Background: The current study aimed to model the moment-to-moment relationship between daily life stress, emotions, and bowel symptoms among patients with irritable bowel syndrome-diarrhea subtype (IBS-D) in the flow of daily life using a smartphone-based experience sampling method (ESM).
Methods: Patients with IBS-D (N = 27) and healthy controls (HC; N = 30) completed ESM ratings of their real-time daily life stress, which was defined as subjective stress related to daily activities, both positive and negative emotions, as well as bowel symptoms eight times a day for 14 consecutive days, following a baseline interview measuring bowel and mood symptoms. Moment-to-moment association between ESM variables was tested within and between groups using multilevel regression modeling.
Key results: Patients with IBS-D reported more severe bowel symptoms and lower positive affect than HCs, but levels of daily life stress and negative affect were comparable between groups. Time-lagged analysis of ESM data revealed that, among patients with IBS-D, daily life stress predicted a decrease in abdominal pain and urgency to defecation at a subsequent time point, whereas severity of bowel symptoms and occurrence of diarrhea predicted a subsequent increase in negative affect and daily life stress. The above associations were not found among HCs.
Conclusions and inferences: ESM unveiled the dynamic relationship between bowel symptoms, stress, and emotionality. Patients with IBS-D responded to bowel symptoms with more stress and distress momentarily. Counter-intuitively, daily life activity stress appeared to ameliorate bowel symptoms, although a more rigorous study design is required to testify this claim. Psychological understanding of IBS-D is discussed.
Keywords: ambulatory assessment; daily life stress; experience sampling; irritable bowel syndrome; negative emotions.
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.