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Can Anxiety Cause Stomach Pain?

Sad woman with stomach pain

Anxiety can affect anyone, often at the most inopportune times. But if fear, sadness, tiredness, and other warning signs happen frequently, they also could lead to physical symptoms like stomach pain and gastrointestinal discomfort. Anxiety and stomach pain can affect your quality of life, but certain treatments might help.

What is Anxiety?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness confirms that we all experience anxiety occasionally. Giving a public speech in front of a group of strangers can trigger anxiety, but that feeling serves as motivation to prepare and practice. Heavy rush hour traffic is another source of anxiety, but it could make us better drivers and avoid accidents. But intense, lingering, overwhelming fear which affects everyday living could be signs of a more serious anxiety disorder.

Coping Strategies for Anxiety

You may be able to limit symptoms of stress by trying any of the following:

  • Practice yoga, enjoy a podcast, meditate, try massage therapy, or learn relaxation skills.
  • Prepare healthy meals without skipping breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and keep nutritious, energy-packed snacks within easy reach.
  • Cut back on alcohol and caffeine.
  • Get a good night’s sleep, about eight to 10 hours uninterrupted every 24 hours.
  • Stay happy by increasing your serotonin levels through daily exercise. Going for a walk or light aerobics can improve your outlook on life and help maintain your health.
  • Try deep breathing exercises to relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety.
  • It’s not possible to control or fix everything, so don’t try.
  • Try and stay positive by banishing negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones.
  • Stay involved with your family, friends, and community as they can provide a support network.
  • Identify your anxiety triggers. Is it family, work, school, or another influencer you can identify? Try journaling when feelings of stress or anxiety crop up and watch for a pattern.
  • Start a conversation. Tell family and friends you’re feeling weighed down, and let them know how they can help. Talk to a doctor or clinician for professional help.

Can Anxiety Cause Stomach Pain?

According to UChicagoMedicine, stress and anxiety are widespread triggers of stomach pain and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Dr. Nina Gupta said, “When we’re stressed, hormones and neurotransmitters are released in the body. This can negatively impact gut motility, or the way our intestines and stomach squeeze and move waste through the body. Also, stress can affect the delicate balance of bacteria in our gut, causing GI discomfort.”

If you suffer from an upset stomach, your healthcare provider may tell you that it’s one of the most familiar symptoms of anxiety and stress. And physical discomfort like stomach pain can result from just one stressful episode — like making a presentation to a roomful of strangers or a messy divorce — or from the accumulation of chronic worry over time from any number of scenarios. It’s important to remember that stomach pain without an obvious cause, like a food illness or a virus, could be triggered by stress or anxiety.

Experts at Harvard Medical School chimed in that psychology can mix with physical factors to result in stomach pain and other symptoms of bowel discomfort. This leads to a brain-stomach connection. Psychosocial triggers affect the actual physiology of your gut, plus various pain symptoms. What does this mean? Stress, depression, or other psychological issues can affect movement and spasms of the gastrointestinal tract and the end result is stomach pain.

Severe stomach pain which is persistent shouldn’t be ignored. If you have anxiety and stomach pain that lingers for months, contact your healthcare provider.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Persistent stomach pain or anxiety, which could lead to a more serious anxiety disorder, shouldn’t be ignored. A medical doctor is best suited to diagnosing issues related to stomach pain, while a mental health professional would be tapped to perform a psychiatric assessment related to anxiety symptoms. In either case, different tests and diagnostic procedures would be used, and in the case of anxiety, symptoms would be compared to criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Treatment for either condition could involve psychotherapy, over-the-counter pain medicine, antidepressants, or newer forms of therapy, including ketamine infusion.

Final Thoughts

It’s estimated that 40 million U.S. adults suffer from anxiety and all the symptoms and side effects that go with it. If you’re in the same boat, don’t wait till you begin sinking. Sadness and tiredness often subside naturally, but symptoms affecting your quality of life are treatable with medicine. Contact us today to learn more about treatment options that can help you find relief.

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