BACKGROUND/AIMS: Only a relatively small portion of those people suffering with IBS, estimated at 25~50%, eventually seeks medical care. Yet little is known about the difference in the characteristics between the consulter and non-consulter IBS patients. This study aimed to explore the psychological and extra-colonic manifestations of the consulter and non-consulter IBS patients. METHODS: We recruited 109 subjects from three different target groups: (1) 47 of the subjects had sought treatment at the outpatient gastroenterology clinic; (2) 32 of the subjects were diagnosed as having IBS, but they had not sought health care; (3) 30 of the subjects had no IBS symptoms. The Rome II criteria, the revised symptoms Checklist 90 and the gastrointestinal symptom check list were used to record the data. RESULTS: Both the IBS consulters and non-consulters had significantly more severe gastrointestinal symptoms than did the control subjects without IBS. However, the consulters complained of more severe symptoms than the non-consulters. On the psychological test, the somatization (p<0.05) and anxiety scores (p<0.05) of the IBS patients were significantly more higher than those of the controls, but there were no differences between the consulter and non-consulter subjects for the psychological distress score, except for the interpersonal-sensitivity score (p=0.048). CONCLUSIONS: Even though the consulter IBS patients complained of more severe gastrointestinal symptoms than non-consulters, there were no differences for psychological distress or the non-gastrointestinal physical symptoms between the non-consulters and the consulters.