The Parents Role Is Key
Its only natural that parents dont want to see their kids in distress or make them go to school when theyre worried that theyll throw up. That puts parents in a difficult spot. What we hear from parents is, We just let him stay home one day and one day led to three months, says Dr. Domingues. Its a slippery slope the child may ask to stay home more and more.
So we work with parents a lot around how to find that balance between enabling anxiety and meeting a child where they are, she adds. And we also give them statements that they can use to be empathic and encouraging at the same time. For instance: I know that this is really hard and you feel like youre sick. But we also know that this is anxiety, and you can get through it.
Sometimes setting up a reward system can help by giving a lot of positive reinforcement for kids pushing through their anxiety.
Parents also face the challenge of tolerating their own anxiety about pushing a child who says she is ill or worried about vomiting. If your kid is in distress and talking about not wanting to go to school or feeling sick or thinking they might throw up, says Dr. Domingues, then youre, as a parent, also anxious that that might happen.
How To Handle It
Because the GI tract and anxiety are so closely related, its not always obvious what physical symptoms are caused by IBS, or anxiety, or IBS as a result of anxietyso it can be useful to take a two-pronged approach.
Reiner urges her clients to tackle the problem not just psychologically, but medically, as well. When someone is reporting debilitating stomach issues, I will first direct them to a gastroenterologist or primary care physician to rule out any underlying issues, she says. Even if your symptoms seem to be spiked by anxiety, there might be a physical cause that therapy or psychiatry alone cannot treat.
But if symptoms cant be fully treated through other means, there are practical ways of dealing with anxiety-induced GI discomfort when it arises. For some patients, Reiner suggests breathing exercises as a way to manage the physical symptoms, as well as the feeling of anxiety itself.
Diaphragmatic breathing relaxes your stomach, she says. Breathe in really slowly for about five counts, hold it in, and breathe it out for somewhere between six and eight counts. This can help turn on the rest-and-digest response, the bodys natural recovery mechanism to fight-or-flight, Reiner says.
Jodorkovsky says that hypervigilance is one pitfall you can try to avoid. When we are anxious, our bodies become hyper-aware of our symptoms, as if the nerve signals are amplified. This makes the symptoms even more distressing than they would otherwise be.
Dont Let Anxiety Impact Your Recovery
Stress and anxiety are normal parts of life. However, chronic worry can have a detrimental effect on your physical, emotional and mental well-being, especially if you struggle with addiction. If you need help, 7 Summit Pathways is here for you.
We understand that issues like anxiety or depression often serve as catalysts for addiction. Our team of interdisciplinary specialists addresses not only the addiction but also any underlying conditions that may have triggered your substance use.
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How Anxiety Presents Itself Mentally
Most people would have no idea when Im experiencing anxiety. I am seemingly quiet and calm but the mental noise is turned up to the highest volume. I worry about everything. I cant concentrate, listen or think clearly. I miss out on whats going on around me because I cant focus on the present moment, only whats running through my mind at the time. My thoughts are either scattered all over the place or hyper-focused on some possible scenario, conversation, or event in the future. Self-doubt often accompanies my anxiety and an overwhelming sense of Nope, no way, cant do it. Feelings of not being ready or not being good enough overtake the rational mind. I try to remind myself of a phrase someone close to me has said for a long time, Feelings are not facts.
Pregnancy And Fluttering In Upper Stomach
Pregnancy might be a possible cause of the fluttering feeling. The fetus moves inside the uterus of the mother. Generally, this feeling is felt in the abdomen. However, it is experienced in the upper stomach sometimes. This fluttering-like movement is called quickening.
This feeling is almost like having gas in your stomach. But you may feel fluttering as well. This occurs at around 20 weeks of pregnancy. So, if you feel a flutter during that time, your future baby is the likely cause!
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Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety
In fact anxiety is associated with a host of physical symptoms, including headaches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, along with a racing heart, shakiness or sweating symptoms older people experience when theyre having a panic attack.
