Anxiety and Stomach Pain

Many of you may not even believe that one of the causes of stomach pain could be anxiety. Read this article to understand how anxiety and stomach pain are related to each other.
PsycholoGenie Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Anxiety is a negative emotion where your mind is constantly plagued with worry and nervousness. It is to be noted that your mind is gripped with a sense of fear for no valid reason. As a result, you feel restless, depressed and irritated all the time. This state of mind has an adverse effect on your physical health. While dealing with too much of anxiety, the common physical symptoms that are observed are palpitation, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, chest pain and numbness of hands and feet. Along with these symptoms, you may also experience a slight twitch or a sharp pain in your stomach. You tend to rule out the possibility that it can be triggered by anxiety. However, it's a fact that stomach pain due to anxiety is a common occurrence. Small children complain about it quite often when they are nervous, but adults may experience it too.
Relation Between Anxiety and Stomach Pain
When you are nervous, the brain assumes it to be a serious health condition. Even though the seriousness is imaginary, still its response towards normal bodily functions changes. It diverts all its energy towards essential lifesaving functions of the body. The digestion process is not one of the essential functions. Therefore, it lowers the production of digestive enzymes in the stomach and intestines and the overall digestion process becomes slow. The undigested foods are broken down by the stomach bacteria and large amount of gas is produced in the process. The stomach gas exerts pressure on the abdominal walls and the pain is felt.
Another key cause of anxiety induced stomach pain is acid reflux. Too much of anxiety often leads to production of excess amount of stomach acids. This increased level of acid tends to flow back into the esophagus and irritates its lining. This causes an upper abdominal pain, which gets extended to the chest and throat. Here, the stomach pain is accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
The nerves of the body including those that are present on the gastrointestinal lining become sensitive under the influence of stress. As a result, the nerves may interpret even some harmless stimuli inside the stomach as stomach pain. If you already have existing gastrointestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn's disease, then it may get aggravated further and you feel severe pain in your stomach. Sometimes, the source of anxiety related stomach pain may lie outside the digestive tract. This happens when the stomach muscles tighten up due to stress and you feel the pain because of cramps in abdominal muscles.
Treatment
When you have a persistent stomach pain, you pay a visit to a gastroenterologist for treatment, who will then conduct physical examination as well as medical tests such as gastrointestinal endoscopy, colonoscopy, X-rays, MRI scan, etc. to check if there are any gastrointestinal problems. When there is no such problem, then the lifestyle of the patient is taken into account in order to evaluate the psychological causes behind the pain. Once it is confirmed that anxiety is the real cause behind the stomach pain, then they emphasize upon the need to relieve stress. They usually do not recommend any medicines for a dull stomach pain. However, pain relieving medicines are required for a severe stomach pain. In some cases where the production of stomach acids is high, doctors may prescribe antacids to lower its level. Some dietary changes are suggested to all patients with stomach aches. You should include easily digestible foods in your daily diet. All kinds of gassy foods and spicy foods should be avoided.
The most important aspect of this treatment is the lowering of anxiety levels. You have to identify the source of anxiety first and take necessary steps towards reducing it. Adults with anxiety induced stomach pain should find out ways for stress management. Exercising is an excellent way of reducing anxiety. It releases a chemical called 'endorphins' in the body, which alleviates physical pain. You can also practice relaxation techniques to ward off negative thoughts from your mind that tend to make you anxious. Parents should identify the cause of anxiety feelings in children by talking to them freely. Once it is identified, they should help the child to get over their underlying fear(s).
Anxiety related stomach pain is one such problem that should be given proper treatment at the right time. The only way to prevent its recurrence is by keeping the mind in a relaxed state. Such a stomach pain is mostly induced when some negative thoughts are doing their rounds in your mind again and again. Stop troubling thoughts from coming into your mind and stay positive, so as to avoid ill effects on your health.