It is not entirely clear how stress, anxiety, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are related -- or which one comes first -- but studies show they tend to co-exist.
"If you do diagnostic interviews, what you find is that about 60% of IBS patients will meet the criteria for one or more psychiatric disorders," says Edward Blanchard, PhD, professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany.
The most common mental ailment suffered by people with IBS is generalized anxiety disorder...
The standard diagnostic guideline for IBS, called the Rome III criteria, requires that you have these symptoms for at least 12 weeks during the past 6 months. But most doctors don't follow that requirement closely, says Philip Schoenfeld, MD, MSEd, MSc. He is co-author of the American College of Gastroenterology's IBS treatment guidelines.
Schoenfeld says it's tough for patients to remember the exact number of weeks they had symptoms in the preceding year. He suggests that people not wait. Instead, see a doctor whenever you have recurrent symptoms.
Doctors can determine whether your symptoms are IBS or signs of another problem. IBS is often confused with other illnesses, so doctors will need to ask questions and perform tests to confirm a diagnosis.
Philip Schoenfeld, MD, MSEd, MSc, co-author of the American College of Gastroenterology's "Evidence-Based Guidelines on the Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome."
Current Psychiatry Web site.
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: "Irritable Bowel Syndrome."