All these physical symptoms are related to the fight-or-flight response triggered when the brain detects danger. All of them have a purpose, notes , a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. When she talks to kids about anxious headaches or stomach aches, she explains the role of each. For instance, she says, your stomach hurts because your digestive system is shutting down to send blood to other areas of your body. You dont want to be digesting food at that moment because youre trying to either flee danger or fight danger.
Dr. Domingues assures children that these symptoms are not harmful theyre just their emergency system responding to a false alarm. But its important to understand that kids arent necessarily inventing their symptoms, and the danger may feel very real to them. Dont assume a child who spends a lot of time in the nurses office at school is doing it intentionally to get out of class. Her acute anxiety may be causing her pain.
Headaches and stomach aches related to anxiety are still real feelings, and we want to take them seriously, says Ms. Greenspan.
Here Are Two Signs Your Abdominal Pain Could Be Mental
Whether your stomach cramps strike every time you have to take a flight or before big work presentations, it could be a sign that youre so stressed its affecting your gut.
Theres a clear connection between the brain and our emotions and how our body feels, says Sperling. Realizing that your abdominal pain always crops up around moments of fear, stress, or anxiety can help you figure out that your emotions are behind the discomfort.
If you already know you have anxiety but are having a hard time managing this symptom, talk to your doctor or therapist to see if any tweaks in your treatment may help. If youre not sure your abdominal pain is connected with changes in your emotions, consider keeping a journal for a few weeks to chart how you feel and how your pain comes and goes in response.
In the event that your GI issues do seem tied with mental health concerns like anxiety, a mental health professional may be able to help you through methods like cognitive behavioral therapy . This form of therapy aims to help people identify and change unhelpful thoughts and behaviors to live healthier, happier lives. If youre interested in trying it, heres a guide on how to find an affordable therapist.
While undeniably horrible in the moment, panic attacks are highly treatable with medication, therapy such as CBT, and coping mechanisms like deep breathing, according to the Mayo Clinic. See your doctor or therapist for help if you think youre having panic attacks.
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Symptom #6 Youre Never In The Mood
For many people, depression has a marked impact on sexual libido whether its due to emotional reasons or physical reasons . Even anti-depressants can affect peoples sex drive.
Whatever the case, its worth talking to your doctor about a change in sex drive, to pinpoint the cause and find a solution sometimes a simple change in medication or treatment can help. It might feel awkward, but remember, doctors are professionals and its their job to help.
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You Feel Pain Almost Everyday At The Same Time
You might wake up every morning and feel anxiety before you go to work because your boss really stresses you out, or maybe you only feel anxious when you come home for the night because you live alone and feel uncomfortable being with your own thoughts.
If you are feeling anticipatory anxiety at the same time every day, Dr. Zarnegar says, chances are that there is something in your daily life that is triggering a lot of emotional distress.
Ã¢Adopt a non-judgmental attitude about your pain and develop a compassionate stance for your suffering,Ã¢ she says. Basically dont shame yourself because you have this pain. A kind attitude to yourself is the first step to long-term solutions.
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One Thing I Wish People Understood About Anxiety
I wish people knew more about people with anxiety their experiences, their pain, their resilience. I wish there wasnt so much shame and stigma associated with something incredibly common in this age of anxiety. So many of us experience it to some degree and we arent failures, incompetent, or less than because we experience anxiety. Were human.
Managing anxiety is also not as simple as forcing yourself to show up or having a toolbox of solutions at the ready. Showing up is important and those tools have their place, without question, and I hope everyone struggling with anxiety learns what works best for them. Sometimes though, anxiety is too overpowering to deal with quietly on your own. Thats when it helps to have someone who creates the space for you to be exactly as you are and completely accepts you in that moment. I dont need to be pitied, judged, or told, Just dont worry so much or Oh, just do it! In those moments, whats most helpful is empathy, a reminder to take slow deep breaths and ground myself, maybe a hug, and eventually a good laugh. It helps to have a space created with the intention of allowing me to acknowledge and feel my anxiety so I can then work through it.
