Suicidal ideation in patients with irritable bowel syndrome

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2004 Dec;2(12):1064-8. doi: 10.1016/s1542-3565(04)00545-2.


Background & aims: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) traditionally is considered as more of a nuisance than having especially serious consequences. However, this is not the picture witnessed in tertiary care where we have encountered some tragic cases, prompting an assessment of suicidal ideation in such patients.

Methods: One hundred follow-up, tertiary care IBS (tIBS) patients were compared with 100 secondary IBS (sIBS), 100 primary IBS (pIBS) care patients, and 100 patients with active inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Patients were asked if they had either seriously contemplated or attempted suicide specifically because of their bowel problem as opposed to other issues. The hospital anxiety depression score was recorded, as were other clinical details on all patients.

Results: A total of 38% of tIBS patients had contemplated suicide because of their symptoms compared with 16% and 4% in the sIBS and pIBS groups (tIBS vs. sIBS vs. pIBS, P = .002, P < .001). The figure for IBD was 15% (tIBS v. IBD, P < .001). Five tIBS and 1 IBD patient had attempted suicide for gastrointestinal reasons. Mean depression scores did not exceed threshold (10) in the sIBS group contemplating suicide (9.7), but were increased in the equivalent tIBS group (11.7). Hopelessness because of symptom severity, interference with life, and inadequacy of treatment were highlighted as crucial issues for all IBS patients.

Conclusions: IBS has the potential for a fatal outcome from suicide with depression not accounting for all the variance in suicidal ideation. Our observations emphasize the level of hopelessness felt by these patients and the need for improvement in the services provided to them.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / psychology*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires