A recent research study finds that overly anxious and driven people are more prone to irritable bowel syndrome, usually known as IBS.
The researchers studied 620 people who had confirmed gastroenteritis caused by a bacterial infection. None had had IBS before, or indeed any serious bowel disorder.
Participants were asked to complete a detailed questionnaire when their infection was confirmed. This included questions about mood, perceived stress levels, perfectionism and illness beliefs and behaviors.
They were then monitored three and six months later to see whether they had developed the typical symptoms of IBS, which include diarrhea and/or constipation, abdominal pain and bloating.
In all, 49 people had IBS at both time points. Women were more than twice as likely to have IBS as the men. Those with IBS were significantly more likely to have reported high levels of stress, anxiety and psychosomatic symptoms than those who did not develop it. Those with the condition appeared to be more 'driven,' carrying on regardless until they were forced to rest - a pattern of behavior that only worsens and prolongs the condition, say the authors.
Although not likely to be depressed, those with IBS were more likely to take a pessimistic view of illness.
IBS affects between 10 and 15% of adults in industrialized countries, but its exact cause is unknown. 'Gastroenteritis may trigger the symptoms, but cognitions, behavior and emotions may help to prolong and maintain them over time,' conclude the authors, who suggest that cognitive behavioral therapy may be an effective treatment.