The role of stress in symptom exacerbation among IBS patients

Edward B. Blanchard, Jeffrey M. Lackner, James Jaccard, Dianna Rowell, Ann Marie Carosella, Catherine Powell, Kathryn Sanders, Susan Krasner, Eric Kuhn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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 nonill 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 between stress and symptoms than there is for a causal relation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-128
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2008


  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Stress
  • Stress and irritable bowel syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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