The irritable bowel syndrome presents problems both to those who are troubled by it and those who endeavour to treat it. It has been said that it accounts for about one in eight general practitioner visits, and about one in six of the total population has symptoms consistent with the diagnosis. What is more, those with this syndrome tend to have other disorders, such as headache and fatigue, and to be disturbed psychologically. This raises the time-honoured question of the relationship between the mind and the body and how much one can influence the other. The Gastroenterological Society of Australia was kind enough to ask your Editor to say something about the problem. This is what was said.
It is not easy to stand in front of a learned audience at a scientific meeting remote from one’s own specialty and reveal one’s ignorance. Let me declare my entire knowledge of gastroenterology right at the beginning. Proctalgia fugax is one of those interesting disorders that you do not encounter unless you ask about it. Sleep paralysis and autoscopy – hallucinations of the self – are a couple more.