Background: Psychiatric symptoms, common in untreated coeliac disease patients, may improve after gluten withdrawal.
Aims: To estimate the incidence of psychiatric disorders in coeliac disease patients on gluten withdrawal and to evaluate: (1) the psychological weight of a chronic disease that involves a restrictive diet and a limited life style; (2) the acceptance of the disease; (3) the effects of both disease and diet on behaviour and quality of life.
Patients and methods: Three groups of 100 patients (coeliac disease patients, diabetic patients and healthy controls, respectively) were assessed by means of a professional semi-structured diagnostic interview based on DSM-IV criteria. This interview, together with specific psychiatric questionnaires, ruled out axis I or II psychopathological disturbances.
Results: The modified Self-rating Depression Scale and State and Trait Anxiety Inventory Y2 scores were significantly higher in both coeliac and diabetic patients than in healthy controls. The duration of gluten restriction was related to significantly higher modified Self-rating Depression Scale scores in patients with a more recent diagnosis. Quality of life was poorer in both coeliac and diabetic patients than in healthy controls and significantly correlated with anxiety. The Illness Behaviour Questionnaire showed a high psychological and somatic perception of illness in both coeliac and diabetic patients. Its subscale scores correlated significantly with anxiety and depression symptoms.
Conclusions: In coeliac disease, affective disorders should be ascribed to difficulties in adjusting to the chronic nature of the disease rather than directly to the disease itself, thus giving an indication for preventive liaison psychiatric interventions.