Common mental disorders in irritable bowel syndrome: pathophysiology, management, and considerations for future randomised controlled trials

Lancet Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2021 May;6(5):401-410. doi: 10.1016/S2468-1253(20)30363-0. Epub 2021 Feb 13.


The frequent co-occurrence of irritable bowel syndrome and the common mental disorders of anxiety and depression is well established. A range of biological and psychosocial disease mechanisms are common to both disorders, many of which contribute to a dysregulated gut-brain axis. Clinical and subthreshold psychological comorbidity adds to the functional impairment and disease burden in individuals with irritable bowel syndrome. Progress is being made with regard to understanding irritable bowel syndrome in the clinical setting from a biopsychosocial perspective. However, until now, most trials of irritable bowel syndrome treatment still consider the disease as a gut disorder in isolation, which leaves major gaps in knowledge about disease-disease interactions and treatment outcomes in irritable bowel syndrome. In this Viewpoint, we review the epidemiology, pathophysiology, and management of anxiety and depression in individuals with irritable bowel syndrome. We also provide methodological recommendations for future randomised controlled trials and outline guidance for research that better incorporates psychiatric comorbidity into its design, with a view to improve treatment outcomes for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / etiology*
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depression / therapy
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / complications
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / psychology*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / therapy
  • Models, Biopsychosocial
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / methods
  • Research Design
  • Risk Factors