastroenteritis, none of the participants had IBS or any other serious bowel disorder. When they were checked three and six months after their gastroenteritis, 49 of the participants had experienced IBS at both time points.

The study found that women were more than twice as likely as men to have IBS, which causes symptoms such as diarrhea and/or constipation, abdominal pain, and bloating. The condition affects between 10 percent and 15 percent of people in industrialized countries, but the exact cause is not known.

People who developed IBS were more likely to have high levels of stress or anxiety than those who didn't develop IBS, the study said. It also found that people who developed IBS were more likely to be "driven," -- they continued trying to do all their normal activities until they were forced to rest. This kind of behavior only worsens and prolongs the condition, the study authors noted.

The people who developed IBS were also more likely to have a pessimistic view of illness, but the study did not identify any link between depression and IBS.

"Gastroenteritis may trigger the symptoms, but cognitions, behavior and emotions may help to prolong and maintain them over time," researchers at the University of Southampton explained.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about irritable bowel syndrome.

SOURCE: BMJ Specialist Journals, news release, Feb. 26, 2007
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