Symptom-network dynamics in irritable bowel syndrome with comorbid panic disorder using electronic momentary assessment: A randomized controlled trial of escitalopram vs. placebo

D. Kreiter*, M. Drukker, Z. Mujagic, L. Vork, B.P.F. Rutten, J. van Os, A.A.M. Masclee, J.W. Kruimel, C. Leue*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction: Momentary ecological assessment indicated alleviated abdominal pain in escitalopram treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with comorbid panic disorder. Hitherto, little is known about symptom formation, i.e., how psychological impact physical symptoms, and vice versa, and about the effect of SSRI-treatment on symptom formation. Objective: To investigate how psychological and somatic symptoms co-vary over time in IBS patients with co morbid panic disorder and how they are affected by escitalopram treatment.Methods: Experience sampling data from 14 IBS patients with panic disorder were obtained from a single-centre, double-blind, parallel-group, randomized controlled trial on escitalopram versus placebo. At baseline, after three and six months, multilevel time-lagged linear regression analysis was used to construct symptom networks. Network connections represented coefficients between various affect and gastrointestinal items.Results: Connectivity increased up to 3 months in both groups. Between 3 and 6 months, connectivity decreased for placebo and further increased in the escitalopram group. Additionally, a steep increase in node strength for negative affect nodes was observed in the escitalopram network and the opposite for positive affect nodes. Over time, group symptom networks became increasingly different from each other. Anxious-anxious and enthusiastic relaxed became significantly different between groups at 6 months. The connection that changed significantly in all analyses was anxious-anxious.Conclusions: Escitalopram treatment was associated with changes in the symptom networks in IBS patients with panic disorder. While mood and physical symptoms improve over time, mainly connectivity between mood nodes changed, possibly pointing towards a healthier emotion regulation resulting in alleviation of physical symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Article number110351
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • experience sampling method
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • panic disorder
  • psychological networks
  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor
  • Psychological networks
  • Experience sampling method
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Panic disorder
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor

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