Reviewed by Heather Cashell, LCSW
Have you ever experienced stomach pain when you’re starting to get anxious about something? Some people get very nervous about certain issues and wind up having stomach pains as a response to what is going on. This is sometimes referred to as anxiety stomach pain, but others just call it having a nervous stomach or gut. Those “butterflies” that you get in your stomach before you have to speak in public can sometimes turn into nervous stomach pain. Why does this happen so suddenly to some people, though? Is there a logical reason why anxiety and stomach pain are related?
Yes, and it comes down to your body experiencing a stress response. When you get anxious or nervous about a situation, your body is going to produce stress hormones. These hormones can wind up entering your digestive tract and causing numerous issues for you. Your digestion can wind up being negatively impacted by the stress hormones, and this can even throw off the bacterial balance in your gut. You might even have antibody production get reduced due to the problems that you’re experiencing.
Potential Anxiety-Related Stomach Issues
What does anxiety and stomach pain feel like? Well, that’s a tough question to answer because many different stomach issues can occur as a result of your stress hormones being overactive. Some people might experience significant stomach cramps, while others will feel like they have indigestion. It isn’t unusual for people with anxiety to report feeling like they have acid reflux. Acid reflux and anxiety (or GERD and anxiety if you prefer that term) are commonly associated with each other. The potential stomach issues don’t end there, though, since many people experience diarrhea, constipation, nausea, ulcers, and even conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
You can wind up experiencing several different types of stomach pain and gut issues due to being anxious. It isn’t uncommon for this to happen, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t problematic. Being put in a stressful situation and then suddenly experiencing stomach pain can make things that much tougher. How can you get through a presentation or a business meeting when you’re having such pronounced gut problems? Lots of people struggle with this, and you could indeed consider it to be normal. This isn’t an obscure thing that only happens to people rarely, and you might be surprised by how many people you know will have anxiety and stomach issues.
Now that you know that having an anxious stomach ache isn’t unusual, you’ll likely want to know more about what can be done to stop it. Thankfully, there are lots of treatment options that can help you to get by. Some people are able to reduce anxiety-related stomach symptoms by taking normal over the counter medications. Anti-diarrhea medications might help you out, and so will antacids if you feel like you have acid reflux. You really just need to take the appropriate medicine based on the type of stomach issues that you’re experiencing.
If you know that you’re likely to have anxiety issues during certain situations, then it might be wise to keep stomach medications on hand. It can potentially help you to get through your workday, schoolday, or whatever else you’re trying to do. This is still going to be a bit of an inconvenience, though, and you might want to take care of the anxiety problem itself. There are lots of ways to deal with anxiety so that you can feel better. The first step is to talk to your doctor about things, and once that is done, you’re going to be able to use other methods to reduce stress levels.
Doctors Can Help
Doctors can help those who are going through anxiety struggles. You should take a bit of time out of your day to take this anxiety test if you’re unsure about whether you’re dealing with significant anxiety issues. Although this isn’t a method for diagnosing anxiety, it is a good way to see how substantial your problems are ahead of going to your doctor. Once you’ve done the test, you should make an appointment to discuss your anxiety issues. Your doctor will be happy to help you to figure things out.
One way that doctors will help you out is by prescribing you with anti-anxiety medications. Many patients report feeling significantly less anxious in many situations when they’re taking prescription medications like this. It might help you to avoid anxiety stomach pain, but it’s not a guarantee that it will. The results that you get from anti-anxiety medications will depend on many factors, and it’s worth working with your doctor to see what medications will help you out the best.
It’s also worth noting that many people find success by going to therapy. Therapy helps people to work through anxiety issues while developing strong coping mechanisms. If you get better at controlling your emotions and dealing with anxiety, then your anxiety-related stomach issues might become far less severe. Consider talking to a therapist if you and your doctor believe that it would help. It’s very common for patients with anxiety to seek out cognitive behavioral therapy so that they can make important life changes. It could be the biggest thing that will help you to turn things around.
Reducing Stress Sources
You likely have certain things that cause you more stress than usual. It could be that you aren’t doing a good job of keeping your stress levels down, and this could be making your anxiety and gut health worse than usual. Gut health and anxiety can be improved a lot when you aren’t so stressed about things. Try to determine what the most significant sources of stress in your life are. Once you have this information, it’ll be possible to see if you can avoid certain stressors in your life.
Of course, it isn’t possible to completely avoid stress in life, and you might not even want to try to change certain things. If your stress is related to your job, then you might just have to try to get better at handling stressful situations. Even so, eliminating sources of stress at home, such as arguing with people, doing stressful activities, or watching television shows that cause you anxiety, can make a difference. If you have fewer sources of stress in your life, then your stress hormones will be less likely to cause you various gut problems. This is well worth doing if you can determine some ways to cut down on stress.
Lowering your stress levels by doing things that are relaxing will help you out as well. For instance, lots of people like to do calming things such as gardening, reading books, and listening to soothing music. These are all ways that you can lower your stress levels when you’ve been going through a tough time. If you had a stressful day at work, then lowering your stress levels at home by doing relaxing things will be helpful. It might make it more likely that you’ll feel better and won’t have significant gut issues. At the very least, it’s going to put you in a better mood and make you feel more ready to face the next day’s challenges.
Starting an exercise routine is another strong idea that can help you to keep your stress levels in check. Many people who experience anxiety and depression note that exercising is a good way to make themselves feel better. It can make you feel happier than usual to get some physical activity, and this can alleviate anxiety more than you might think. A regular exercise routine might be one of the best tools at your disposal when it comes to coping with anxiety.
Meditation And Breathing Exercises
When you start to feel those butterflies in your stomach, you might be concerned that your stomach problems are going to flare up again. Lots of successful people get nervous before they need to do important things, and many of them deal with their feelings using meditation and breathing techniques. If you have the time to do so, then you can find a quiet space where you can relax and meditate for a while. This really just involves sitting down quietly, closing your eyes, and trying to clear your mind of all thoughts.
Eliminating your negative thoughts like this should help you to feel a lot less anxious. Breathing exercises work very well in tandem with meditation, but they can help when you aren’t able to meditate, too. Taking deep and slow breaths can help you to calm yourself down if you’re beginning to feel panicked. People who suffer from panic disorders often use breathing techniques to help themselves regain their sense of calm when they feel a panic attack coming on. The same thing might help you to avoid getting too anxious so that your stomach issues won’t get worse.
If you can get good at using these simple coping mechanisms, then you’ll have an easier time getting through your day. It might feel like a pain to have to experience stomach problems and anxiety, but you can get through this issue. Work with your doctor to treat your anxiety and consider what you can do personally to lower your stress levels. You aren’t helpless when it comes to living with anxiety, and you also never have to try to deal with things alone. There will always be professionals ready to assist you if you feel like you’re having a tough time.