Examining the mediational role of psychological flexibility, pain catastrophizing, and visceral sensitivity in the relationship between psychological distress, irritable bowel symptom frequency, and quality of life
The aim of the current study was to use Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) to examine whether psychological flexibility (i.e. mindfulness, acceptance, valued-living) mediates the relationship between distress, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptom frequency, and quality of life (QoL). Ninety-two individuals participated in the study (12 male, 80 female, Mage = 36.24) by completing an online survey including measures of visceral sensitivity, distress, IBS-related QoL, mindfulness, bowel symptoms, pain catastrophizing, acceptance, and valued-living. A final model with excellent fit was identified. Psychological distress significantly and directly predicted pain catastrophizing, valued-living, and IBS symptom frequency. Pain catastrophizing directly predicted visceral sensitivity and acceptance, while visceral sensitivity significantly and directly predicted IBS symptom frequency and QoL. Symptom frequency also had a direct and significant relationship with QoL. The current findings suggest that interventions designed to address unhelpful cognitive processes related to visceral sensitivity, pain catastrophizing, and psychological distress may be of most benefit to IBS-related QoL.