The link between gastrointestinal disorders and anxiety (2023)

Anxiety and stomach problems often seem to go together. An upset stomach is a common experience for people who suffer from anxiety, but anxiety can also contribute to other gastrointestinal issues.

Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders often include symptoms of stomach pain, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. While there are many possible causes of GI problems, when no medical explanation is found they are often referred to as "functional GI symptoms".

Many studies have shown a correlation between anxiety, depression and functional gastrointestinal symptoms.Overall, study results have shown that people who have at least one GI symptom are more likely to have an anxiety disorder or depression than those who have no GI symptoms.

Overall unexplained physical complaints, including fatigue, headache, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, dizziness, and musculoskeletal pain, are reported more often in people with an anxiety disorder and/or depression.

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Common gastrointestinal problems related to anxiety

Gastrointestinal symptoms may be associated with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD),social anxiety disorder (SAD),Panic Syndrome, youphobias. Common gastrointestinal symptoms associated withanxiety disordersinclude:

  • Cold
  • Diarrhea
  • increased hunger
  • Indigestion
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • stomach pain

Dangerous gastrointestinal symptoms

Whether or not you believe your gastrointestinal symptoms are related to anxiety, you should see your doctor as soon as possible if your symptoms occur with any of the following:

  • blood in the stool
  • Feeling bloated or full after eating too little
  • Having a black, tarry, smelly bowel movement
  • persistent low fever
  • unexplained weight loss

These symptoms could mean you have another condition that requires treatment, such as hemorrhoids, infection, intestinal bleeding, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). While it can be worrisome to know that these symptoms could indicate a serious condition, seeking medical help as soon as possible will ensure you receive the proper treatment.

Seek immediate care

Seek immediate medical attention if you have:

  • Pain in the chest, neck, shoulders or jaw
  • disorientation or confusion
  • high fever
  • inability to defecate
  • Moderate to severe rectal bleeding
  • Rapid or significantly slowed heart rate
  • severe abdominal pain
  • Severe diarrhea that lasts for more than a day.
  • Vomiting blood (if the vomited matter looks like coffee grounds, this could indicate blood)

Gastrointestinal conditions associated with anxiety

Some gastrointestinal conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), have also been linked to anxiety disorders.


IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder that causes symptoms such as pain, bloating, cramps, flatulence (gas), whitish mucus in the stool, diarrhea and constipation. While the condition is not fatal, it is chronic and can have a serious impact on a person's quality of life.

(Video) The Connection Between Anxiety and Stomach Problems

People who have IBS are also often diagnosed with mood and anxiety disorders.

IBS is a treatable condition. Often, making dietary changes can help, as well asmanaging your stressusing strategies like yoga.

The link between IBS and anxiety


GERD is a digestive condition that causes acid reflux, which is when stomach acid enters the esophagus, causing sensations such as heartburn and difficulty swallowing.

Common symptoms of GERD include:

  • bad breath
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Voice hoarseness, especially upon waking
  • Mild pain or stuck-like sensations in the throat
  • Persistent dry cough

Some research suggests that people with GERD are also more likely to experience anxiety.While the exact reasons for this connection are not fully understood, researchers suggest that high levels of anxiety and stress can increase stomach acid and muscle tension that can contribute to GERD symptoms.

GERD can be treated with medication, diet, and lifestyle changes.

What to Do With Anxiety and Stomach Ache

You should see your doctor if you experience unexplained mild to moderate GI distress for more than a few days, or if your symptoms go away and then come back. They may order tests or refer you to a specialist to rule out any serious medical issues that could be causing your symptoms.

If your doctor determines that you have functional anxiety-related GI symptoms, there are many effective treatments available for both your GI issues and the underlying anxiety. prescribedmedicinesand psychotherapy can help you reduce your feelings of anxiety and develop healthy ways to deal with stress.

The best online therapy programsWe test, rate, and write unbiased reviews of the best online therapy programs, including Talkspace, Betterhelp, and Regain.

