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21-03-2017 | Uitgave 8/2017 Open Access

Quality of Life Research 8/2017

The association of catastrophizing with quality-of-life outcomes in patients with irritable bowel syndrome

Quality of Life Research > Uitgave 8/2017
LeeAnne B. Sherwin, Emily Leary, Wendy A. Henderson



Catastrophizing is a cognitive process characterized by a propensity to concentrate on and magnify the value of an actual or anticipated painful stimulus and negatively assesses one’s ability to cope. Catastrophizing is an important predictor of pain-related outcomes. A cornerstone symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is abdominal pain or discomfort. Also individuals with IBS have been reported to have a tendency to catastrophize. In a sample of individuals who suffer from IBS, we hypothesized that those individuals who catastrophize (catastrophizers) would have worse outcomes as compared to those who do not catastrophize (non-catastrophizers).


One hundred and one adults with IBS (79% female, mean age 42 years, 97% Caucasian) were recruited from outpatient clinics and data were collected through self-report measures. Catastrophizing was measured with the catastrophizing subscale of the Coping Strategies Questionnaire, illness representations were measured with The Revised Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ-R), psychological distress was measured with the Brief Symptom Inventory 18 (BSI-18), and health-related quality of life was measured using the Irritable Bowel Syndrome-Quality of Life (IBS-QOL) measure. Descriptive statistics, correlations, and multiple linear regression analyses were completed to describe participants, the associations of the variables of interest, and the unique relationship between psychosocial variables and HRQOL.


Overall, participants reported poor HRQOL (M = 63.32, range 0–100). Catastrophizers differed significantly on IBS-QOL from non-catastrophizers (M = 48.98 vs. non-catastrophizers M = 78.53; p < 0.001), BSI-18 (M = 21.35 vs. non-catastrophizers M = 6.76; p < 0.001), and IPQ-R, specifically the consequences (M = 21.75 vs. non-catastrophizers M = 17.20; p < 0.001) and emotional representations (M = 20.90 vs. non-catastrophizers M = 15.43; p < 0.001). Catastrophizing was positively correlated with the consequences (r = .54; p < 0.01) and emotional representations (r = .65; p < 0.01) and negatively correlated with total HRQOL (r = −0.76; p < 0.01).


The findings indicated that participants who catastrophized reported worse psychosocial and functional outcomes. Thus, catastrophizing, in addition to psychological distress variables, may be an important factor to address in optimizing health outcomes in individuals with IBS. In addition, illness perceptions were strongly related to catastrophizing and HRQOL; assessment and integration of illness perceptions as well as catastrophizing into the management of individuals who suffer with IBS may maximize the health outcomes.

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