Neurotic butterflies in my stomach: The role of anxiety, anxiety sensitivity and depression in functional gastrointestinal disorders

G. Ron Norton, Peter J. Norton, Gordon J.G. Asmundson, Laura A. Thompson, Derrick K. Larsen

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53 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined the prevalence of functional gastrointestinal (FGI) disorders, and the association between FGI disorders and measures of affective distress, among a sample of 127 university students. Subjects completed a questionnaire battery including Research Diagnostic Questions for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, the Beck Anxiety Inventory, the Anxiety Sensitivity Index, the Beck Depression Inventory, and a medical utilization questionnaire. FGI disorders were diagnosed in 51.2% of the sample. Functional dyspepsia (22.8%), dyschezia (20.5%), functional heartburn (19.7%), functional chest pain (18.1%), and globus (12.6%) were the most frequently diagnosed disorders. Participants experiencing globus, functional dyspepsia, or functional heartburn showed significant differences in terms of anxiety, anxiety sensitivity, depression, and/or physician visits, when compared with participants without these disorders. Our results suggest that FGI disorders are strikingly prevalent among young adults, and specific FGI disorders are associated with affective distress. Implications of the observed association between psychological factors and FGI disorders are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-240
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety sensitivity
  • Depression
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Prevalence

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