Dealing with anxiety and gastrointestinal problems

Learning to manage your anxiety while treating your gastrointestinal symptoms may be the most beneficial approach to helping you deal with both of these issues.To help deal with anxiety symptoms and related gastrointestinal issues, try:

  • Avoid too much caffeine: Not only can caffeine increase feelings of anxiety, but many products that contain caffeine can also cause gastrointestinal upset.
  • changing your diet: Focusing on a gut-friendly diet can help ease the symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders. Be sure to eat fiber-rich foods and try to add foods that contain probiotics to your diet (such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha). Some animal studies have suggested thatprobioticsmay have anxiety-reducing effects, although more research is needed to understand its impact on human mental health.
  • Practice stress management techniques.: Stress is a normal part of life, so it's important to develop good coping skills.relaxation techniquesthat can help include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation.

If you or a loved one is struggling with anxiety, contact theSubstance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Hotlineat 1-800-662-4357 for information about treatment and support centers in your area.

For more mental health resources, check out ourNational Database of Support Lines.

Common questions

  • Can anxiety cause gastrointestinal problems?

    Yes, anxiety can cause a variety of gastrointestinal problems, including constipation, nausea, diarrhea, indigestion and stomach pain. You should talk to your doctor for advice on treatment and to rule out other possible causes.

  • Can Anxiety Affect Your Digestive System?

    The hormones and chemicals your body releases during times of stress can affect your digestive system. They enter the digestive tract and affect the balance of bacteria in the gut. Anxiety can slow digestion, which can lead to stomach and intestinal problems.

(Video) How chronic and traumatic stress can lead to a gut disorder

What can you do to deal with anxiety?

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Verywell Mind only uses high quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. read ourpublishing processto learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and reliable.

  1. Hartono JL, Mahadeva S, Goh KL.Anxiety and depression in various functional gastrointestinal disorders: are there differences? you are dis. 2012;13(5):252-7. doi:10.1111/j.1751-2980.2012.00581.x

  2. De Heer EW, Gerrits MM, Beekman AT, et al.The association of depression and anxiety with pain: a NESDA study.ANOTHER. 2014;9(10):e106907. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106907

  3. Lee C, Doo E, Choi JM, and others.Increased level of depression and anxiety in patients with irritable bowel syndrome compared to healthy controls: systematic review and meta-analysis.J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2017;23(3):349-362. doi:10.5056/jnm16220

  4. Bharucha AE, Chakraborty S, Sletten CD.Common Functional Gastroenterological Disorders Associated with Abdominal Pain.Mayo Clin Proc. 2016;91(8):1118-32. doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2016.06.003

  5. Popa SL, Dumitrascu DL.Anxiety and IBS revisited: ten years later.Cluj Med. 2015;88(3):253–257. doi:10.15386/cjmed-495

  6. Sanna L, Stuart AL, Berk M, Pasco JA, Girardi P, Williams LJ.Symptoms related to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and its association with mood and anxiety disorders and psychological symptomatology: a population-based study in women.BMC Psychiatry. 2013;13:194. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-194

  7. Choi JM, Yang JI, Kang SJ, et al.Association between anxiety and depression and gastroesophageal reflux disease: results from a large cross-sectional study..J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2018;24(4):593-602. doi:10.5056/jnm18069

  8. Reis DJ, Ilardi SS, Punt SEW.The anxiolytic effect of probiotics: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the clinical and preclinical literature..ANOTHER. 2018;13(6):e0199041. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0199041

(Video) 18 Bad Digestive Anxiety Symptoms!

BySheryl Ankrom, MS, LCPC
Sheryl Ankrom is a professional clinical counselor and nationally certified clinical mental health counselor specializing in anxiety disorders.

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(Video) The VICIOUS CYCLE of IBS, Anxiety and Stomach Problems


Are gastrointestinal problems linked to anxiety? ›

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.

What is the relationship between gastric and anxiety? ›

A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person's stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That's because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected.

Can stress or anxiety mess up your digestive system? ›

Stress can cause a range of gastrointestinal problems including cramping, bloating, inflammation, and a loss of appetite. Find out how to keep stress levels down to protect your gut.

