Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has received increasing attention in recent years within the literature, due to its incidence and prevalence. The pathogenesis of IBD is still unclear, but the research community is increasingly suggesting that psychological issues may play a role in its aetiology and in exacerbation of symptoms. However, the literature regarding the psychological factors associated with IBD remains controversial and fragmented. The aim of the present study is twofold: (1) to identify, through a bibliometric analysis, the current state of the ongoing scientific debate regarding the relationship between IBD and psychological/psychiatric factors; (2) to analyse, through a qualitative software-based thematic analysis, the main themes characterizing the literature on this topic from 1988 to 2012. This study highlighted increasing number of academic publications in recent years regarding the multiplicity of factors related to the disease process in IBD, thus confirming the growing interest in this issue. IBD is becoming increasingly recognized by the medical literature as being exacerbated by a multi-componential process that needs to be studied through a biopsychosocial theoretical perspective which ables to orient multidisciplinary healthcare organizations and clinical interventions aimed at addressing IBD patient needs at different levels. This study also sheds light on two possible theoretical perspectives through which the academic community has considered IBD: A biomedical point of view that addresses the need for an etiological explanation of IBD and a behavioural point of view that aims at describing the observable symptoms and measurable health outcomes of clinical interventions such as patient adherence and engagement in the care and treatment process.
Keywords: biopsychosocial model; inflammatory bowel diseases; psychology.