OBJECTIVE: Clinical experience and recent reports suggest that there is
a high prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with panic
disorder and that there is a high prevalence of panic disorder in patients
with irritable bowel syndrome, a functional gastrointestinal disorder. To
assess gastrointestinal symptoms in a nonpatient, community-based sample,
the authors surveyed the prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms in
individuals with panic disorder and other or no psychiatric disorders
obtained in a national community survey. METHOD: Subjects were 13,537
respondents at four sites of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Epidemiological Catchment Area project. DSM-III diagnoses were determined
by using the NIMH Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS). Gastrointestinal
symptoms were assessed from the somatization disorder section of the DIS.
RESULTS: Individuals with panic disorder had a significantly higher rate of
endorsing gastrointestinal symptoms, including those typically associated
with irritable bowel syndrome, than those with other or no psychiatric
diagnosis. CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest a diagnostic overlap between panic
disorder and irritable bowel syndrome, with similar demographic and
clinical characteristics of patients. Limitations of the study are
discussed in terms of medical assessment and self-report inventories.
Practical and theoretical implications are discussed.