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Soc Sci Med. 2000 Aug;51(3):439-52.

The understanding of their illness amongst people with irritable bowel syndrome: a Q methodological study.

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Department of Psychology, University College London, UK.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) refers to a collection of gastrointestinal symptoms which affect up to 22% of the Western population. Although the disorder costs the British National Health Service and employers vast sums of money in terms of repeated physician visits, medications, and loss of productivity, the cause or causes of IBS are still unknown, and there is no cure which is lastingly effective. Since IBS is not life-threatening, and the symptoms can be hidden from others, many consider it a trivial disorder. For an individual with IBS, however, the uncertainty regarding cause, diagnosis and treatment may lead to anxiety and constant searching for causes, or to hopelessness and resignation. The present study aims to help clarify these problems by discovering how those who suffer from IBS understand the nature and causality of their own illness. Through use of Q methodology with a sample of 60 people with IBS, a taxonomy of 7 clear and distinct accounts is identified and described. These data (based on Q factor analysis) are described in qualitative detail and discussed in relation to the problem of improving communication with doctors, and untangling issues of responsibility for illness.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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