Coping strategies and interpersonal support in patients with irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2006 Apr;4(4):474-81. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2005.12.012.


Background & aims: Coping strategies are used to manage conflict and illness and can have adaptive or maladaptive effects on health status. Perceived availability and quality of social support also influences health status. Coping strategies and social support have not been well studied in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). To understand their role better, coping strategies, social support, and psychiatric distress were assessed in patients with IBS and IBD and in controls.

Methods: Participants completed the Ways of Coping Questionnaire, the Interpersonal Support Evaluation, Symptom Checklist-90-revised, IBS-Quality of Life (QOL), and IBD-QOL. Participants also completed the Toronto Alexithymia Scale and Somatosensory Amplification Scale.

Results: The study population included 55 controls, 74 IBS patients, and 48 IBD patients. The IBS and IBD patients had higher scores on measures of psychiatric distress, alexithymia, and somatosensory amplification than controls, but did not differ from one another. QOL scores did not differ between patients with IBS and IBD. Patients with IBS and IBD reported significantly less interpersonal support than controls. Controls identified planful problem solving as the dominant coping strategy whereas patients with IBS and IBD relied significantly less on planful problem solving and positive reappraisal and more on escape-avoidance strategies.

Conclusions: Compared with controls, IBS and IBD patients had increased levels of psychiatric distress, a poorer QOL, less interpersonal support, and greater reliance on passive coping strategies. These data suggest that psychosocial disturbances are common in IBD and IBS and suggest that the observed differences reflect illness behavior rather than a disorder-specific process.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / etiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / psychology*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life
  • Social Support*
  • Somatoform Disorders / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology