Published On By Rachel Nall

IBS And AnxietyAnxiety and irritable bowel syndrome could often occur together, creating a complex connection that impacts a person’s daily lifestyle.

Living with an anxiety disorder could be challenging, affecting various aspects of life, such as work, relationships, and overall health.

Anxiety is a mental health condition that could significantly impact gut health, while IBS is a chronic disorder affecting the large intestine. Does Anxiety also cause stomach issues like pain, constipation, or bloating?

Stress, Anxiety, and depression could trigger chemical release in the brain, turning on the pain signal in the gut.

How does Anxiety correlate with IBS? Understanding the intricate relationship between Anxiety and gastrointestinal health can help adopt holistic techniques to reduce symptoms and enhance quality of life.

Understanding IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is characterized by gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas buildup, bloating, and stomach pain.

IBS symptoms may include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramping
  • Bloating
  • Changes in bowel movement
  • Increased gas or mucus in the stool

In people with IBS, diagnosed tests such as blood work, stool analysis, imaging studies, and colonoscopies often appear normal.

IBS itself is not life-threatening, affecting approximately 10 to 15% of people in the United States. The exact cause of IBS remains unknown, but various factors, such as gut hypersensitivity, altered gut motility, and psychological stressors, could contribute to the occurrence of IBS.

Does Anxiety cause IBS?

Research suggests a complex connection between irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Anxiety, indicating a bidirectional relationship rather than a unidirectional causation.

Anxiety could lead to digestive issues and worsen IBS symptoms, but it is also possible that gut problems can trigger Anxiety.

The relationship between the two is dynamic and can vary from person to person. Not all people with anxiety experience IBS, and vice versa, highlighting the subtle nature of this connection.

Relation Between Anxiety And IBS

People with IBS may often experience heightened levels of Anxiety, with studies showing that 44% of IBS sufferers have an anxiety disorder compared to only 8% of those without IBS.

This connection between Anxiety and IBS could be attributed to the complex interplay of the gut-brain axis, a two-way signaling system between the brain and the digestive tract.

Symptom Anxiety IBS
Abdominal Pain Commonly Present Common Symptom
Gut Bacteria Altered by Anxiety Impacted in IBS
Bowel Movements Affected by Anxiety Disrupted in IBS

What is Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety disorder is a condition of persistent feelings of worry, fear, or concern that can significantly impact daily functioning and health.

It is normal to experience stress and worry. When these feelings become overwhelming, persistent, or start interfering with daily life, it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Physical symptoms such as a fast heart rate, fatigue, and sweating can also accompany anxiety disorders. Approximately one-third of U.S. adults have experienced an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.

Some anxiety disorders are Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Panic Disorder.

Possibilities Of Stomach Pain By Anxiety

Experiencing stress and Anxiety could manifest physical symptoms such as abdominal discomfort, constipation, and stomach pain, impacting gastrointestinal health.

These symptoms could be distressing and challenging to manage, affecting daily life and overall health. When Anxiety takes a toll on the body, it could lead to various gastrointestinal issues, worsening the discomfort and pain people may already be feeling.

  • Increased Muscle Tension: Anxiety could cause tension in the muscles of the abdomen, leading to constipation and cramping.
  • Altered Digestive System Function: Stress and Anxiety may disrupt the functioning of the digestive system, resulting in constipation or stomach pain.
  • Heightened Nervous System Response: Anxiety might trigger an overactive nervous system response, affecting the gut-brain axis and causing discomfort in the stomach.

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Signs Of Stomach Pain Caused By Anxiety Feel

Stomach pain influenced by anxiety has characteristics that may help differentiate it from other causes. Here are some signs to be mindful of:

Signs Description
Rectal bleeding Blood in stool potentially indicates a more serious underlying issue.
Unintentional weight loss Significant weight loss without trying could signify a health concern.
Onset over age 50 New onset of stomach pain in older people, warranting further investigation.
Family history of cancer Genetic predisposition to bowel or ovarian cancer raises concerns about inherited conditions.
Iron deficiency anemia Low levels of iron in the blood, suggest potential gastrointestinal problems or chronic bleeding.

Tips To Manage Anxiety To Prevent IBS Flare-Ups

  • Stress-reducing techniques: Walking, running, or swimming may reduce stress levels and also reduce symptoms of both Anxiety and IBS.
  • Mind-body exercises: Meditation, yoga, and tai chi could stimulate the relaxation response, promoting a sense of calmness that could help alleviate Anxiety and potentially reduce IBS symptoms.
  • Mindfulness classes: These stress reduction classes might assist in managing stress by altering thinking patterns. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing and visualization techniques could help restore a sense of stability in times of elevated Anxiety.
  • Self-help groups: Joining self-help groups specifically made for people with IBS and other digestive disorders may provide valuable support and coping mechanisms.

Things To Do About IBS

  1. Exercise

    Physical activities like walking, running, or swimming can relieve stress and depression symptoms. These activities may help promote more normal bowel contractions for people managing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

    Exercise could help manage IBS symptoms by helping to regulate bowel movements and ease gastrointestinal discomfort. It also releases endorphins, which could improve mood and reduce anxiety levels.

