Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Psychopathological features of irritable bowel syndrome patients with and without functional dyspepsia: a cross sectional study

Daria Piacentino1, Rosanna Cantarini2, Marianna Alfonsi2, Danilo Badiali2, Nadia Pallotta2, Massimo Biondi1 and Enrico S Corazziari2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neurology and Psychiatry, Sapienza University, Rome, Italy

2 Department of Internal Medicine and Medical Specialties, Sapienza University, Rome, Italy

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Gastroenterology 2011, 11:94  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-11-94

Published: 26 August 2011



Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional dyspepsia (FD) show considerable overlap and are both associated with psychiatric comorbidity. The present study aimed to investigate whether IBS patients with FD show higher levels of psychopathology than those without FD. As a preliminary analysis, it also evaluated the psychopathological differences, if any, between IBS patients featuring the two Rome III-defined FD subtypes, i.e. postprandial distress syndrome (PDS) and epigastric pain syndrome (EPS).


Consecutive outpatients (n = 82, F = 67, mean age 41.6 ± 12.7 years) referred to our third level gastroenterological centre, matching the Rome III criteria for IBS and, if present, for concurrent FD, were recruited. They were asked to complete a 90-item self-rating questionnaire, the Symptom Checklist 90 Revised (SCL-90-R), in order to assess the psychological status. Comparisons between groups were carried out using the non-parametric Mann-Whitney U test.


Patients with IBS only were 56 (68.3%, F = 43, mean age 41.6 ± 13.3 years) and patients with both IBS and FD were 26 (31.7%, F = 24, mean age 41.8 ± 11.5 years), 17 of whom had PDS and 9 EPS. Patients with both IBS and FD scored significantly higher on the SCL-90-R GSI and on eight out of the nine subscales than patients with IBS only (P ranging from 0.000 to 0.03). No difference was found between IBS patients with PDS and IBS patients with EPS (P ranging from 0.07 to 0.97), but this result has to be considered provisional, given the small sample size of the two subgroups.


IBS-FD overlap is associated with an increased severity of psychopathological features. This finding suggests that a substantial subset of patients of a third level gastroenterological centre with both IBS and FD may benefit from psychological assessment and treatment.