Are My Stomach Problems Due to Anxiety?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. Roughly a year ago I had an incident at a restaurant where I became physically ill after eating. I had had this problem years ago but always figured it was the food. Now I’m not so sure. I have come to a point that I get so anxious and it affects my stomach, with diarrhea and nausea. I get so anxious before going to a restaraunt that I often just don’t go or get food to go. I have talked myself through a couple incidents but even just typing this gets me very anxious and makes my stomach feel like I will have to run to the bathroom. Another symptom of this issue is that in my apartment I only have one bathroom but there are three of us living there, if someone is in the bathroom, even if prior to them going in I didn’t have to go I will immediately feel that I need to and that I’m not going to make it. These situations I have tried to focus on something else and I tend to make it through.

Recently I got remarried and I started a new job almost 2 years ago. Which often I don’t have a clue if I will continue to have my job so that makes me very nervous.

Another problem that comes with this is that sleeping is usually choppy through the night, when I go to bed I’m exhausted but to sleep through the night happens few and far between. I have changed my diet, stopped drinking caffeine, little to no sugar etc. I have had mild chest pain, nausea, lightheadedness and difficulty in focusing on anything for too long. I feel I need to constantly be doing things at home, I can’t sit down.

Can you please tell me what this may be and what I should ask my doctor when I go visit him?

A. You may be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The description you offered in your letter may match some of the symptoms of IBS. I would suggest that you Google IBS to see if your symptoms are related to what you are experiencing.

Ask your doctor to also evaluate you for stomach problems. You may be suffering from one of many other possible physical problems. There is also the issue of anxiety. Anxiety may not be the root cause of the issue but it seems to play a large role in making your intestinal problem worse.

After you are evaluated medically, you might want to also consider seeing a therapist for your anxiety. A therapist can help you decrease the anxiety that you have developed regarding eating, bathrooms and restaurants. If you can learn to decrease or control your anxiety levels, your stomach problems may also subside. I wish you luck.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jun 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Are My Stomach Problems Due to Anxiety?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/06/30/are-my-stomach-problems-due-to-anxiety/