The onset and course of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are strongly influenced by psychological factors, and treatment often includes cognitive-behavioral therapy. We conducted a study of the relationships between cognitive appraisal of IBS symptoms and negative mood for the subtypes of IBS.
The participants were 1087 college students who completed a set of questionnaires that included the Rome II Modular Questionnaire, Self-reported IBS Questionnaire, Cognitive Appraisal Rating Scale, and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.
The participants included 206 individuals with IBS; 61 had diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBSD) and 45 had constipation-predominant IBS (IBSC). The overall IBS group scored higher on anxiety and depression than the control group. The IBSD and IBSC groups each had significantly higher scores for anxiety but did not significantly differ from the control group in scores for depression. There were no significant differences between the IBSD and IBSC groups in their cognitive appraisal of IBS symptoms. For the IBSD group, anxiety was significantly, positively correlated with commitment, effect, and threat, and depression was significantly, negatively correlated with controllability. In contrast, there were no significant correlations between mood and cognitive appraisal for the IBSC group. Multiple regression analyses with abdominal symptoms as dependent variables and cognitive appraisals as independent variables showed that for the IBSD group, abdominal pain was significantly, positively correlated with commitment, and abdominal discomfort was significantly, positively correlated with appraisal of effect and threat. For the IBSC group, abdominal pain and hard stool were significantly, positively correlated with commitment, and abdominal discomfort was significantly, positively correlated with appraisal of effect and threat.
IBS patients as a general group report high levels of anxiety and depression. However, IBSD and IBSC were both associated only with high anxiety, but not depression, when compared to the non-IBS control group. For the IBSD group, anxiety was associated with cognitive appraisals, but this association was not found for the IBSC group. These groups did not differ in their associated cognitive appraisals, and are similar in terms of the positive relationship between abdominal pain and discomfort and the cognitive appraisals of coping.