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The questionnaire that may pinpoint who suffers from GI symptom-specific anxiety

Investigators from the division of gastroenterology at the Oregon Health & Science University may have uncovered a unique method to measure GI symptom-specific anxiety in patients with IBS or IBD.

The researchers, led by Kimberly Trieschmann, MD, have developed a measuring tool that gauges and measures a person’s fear, anxiety, and hypervigilance, relative to IBS. Researchers recruited 222 participants in the study and discovered that patients with IBD and IBS tend to have greater visceral sensitivity index (VSI) scores in comparison to those who do not have GI issues.

VSI is a unique measuring tool that can effectively predict which individuals may need additional help and resources to ease their emotional burden and IBS symptoms.

In another study that appeared in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, researchers reported that patients who have high VSI scores are more likely to exhibit GI symptom-specific anxiety (GSA). These individuals worry so much about their symptoms that they begin following specific behaviors and become hyper-aware of their feeling. Researchers say GSA comprises five dimensions of awareness and behaviors:

  1. Greater worry, to the point of obsessing about what may happen.

  2. An increased level of fear that symptoms may come up and experiencing physical sensation(s) — whether they are innocuous or not.

  3. Becoming so vigilant about their GI symptoms to the point where it becomes difficult to focus on other things.

  4. A heightened sensitivity to feeling and believing that their GI-specific symptoms are starting.

  5. A significant increase in avoiding certain behaviors and rituals to ward off specific GI symptoms

“IBS and IBD have an impact on quality of life that can be comparable to depression and chronic renal failure,” said Dr. Trieschmann in an interview. “Knowing a patient’s VSI scores may be a useful clinical tool that physicians can apply to help them guide their patients to a specific care plan and resources.”

While IBS and IBD patients generally have psychiatric comorbidity in the form of anxiety disorders (up to 40%), a much larger number may show GSA, making the overall prevalence of all types of anxiety in these patients much higher.


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