The Illness Attitudes Scales (IAS) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) were administered to 40 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and these were compared with 35 patients with organic gastrointestinal (GI) disease, 37 depressed patients, and 40 healthy volunteers. The BDI score was found to be greater in the IBS patients than in either the patients with organic disease or healthy subjects. All the patient groups had abnormal IAS scores compared with the healthy group, but these were most marked among the IBS patients with elevated scores on six out of the eight subscales. Three of these were specific to the IBS patients: bodily preoccupation, hypochondriacal beliefs and disease phobia. The results of this study indicate that clinical IBS is associated with abnormal illness attitudes which are not simply a reflection of either an associated depression or of experiencing physical symptoms.