Sexual Abuse Is Associated With an Abnormal Psychological Profile and Sleep Difficulty in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Taiwan

J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2018 Jan 30;24(1):79-86. doi: 10.5056/jnm17004.


Background/aims: Both sexual and physical abuse history have been reported to be associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in Western countries. The impact of abuse history in IBS patients in Asia remains unclear. We aim to determine the prevalence of abuse history, its associated psychological profiles, and sleep problems among IBS patients in Taiwan.

Methods: In total, 194 Rome III-defined IBS patients were invited to participate. Age- and sex- matched healthy carriers of chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C without chronic abdominal symptoms were identified as disease-controls. We administered a validated questionnaire to evaluate bowel symptoms, physical/sexual abuse history, anxiety/depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale [HADS]), and sleep quality.

Results: IBS patients had a significantly higher prevalence of sexual abuse history than the disease-control group both before (16.5% vs 6.7%, P < 0.05) and after (16.0% vs 6.6%, P < 0.05) adolescence. These significant differences were mainly observed in women (13.4% vs 3.4%, P < 0.05). No difference was noted in history of physical abuse between the 2 groups. IBS patients with a history of sexual abuse had significantly higher HADS scores and higher frequencies of sleep difficulty than those without.

Conclusions: In Taiwan, sexual abuse history was more prevalent in female IBS patients than controls. Sexual abuse history may contribute to higher anxiety/depression levels and sleep difficulties, which are commonly experienced in IBS patients. In Asia, abuse history should be obtained when approaching IBS patients to facilitate better management.

Keywords: Depression; Irritable bowel syndrome; Physical abuse; Sexual abuse.