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Br J Gen Pract. 2006 Feb;56(523):122-6. Related Articles, Links Symptom interpretation and quality of life in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.Bray BD, Nicol F, Penman ID, Ford MJ.Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh.Background:patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are often believed to attribute unexplained symptoms to physical disorders. We tested this hypothesis by assessing symptom interpretation, symptom severity, and quality of life in patients attending hospital gastroenterology clinics.Aim:The main aims of this study were: to assess the symptom attributional styles of hospital gastroenterological outpatients with IBS and non-IBS disorders in comparison with unselected patients attending their GP; to establish the relationships between attributional style, quality of life, and IBS severity score in hospital gastroenterology outpatients; and to test the hypothesis that the IBS severity score correlates with a somatising style of symptom attribution.Design of study:Systematic quantitative analysis.Setting:General practice and gastroenterology outpatient clincs.Method:patients attending hospital gastroenterology clinics were recruited prospectively and completed validated questionnaires. These were the Medical Outcome Survey (MOS SF-36), the IBS Severity Score, and the Symptom Interpretation Questionnaire (SIQ). The latter measures the tendency to interpret somatic symptoms in three ways: as a physical disorder (somatising attributional style), as an emotional response to stress (psychologising attributional style), or as a normal experience (normalising attributional style). The diagnosis of IBS was based on the Rome II criteria; the control groups comprised gastroenterology outpatients with non-IBS diagnoses and unselected patients attending general practice.Results:Quality of life in IBS patients attending hospital outpatients (n = 32, male:female ratio 9:23) was not significantly different from that of non-IBS patients (n = 70, male:female ratio 32:38). In all patient groups, the normalising style of symptom interpretation predominated; psychologising styles correlated with impaired quality of life in the mental health domains. In IBS patients, the tendency to seek a psychological explanation for physical symptoms correlated significantly with the severity of the abdominal pain.Conclusions:Symptom interpretation does not differ between IBS and non-IBS patients referred to hospital gastroenterology clinics. The tendency to attribute somatic symptoms to a physical disorder does not explain why only a minority of IBS subjects seek medical attention. The idea that most IBS patients are committed to a somatic explanation of symptoms appears to be a myth.PMID: 16464326http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.f...l=pubmed_DocSum
 
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