Can Anxiety Cause Nausea and Diarrhea - Know Why!
Written by: Meenakshi Joshi – M. Sc (Psychology)
Last updated date : January 05, 2023
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We all feel scared and nervous. We all feel anxious. It can affect not only our mind but also our body. When we say “butterflies in my stomach”, we are talking about the weird body sensations that causes. It can cause tingling in our tummy for sure. But can anxiety cause nausea and diarrhea as well?
What Happens in Anxiety?
Anxiety causes very weird body sensations. When we feel anxiety or fear, our mind and body both react. You might “freeze” or feel “numb”. You don’t really freeze but it sure feels like you are stuck to one place and cannot move.
Although anxiety or fear is in our mind, our body also responds to them. Your heart starts racing fast, you feel like you cannot breadth, your legs start shaking, etc. Similarly, you might get a tingling sensation in your stomach. You might even have some stomach problems like nausea, stomach ache, diarrhea, etc.
Can Anxiety Cause Diarrhea and Nausea?
- When you have pain in any part of your body, you cannot focus on work or study. Your concentration is poor.
- If you are feeling unwell, then it becomes very tough to think straight.
- You cannot take correct decisions when you are not feeling physically fit.
- Your mood too is dependent on how good or bad you feel. So, when you are feeling very happy, you might not even notice any minor pain or any happy news can quickly make you forget that you are not well.
Anxiety can cause diarrhea and nausea. Anxiety is very highly related to stomach problems. You are not alone. Many people have “tension diarrhea” or “nervous nausea”. These are just your body’s response to stress.
Why do you get anxiety diarrhea or nausea?When you get anxious, your digestive system goes for a toss. Your brain and your gut are connected. This is called the brain-gut axis. When you are anxious, there are some hormones and signals that the brain sends to your body. These signals are sent to the gut as well.
Your gut responds to these signals by some symptoms like diarrhea, stomach upset, nausea, etc. In anxiety, our bodies get into fight or flight mode. Fight or flight is a basic survival instinct that we have developed when we are stressed. So, when we face a stressful or dangerous situation, our body prepares itself to either fight the situation or to run.
So when we are stressed or nervous, our brain sends signals to the body. Some signs that our body is getting ready to fight or run are
- Heart starts beating faster
- Increased sweating
- Body tensing
- Breathing gets irregular
- Blood rushes to the brain
Other reasons for anxiety causing diarrhea and nausea
- Anxiety causes some very weird body sensations. You might develop fear for these. You might feel embarrassed too. This causes even more anxiety. This cycle might lead to more severe problems such as diarrhea.
- Anxiety can cause sleep problems. It might completely upset your sleep cycle. You might not get enough rest or stay awake at night for a long time. This lack of sleep and overthinking can cause digestive issues.
- Stress or anxiety can also make you overeat. You might binge eat an entire packet of fried food. This in turn might upset your stomach.
- Additionally, stress can cause hormonal changes in the body. The changes in the body can further make stomach issues worse.
- Also, in females, anxiety can cause mensuration. It might disrupt your monthly cycle and you might get your period early. These changes can also cause nausea and stomach upset.
Is the other way round also possible?Just like anxiety causes weird body sensations, these sensations can also cause stress. You might get anxiety diarrhea or nausea but digestive problems can cause anxiety too. Just like the mind can affect the body, the body can affect the mind as well.
You can easily tell if you have anxiety or just diarrhea or nausea by evaluating what happened first. Did you start having diarrhea first or did you get upset first due to something else?
Also, to know whether you have diarrhea or nausea because of anxiety, try to find out if there could be any other reason for the stomach issues. If you have another cause for diarrhea and nausea then probably your anxiety has not caused them. Rather you have anxiety because of your physical problems. Treating diarrhea and nausea will reduce anxiety as well.
Treating Diarrhea and Nausea Caused by Anxiety
If you have anxiety diarrhea and nausea then you can follow the below-listed tips to manage the anxiety. Diarrhea and nausea will go away as the anxiety reduces.
- Therapy and counseling for anxiety. You might not even be aware of what is making you so nervous or what is stressing you out. Get help and consult a psychologist who can assist you to deal with the root cause of your anxiety. You will be able to develop some helpful strategies to deal with the things that cause anxiety. Also, you can learn to manage your anxiety.
- Medication for anxiety as per the doctor’s orders.
- To deal with diarrhea – stay hydrated. Drink lots of water and try to replace the minerals and nutrients that you have lost by drinking mineral-rich drinks or even coconut water.
- Balanced diet and regular exercise will help to cope with stress in a better way. Yoga, meditation, and relaxation are also helpful.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco.
Have the right attitude!Your attitude can be very important when you are dealing with anxiety and stress. You have to believe in yourself and be ready to work to get better. Anxiety is a very natural thing that everyone goes through. But if you let the anxiety overpower you and control you, then it will make your life miserable.
Have the right attitude to fight stress and you can remove it from your mind. Feel confident that you will be able to deal with any danger or stress that you may have to face in life. You can take care of yourself and overcome any problems.
Therapy, medicines, lifestyle changes, and a positive attitude can help you reduce anxiety. With anxiety taken care of, your physical symptoms – diarrhea, and nausea will also reduce.