Can Anxiety Cause Nausea? Know How to Manage the Symptoms

Anxiety nausea is a common symptom caused by stressful life events. However, how can you tell if nausea is due to anxiety? Learn what other symptoms can be caused by anxiety and stress.

Key takeaways:

Can anxiety cause nausea?

Anxiety is a natural response to many of life’s stressors. It can cause a number of physical symptoms in the body. If you have ever dealt with anxiety, you may remember feeling an increased heart rate, possible headaches, sweatiness, or even nausea.

Both stress and anxiety can cause you to feel nauseous or queasy. There’s a reason the phrase “butterflies in the stomach” is so popular. In fact, anxiety-related nausea is one of the more common side effects of short-term anxiety. However, anxiety nausea can be more long-term or severe and may even lead to vomiting.

Typically, anxiety-related nausea is caused by stress. Stress is any kind of change that makes your body or mind feel tense. Because of that, both stress and anxiety can cause nausea and similar symptoms.

Here we’ll discuss ways to manage short-term and long-term anxiety-related nausea and learn more about its causes.

Other symptoms caused by anxiety

Anxiety can cause dozens of different short-term physical symptoms. In addition, many anxiety and stress symptoms are associated with the digestive system, including gastrointestinal (GI) issues, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Some of the most common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feeling tense, nervous
  • Rapid breathing (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea, gastrointestinal (GI) issues
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Trouble controlling worry
  • Difficulty concentrating

While occasional anxiety symptoms are normal, persistent feelings of anxiety or dread that interfere with daily life may be a sign of several types of anxiety disorders. In fact, over one-third of adults in the U.S. experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.

Does anxiety cause irritable bowel syndrome?

Researchers have found very interesting links between the brain and the gut in recent years. However, even the brain-gut connection doesn’t quite explain how anxiety would cause digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

According to recent studies, IBS is not directly caused by anxiety or anxiety disorders. However, anxiety can make IBS symptoms worse. In fact, a 2021 study found that IBS and anxiety, along with other mood disorders, share the same genetic pathways. This means that there’s often a lot of genetic overlap in people with IBS and anxiety disorders.

Therefore, if you are more likely to get an anxiety disorder, for example, you might also be more likely to get IBS.

Not all nausea is caused by anxiety. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference. Anxiety is your brain’s response to danger or possible threats. When faced with a threat, the brain releases neurotransmitters to prepare the body for a fight or flight response.

These neurotransmitters may trigger your digestive system, leading to nausea. When nausea is caused by anxiety, you’ll likely feel a bit queasy during a stressful or high-anxiety moment. Once the moment is gone, the nausea will likely go with it.

If you deal with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or chronic upset stomach, anxiety can lead to heightened digestive issues or even vomiting. However, short-term nausea connected to stress or anxiety is usually not something to worry about unless it continues well after the stressful moment.

If you’re feeling nauseous during a non-stressful time, your nausea may not be related to anxiety.

How to treat nausea caused by anxiety

Anxiety nausea is caused by the stress you experience in high-anxiety situations. One of the best ways to relieve anxiety-related nausea is to reduce stress. Overall, taking up calming activities like yoga and meditation and making sure you get enough sleep have been proven to help lessen anxiety.

Here are several ways to lower stress levels, or calm anxiety in the moment:

  • Take a deep breath. Deep breathing has been proven to help relieve nausea symptoms. In addition, researchers found that belly breathing, specifically, is quite helpful.
  • Drink water. Stress-induced nausea may cause electrolyte loss. Slowly sip water to feel better.
  • Avoid certain foods. Studies show that greasy, sugary, and highly-processed foods have been directly linked to increased depression and anxiety.
  • Limit alcohol. Sometimes having a drink is known to calm your nerves. However, pre-existing anxiety can worsen with alcohol use, so it’s best to avoid it if you're feeling stressed.

Does anxiety nausea go away?

Generally, anxiety nausea passes on its own. Since anxiety nausea is a sign of stress, it will likely go away when you calm down. It is not something you need to worry about unless it seems to be happening very often.

If you find that your anxiety-related nausea interferes with your daily activities, or you’re feeling nauseous even when you are not dealing with stressful moments, it may be time to see a doctor.

Medical professionals can help you figure out the cause of your nausea and find the right ways to reduce it.

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