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[psychiatry-research] Irritable bowel syndrome linked with emotional abuse

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  • Ian Pitchford
    FOR RELEASE: 31 JANUARY 2000 AT 00:00 ET US Center for the Advancement of Health http://www.cfah.org/ Irritable bowel syndrome linked with emotional abuse A
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 31, 2000
      FOR RELEASE: 31 JANUARY 2000 AT 00:00 ET US
      Center for the Advancement of Health
      http://www.cfah.org/

      Irritable bowel syndrome linked with emotional abuse

      A new study has investigated the association between women's experience of
      emotional abuse and the digestive disorder known as irritable bowel syndrome
      (IBS).

      The symptoms of IBS, which include abdominal pain and bloating, don't appear
      to result from known structural or biochemical abnormalities. As such, IBS is
      known as a functional disorder. Functional disorders are more common among
      women, and have been associated with a history of sexual abuse.

      "Despite some evidence linking physical abuse and sexual abuse to IBS, few
      studies have examined the association between emotional abuse and IBS," said
      lead author, Alisha Ali, Ph.D.

      The researchers from the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, enlisted
      25 women with IBS to complete a standardized questionnaire measuring
      emotional abuse, which involves psychological mistreatment and nonphysical
      aggression.

      The researchers also tested for the presence of two psycho-social factors
      that may play a role: self-silencing and self-blame.

      Individuals who practice self-silencing attempt to maintain security in
      relationships by silencing certain thoughts, feelings, and actions. Such
      behavior can lead to complete denigration of beliefs and eventual
      self-negation. Those who engage in self-blame tend to criticize themselves
      and take on the burden of responsibility for negative events.

      A comparison group of 25 women suffering from a different digestive disorder,
      known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), also completed the questionnaire.
      IBD, which consists mainly of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, is not
      a functional disorder.

      Study participants with IBS scored significantly higher on measures of
      emotional abuse, as well as self-blame and self-silencing, than the women in
      the comparison group, the researchers found. Their findings appear in the
      January/February 2000 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

      "The self-blaming and self-silencing behaviors that tended to be associated
      with emotional abuse in this study probably cause stress increases," said
      Brenda B. Toner, Ph.D., study co-author. Stress is known to exacerbate IBS
      symptoms.

      "Future investigations should further examine this relationship to develop a
      more comprehensive conceptualization of the interplay between trauma and
      stress in the experience of irritable bowel syndrome," said Ali.
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