BACKGROUND: Irritable bowel syndrome is commonly accepted as a disorder closely influenced by affective factors, which can either trigger the symptoms or contribute to their persistence, independently from their aetiology. It has been previously documented that irritable bowel syndrome patients respond to a variety of emotional states (anger, fear and anxiety) with an increase in colonic motility. AIMS: The aim of this study was to evaluate the experience and the expression of anger and the prevalent ego-defence mechanisms in a group of non-psychiatric patients with irritable bowel syndrome. SUBJECTS: Fifty-two patients with irritable bowel syndrome (18 males, 34 females) and 100 healthy volunteers from the community (44 males, 56 females) matched for age, level of education and social-status were enrolled. METHODS: Assessment was conducted using the State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory and the Defence Mechanism Inventory. RESULTS: No important differences between the two examined groups were found using the State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory and Defence Mechanism Inventory. CONCLUSIONS: It can be hypothesised that stable personality features and habits, such as anger disposition and defence mechanisms, play only a marginal role in irritable bowel syndrome, while psychological and psychosocial influences may act as predisposing or precipitating factors which contribute to the pathogenesis or expression of irritable bowel symptoms.
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