Objective: Clinical experience and recent reports suggest that there is a high prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with panic disorder and that there is a high prevalence of panic disorder in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, a functional gastrointestinal disorder. To assess gastrointestinal symptoms in a nonpatient, community-based sample, the authors surveyed the prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms in individuals with panic disorder and other or no psychiatric disorders obtained in a national community survey.
Method: Subjects were 13,537 respondents at four sites of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Epidemiological Catchment Area project. DSM-III diagnoses were determined by using the NIMH Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS). Gastrointestinal symptoms were assessed from the somatization disorder section of the DIS.
Results: Individuals with panic disorder had a significantly higher rate of endorsing gastrointestinal symptoms, including those typically associated with irritable bowel syndrome, than those with other or no psychiatric diagnosis.
Conclusions: Findings suggest a diagnostic overlap between panic disorder and irritable bowel syndrome, with similar demographic and clinical characteristics of patients. Limitations of the study are discussed in terms of medical assessment and self-report inventories. Practical and theoretical implications are discussed.