The Three Parts Of Anxiety
When we feel anxious, we automatically generate a three-part response that includes thoughts physical symptoms and behaviours . All three parts have an interactive and reciprocal relationship. This simply means that each part interacts and influences the other parts. None will occur in isolation. For example, if youre anxious about giving a presentation at work you would likely have some worrisome thoughts , experience some physical sensations , and take some sort of action . If your rehearsal isnt going well you may start having more worrisome thoughts that might lead to more physical sensations which might lead to a new action .
The following diagram exemplifies this process:
How To Calm A Nervous Stomach
Given the importance of the psychological process in IBS, it is unsurprising that psychological therapies are an effective treatment option. Several psychotherapies are effective in reducing gastrointestinal distress:
- Gut-directed hypnosis . This hypnosis involves the patient visualizing their gut as a set of slimy tubes and other gut-related imagery. This helps to restore the gut-brain communication to reduce symptoms of IBS. Smartphone-based versions such as Nerva have recently become available, and offer convenient access to hypnotherapy.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy . This skill-based therapy teaches control over negative thought patterns and modifies patterns of behavior. Relaxation techniques help to control the stress response, and cognitive restructuring allows the patient to avoid catastrophizing. These techniques help to reduce the symptoms of IBS.
- Mindfulness-based therapies. This practice involves attending to the present moment and cultivating non-judgemental attitudes. Mindfulness therapies reduce levels of stress and sensitivity to pain, a key symptom of IBS. The effects have been shown to last over three months , although these therapies can be less effective than GDH and CBT.
How Emotions Affect Our Body
Why do our feelings sometimes make us sick?
Our lives are filled with emotions, from anger to shame, fear to delight, says Tracy A. Dennis, PhD, associate professor in the department of psychology at Hunter College, the City University of New York.
These physiological and neuroendocrine changes associated with emotion influence all aspects of our body, including the digestive system, Dennis tells WebMD. These physical responses can start and stop quite suddenly and be very intense.
Dennis says its the intensity of emotions that can send our body into overdrive, producing immediate gastrointestinal distress — stomachaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
Sometimes Abdominal Pain Is Physical And Mental
If you have a gastrointestinal condition such as IBS, Crohns disease, or ulcerative colitis, stress or anxiety can exacerbate your symptoms. This can make your physical and mental health even more inextricably linked.
This relationship can be cyclical, Sperling says: Stress or anxiety can prompt gut inflammation and intestinal spasms, leading to more GI symptoms, which can just translate to more stress or anxiety. Its pretty unfair. If you have a GI condition and feel like youre stuck in this rhythm, talk to your doctor to see if theres a way to make your gut and your brain get along a little better so that you dont have to suffer.
Effects Of Anxiety On Your Mind
These can include:
- feeling tense, nervous or unable to relax
- having a sense of dread, or fearing the worst
- feeling like the world is speeding up or slowing down
- feeling like other people can see you’re anxious and are looking at you
- feeling like you can’t stop worrying, or that bad things will happen if you stop worrying
- worrying about anxiety itself, for example worrying about when panic attacks might happen
- wanting lots of reassurance from other people or worrying that people are angry or upset with you
- worrying that you’re losing touch with reality
- low mood and depression
- rumination thinking a lot about bad experiences, or thinking over a situation again and again
- depersonalisation a type of dissociation where you feel disconnected from your mind or body, or like you are a character that you are watching in a film
- derealisation another type of dissociation where you feel disconnected from the world around you, or like the world isn’t real
- worrying a lot about things that might happen in the future you can read more about these sorts of worries on the Anxiety UK website.
“I could feel all these physical symptoms building inside me, literally filling every part of my body until I felt completely light-headed and disembodied.”
Anxiety and physical health problems
Having a physical illness or disability can also make you feel stressed and anxious, so it might sometimes feel like your anxiety problems and physical health problems are part of a vicious circle.
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