Can digestive issues cause panic attacks? ›

The fear of a similar situation recurring can trigger a panic attack. Unfortunately, in someone with IBS, a vicious cycle can result where the presence of recurring digestive issues can cause panic attacks and an episode of panic can then result in the onset of more punishing physical symptoms.

Can anxiety cause GI inflammation? ›

Stress is known to cause low-grade intestinal inflammation via increased bacterial translocation and the production of poisons (87).

How do I get rid of gastric anxiety? ›

How do I treat a nervous stomach?
  1. Try herbal remedies. Certain herbs can ease nervous stomach in some people as it's happening. ...
  2. Avoid caffeine, especially coffee. ...
  3. Practice deep breathing, mindfulness, and meditation. ...
  4. Try calming diffuser oils or incenses. ...
  5. Find space for yourself to relax.
Dec 15, 2017

Does anxiety cause gas or gas cause anxiety? ›

Although it may seem strange, many people do experience gas (burping and flatulence) connected to their anxiety. Not only can anxiety cause gas problems and bloating - the gas problems themselves can lead to other symptoms that can actually increase anxiety. This can create a vicious cycle of anxiety and gassiness.

How do you stop gastritis from anxiety? ›

Early use of PPIs and H2 blockers in patients can be beneficial to prevent stress gastritis. PPIs work to inhibit hydrogen ion secretion by blocking the H/K ATPase of parietal cells. Parietal cells are stimulated by acetylcholine, gastrin, and histamine to secrete hydrogen ions.

What does anxiety do to your digestive system? ›

If the stress response is triggered too often, the body has a harder time recovering. This impedes the flow of digestion and can cause stomach upset. It can also contribute to the development of irritable bowel syndrome and/or ulcers. The digestive system cannot function properly with too much stress or stimulation.

What are 3 common stomach conditions that are affected by stress? ›

Common gastrointestinal symptoms due to stress are heartburn, indigestion, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, constipation and associated lower abdominal pain.

How do you fix digestive problems from stress? ›

To boost and support digestion, make sure you're getting enough physical activity on a consistent basis, like walking and running. Exercises like Hatha or Iyengar yoga, which focus on alignment and posture, may also alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms and improve stress outcomes.

What medication is good for anxiety and IBS? ›

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like sertraline (Zoloft) and fluoxetine (Prozac) are commonly used to treat anxiety disorders, but they could be helpful for people with anxiety and IBS. These medications make the gut more active, so they may be better for those with IBS-related constipation.

What therapy is good for IBS and anxiety? ›

Research has shown CBT to be effective in improving bowel symptoms, psychological distress, and quality of life. A recent review and analysis of existing studies (meta-analysis) found that the number needed to treat for CBT in IBS is three, meaning that if three people are treated with CBT, one will clinically improve.

What is gastrointestinal symptom specific anxiety? ›

GI symptom-specific anxiety (GSA) is the cognitive, affective, and behavioral response stemming from fear of GI symptoms. The Visceral Sensitivity Index (VSI) measures GSA and is validated in IBS and may be useful in IBD.

What is the best medicine for gastric anxiety? ›

Lorazepam was found to be useful in the treatment of GI illness with anxiety component in several other studies.

How long does it take for stomach anxiety to go away? ›

As your body recovers from the active stress response, this feeling should subside and your stomach should return to its normal self. Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn't be a cause for concern.

What natural remedy is good for stomach anxiety? ›

Natural remedies: Ginger, which people can sip as a tea, chew on as a root, or take as a supplement, may help alleviate mild gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea . Drinking peppermint tea or smelling peppermint oil may also reduce nervous stomach symptoms.

How do I know if my stomach pain is from stress? ›

Symptoms of Gut Stress

Because gut stress affects your whole body, stay on the lookout for these symptoms: Upset stomach after eating. Diarrhea or constipation. Cramping and/or bloating.