  2. Dietary Changes

    Understanding how specific foods can trigger IBS symptoms is essential in creating a diet that promotes digestive health and reduces discomfort.

    Keeping a food diary might help identify personal triggers and guide diet changes that work best for each person.

    Practicing mindfulness while eating may help people tune into their body’s signals, leading to better digestion and reduced stress.

  3. Therapy

    Therapy may provide a safe space for people to explore the emotional impact of IBS, offering validation and support. It could help develop coping mechanisms that promote resilience and enhance quality of life.

    Therapy could help empower people with IBS to create a positive connection with their bodies and emotions, promoting a sense of freedom from the constraints imposed by the condition.

Medications For IBS

  1. For IBS-related Constipation

    • Metamucil: Soluble fibers, like psyllium seen in Metamucil, are a gentle and accessible option for relieving constipation. They add bulk to your stool and facilitate bowel movements, promoting regularity without harsh side effects.
    • Miralax: Miralax draws water into the intestines, making it easier to pass stools. However, be cautious as it may sometimes lead to bloating and discomfort.
    • Prescription Medications: In cases where over-the-counter remedies are ineffective, prescription medications such as Amitiza, Linzess, and Zelnorm (for females under 65) can be beneficial. These FDA-approved drugs specifically target IBS-related constipation.
  2. For IBS-related Diarrhea

    Effective management of IBS-related diarrhea combines targeted drugs. Two essential medications for IBS-related diarrhea are Loperamide (Imodium) and Viberzi.

    Loperamide is an over-the-counter option that works by slowing down gut and bowel movements, providing relief from diarrhea.

    Viberzi, a prescription medication specifically approved for IBS-related diarrhea, comes with some considerations. It is not suitable for people with alcohol consumption issues, liver or pancreas problems, or those who have had their gallbladder removed.

  3. For IBS-related Abdominal Pain

    IBS-related abdominal pain could be addressed by antispasmodics medications, which work to relax the muscles of the digestive system.

    Dicyclomine (Bentyl) and hyoscyamine (Levsin) could provide temporary relief from abdominal pain associated with IBS.

    Certain antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as sertraline (Zoloft) and fluoxetine (Prozac) may be beneficial for people with Anxiety and IBS, particularly those experiencing constipation.

    Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) like amitriptyline (Elavil), doxepin (Sinequan), and nortriptyline (Pamelor) could be more suitable for people with IBS-related diarrhea as they help in slowing down the digestive tract.

    Managing IBS-related abdominal pain could be challenging, but with the proper medication and support, relief is possible.

Risk Factors Associated With IBS

The presence of Anxiety and depression, along with other factors such as familial history, age, chronic stress, smoking, and gut microbiome changes, could contribute to an increased susceptibility to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

  • Emotional Toll: Dealing with the burden of Anxiety and depression can significantly impact one’s physical health, potentially worsening IBS symptoms.
  • Isolation: Feeling isolated due to the challenges of managing IBS and its associated risk factors might intensify emotional distress and feelings of loneliness.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can Anxiety and Stress Manifest Physically in the Form of Stomach Pain for People With IBS?
    Yes. Emotional factors like stress and Anxiety could worsen IBS symptoms, leading to increased pain and discomfort in the abdominal region.
  • How Can Therapy Help in Breaking the Mind-Body Cycle That Heightens IBS Symptoms?
    Therapy could break the mind-body cycle causing IBS symptoms by addressing triggers differently through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It might help focus on emotions impacting IBS in psychodynamic therapy, helping manage stress, and providing better bowel control.
  • How Does Hypnotherapy Assist in Stress Management and Behavior Change for People With Ibs?
    Hypnotherapy helps in stress management and behavior change in people with IBS. It may promote relaxation and modify responses to triggers. It could also help break negative cycles and encourage positive coping strategies.
  • What Role Does Biofeedback Play in Helping People Gain Better Control Over Their Bowels and Manage IBS Symptoms?
    Biofeedback provides real-time feedback on body responses in people with IBS symptoms. This technique could help people learn to regulate physiological functions, potentially improving bowel processes and reducing discomfort.


Constant bloating, stomach aches, and changes in bowel habits could negatively affect your appetite and body weight. Stress and life events could contribute to the development and worsening of both IBS and Anxiety.

However, the underlying cause and connection behind IBS and Anxiety are unexplained. It is essential to work on both these conditions simultaneously for optimal management.

It is essential to recognize the symptoms of both IBS and Anxiety, acknowledge the impact on daily life, and take steps toward seeking treatment to enhance mental health.

You should consume more homemade meals whenever you can. Maintain a diary to identify and remember your food triggers to manage your IBS symptoms effectively.

Consult with an experienced therapist to reduce anxiety or stress levels, which will help you build a healthy relationship with your mind and body.

  • The information in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
  • It is not recommended to disregard/delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of what you read or accessed through this article.
  • The results may vary from individual to individual.
  • It is recommended to consult your doctor for any underlying medical conditions or if you are on any prescribed medicines before trying any tips.

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