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Emotional Abuse, Self-Blame, and Self-Silencing in Women With Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Ali, Alisha PhD; Toner, Brenda B. PhD; Stuckless, Noreen PhD; Gallop, Ruth PhD; Diamant, Nicholas E. MD; Gould, Michael I. MD; Vidins, Eva I. MD


Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the presence of emotional abuse and two psychosocial constructs (self-blame and self-silencing) in a sample of women diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) relative to a comparison sample of women diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Methods: Women diagnosed with IBS (N = 25) were compared with women diagnosed with IBD (N = 25) on measures of history of abuse, self-blame, and self-silencing.

Results: It was found that women in the IBS sample scored significantly higher on emotional abuse, self-blame, and self-silencing than did women in the IBD sample. These three variables were also found to be significantly intercorrelated in both the IBS and IBD samples. Finally, emotional abuse was significantly higher in IBS patients than in IBD patients beyond the differences accounted for by physical and/or sexual abuse history.

Conclusions: These findings empirically demonstrate an association between IBS and emotional abuse, as well as a possible connection with psychosocial variables, that may mediate the connection between emotional abuse and functional bowel symptoms. We suggest that these variables be further evaluated in the context of clinically relevant research on IBS.

From the Faculty of Medicine (A.A., B.B.T., N.S., R.G., N.E.D., M.I.G., E.I.V.), University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Received for publication August 17, 1998;

revision received July 21, 1999.

Address reprint requests to: Alisha Ali, PhD, Women’s Mental Health Research Programme, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Clarke Site, 250 College St., 6th Floor, Toronto, Ontario M5T 1R8, Canada. Email:

Copyright © 2000 by American Psychosomatic Society
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