What physical symptoms can anxiety cause? ›

Effects of anxiety on your body
  • a churning feeling in your stomach.
  • feeling light-headed or dizzy.
  • pins and needles.
  • feeling restless or unable to sit still.
  • headaches, backache or other aches and pains.
  • faster breathing.
  • a fast, thumping or irregular heartbeat.
  • sweating or hot flushes.

What is calming for gastritis? ›

Acid blockers — also called histamine (H-2) blockers — reduce the amount of acid released into your digestive tract, which relieves gastritis pain and encourages healing. Available by prescription or over the counter, acid blockers include famotidine (Pepcid), cimetidine (Tagamet HB) and nizatidine (Axid AR).

Can long term anxiety cause gastritis? ›

Stress can cause a stomachache, and an even more serious condition called gastritis. If your bout of indigestion or inflammation lingers for a week or more – or if there is blood in your vomit or feces – you should see a physician to determine if you have gastritis.

What can I drink in the morning for gastritis? ›

Drinking warm water can soothe the digestive tract and make digestion easier on your stomach. One study showed a significant difference in people with gastritis that drank tea with honey just once a week. Manuka honey has also been shown to have antibacterial properties that effectively keep H. pylori in check.

What are three root causes of digestive stress? ›

“It can be a delivery system for nutrients to support our health, or it can be a source of great distress due to digestive dysfunction from multiple root causes like leaky gut, dysbiosis (an imbalance in the microbiome, the delicate ecosystem of bacteria inside us), inflammation, and infection.”

Can stress permanently damage your digestive system? ›

Prolonged high levels of stress can increase stomach acid secretions, which can damage the lining of our gut. Over time, this can lead a variety of problems with digestion and even make you more susceptible to ulcers, which are caused by a specific bacterium.

What are stress gastrointestinal symptoms? ›

Common gastrointestinal symptoms due to stress are heartburn, indigestion, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, constipation and associated lower abdominal pain. These symptoms and the alterations in intestinal function that cause them are becoming understood.

How do you calm anxiety induced IBS? ›

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for IBS

Relaxation exercises and calming self-talk are two CBT coping techniques that may help. These exercises enable users to actively lessen the stress response, thereby reducing the gut changes that occur in response to thoughts and feelings.

Does anxiety cause IBS symptoms? ›

Anxiety and anxiety disorders don't cause IBS, though they might worsen symptoms of the condition. A 2021 study suggests that certain mental health conditions — namely anxiety and mood disorders — share genetic pathways with IBS.

How do I get rid of anxiety and stomach problems? ›

A nervous stomach can often be treated with home and natural remedies, as well as lifestyle changes.
  1. Try herbal remedies. ...
  2. Avoid caffeine, especially coffee. ...
  3. Practice deep breathing, mindfulness, and meditation. ...
  4. Try calming diffuser oils or incenses. ...
  5. Find space for yourself to relax.
Dec 15, 2017

What stomach problems can stress and anxiety cause? ›

In some people, stress slows down digestion, causing bloating, pain and constipation, while in others it speeds it up, causing diarrhoea and frequent trips to the loo. Some people lose their appetite completely. Stress can also worsen digestive conditions like stomach ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.

What medication is good for a nervous stomach? ›

Many over-the-counter medications can help you deal with vomiting or one or more of the side effects of a nervous stomach, like nausea, diarrhea, or acidity, including Alka-Seltzer, Emetrol, Mylanta, Pepto-Bismal, Similac, or Tums. To know which medication is most appropriate for your symptom, talk to your doctor.

Can long term anxiety cause IBS? ›

Stress-induced alterations in neuro-endocrine-immune pathways acts on the gut-brain axis and microbiota-gut-brain axis, and cause symptom flare-ups or exaggeration in IBS. IBS is a stress-sensitive disorder, therefore, the treatment of IBS should focus on managing stress and stress-induced responses.

Do probiotics help IBS? ›

Probiotics have also proven beneficial in IBS patients by slowing down the transit time of the colon, reducing the average number of bowel movements per day, improving stool consistency, overall symptoms, and above all, the quality of life in these patients.


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