Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and chronic pelvic pain (CPP) are both somatoform disorders with a high prevalence within the population in general. The objective was to compare both entities, to find the differences and the similarities related to epidemiology and psychosocial aspects like stressful life events, physical and sexual abuse, illness behaviour and comorbidity. The technical literature was reviewed systematically from 1971 to 2006 and compared. According to literature, IBS and CPP seem to be one rather than two different entities with the same localisation of pain. Both syndromes also are similar concerning prevalence, the coexistence of mental and somatoform disorders, the common history of sexual and physical abuse in the past and their health care utilization. It could be shown that there were many similarities between IBS and CPP. Nevertheless both are traded as different clinical pictures as far. Therefore it seems to be reasonable and necessary to generate a common diagnosis algorithm and to bring gynaecologists and gastroenterologists into dialogue.