The personality of two groups of constipated women (by delayed colonic transit or by colonic inertia) was compared to that of two control groups of arthritic patients (rheumatoid or degenerative disease) with the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). All subjects suffered from chronic pain. Constipated women were found to have significantly higher scores on the hypochondria, hysteria, control, and low back pain scales and a lower score on the masculinity-femininity scale. Discriminant analysis permitted us to sort out constipated from arthritic patients in 83% of the cases, on the basis of only the personality data. In women with constipation by delayed colonic transit, multiple regression analysis demonstrated a close link (r = 0.90; P less than 0.001) between transit time in the ascending colon and levels of anxiety. It is concluded that women with constipation of colonic origin have a different pattern of personality than arthritic women and that severe constipation may play the role of a defense mechanism, where psychophysiologic responses to life stresses replace normal emotional reactions.