Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in adults as well as separation anxiety disorder (SAD) and recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) in childhood are associated with anxiety and somatization. Our aim was to examine possible associations between IBS in adulthood and SAD in childhood. Patients with IBS and healthy subjects completed a demographic questionnaire, the Separation Anxiety Symptom Inventory (SASI), the Somatization Subscale of Symptom Checklist-90-R (SCL-90-R), the Attachment Style Questionnaire, and a retrospective self-report questionnaire regarding RAP. Compared with controls, patients with IBS were characterized by an avoidant attachment style and scored higher on the SCL-90-R scale regarding the tendency to somatization (25.35 ± 7.47 versus16.50 ± 4.40, p < 0.001). More patients with IBS (25% versus 7.5%) reported RAP in childhood, but contrary to prediction, also had significantly lower SASI scores. Adults with IBS were characterized by somatization, insecure attachment style and recalled higher rates of RAP and surprisingly less symptoms of SAD in childhood. Based on these results, an etiological model for IBS is suggested, in which an avoidant attachment style and a tendency to somatization play an important role in the development of IBS.
- attachment style questionnaire
- functional abdominal pain
- irritable bowel syndrome
- recurrent abdominal pain
- separation anxiety disorder