J Neurogastroenterol Motil.  2022 Jan;28(1):95-103. 10.5056/jnm20239.

Improving Clinician-Patient Communication Alleviates Stigma in Patients With Functional Dyspepsia Receiving Antidepressant Treatment

  • 1Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Key Laboratory of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Ministry of Health, Renji Hospital, School of Medicine, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai Institute of Digestive Disease, Shanghai, China
  • 2Department of Psychological Medicine, Renji Hospital, School of Medicine, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China


Antidepressants are effective in patients with functional dyspepsia (FD). However, stigma associated with FD and antidepressants may affect treatment adherence. This study aims to explore possible communication strategies to alleviate stigma and improve adherence in patients with FD.
In this randomized, single-center, and single-blind trial, 160 patients with FD initiating antidepressant treatment were recruited. Different communication strategies were performed when prescribing antidepressants. Participants in Group 1 were told that brain is the “headquarters” of gut, and that antidepressants could act as neuromodulators to relieve symptoms of FD through regulating the functions of gut and brain. Participants in Group 2 were told that antidepressants were empirically effective for FD. Stigma scores, medication-related stigma, treatment compliance, and efficacy were analyzed.
After 8-week antidepressant treatment, the proportion of patients with FD with decreased stigma scores in Group 1 was significantly higher than in Group 2 (internalized stigma: 64.10% vs 12.00%; perceived stigma: 55.13% vs 13.33%; P < 0.01). Medication-related stigma was lower in Group 1 than in Group 2 (P < 0.05 for 3 of 4 questions). Concurrently, patients in Group 1 had better treatment compliance (0.71 ± 0.25 vs 0.60 ± 0.25, P < 0.01) and efficacy. In Group 1, participants with decreased post-treatment stigma scores showed better treatment compliance and efficacy than those with non-decreased scores. Decrease in stigma scores positively correlated with treatment compliance.
Improving knowledge of patients with FD of the disease and antidepressants via proper communication may be an effective way to alleviate stigma and promote adherence.


Antidepressive agents; Clinician-patient communication; Dyspepsia; Patient compliance; Stigma
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