We can experience anxiety in a wide variety of ways, but can it cause nausea?
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What is anxiety?
Anxiety grows out of an overwhelmed fight or flight response, and it can be frustrating and confusing to experience, because we may feel anxiousness even when there don’t appear to be any specific triggers. Sometimes anxiety can show up without warning, even when there’s not even a perceived threat to trigger us. People who don’t experience this can often ask something like “What do you have to be anxious about?” Sometimes, the answer can feel like “EVERYTHING!! Also nothing…. both at the same time.” If you know, you know…
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
People with anxiety can experience this in a variety of ways. You can work with a mental health professional to decide if your case meets the criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder or some other anxiety-related diagnosis. Even if you don’t have a diagnosis, anxious feelings can show up in many ways. These include:
- racing heart
- jittery or fidgety
- trouble concentrating
- feeling nauseous or other digestive system difficulties
- racing thoughts
There is a wide range of ways anxiety can show up in the body. In fact, because of the way our brain works, your body may show symptoms of anxiety even before you’re consciously aware of it!
The stress response
Anxiety grows out of the part of out mind-body ecosystem that’s designed to keep up alive. The Human brain and body haven’t changed much in 35-40,000 years. In reality, we’re all just cavemen trying to live in a modern world!
When the caveman encounters a tiger, the brain releases Adrenaline and Cortisol into the system to help us survive the impending tiger attack! [Pro tip: As for all those little daily stressors, part of your brain thinks they’re ALL tigers!]
When the brain takes us into fight-or-flight, we get:
- accelerated heart rate (maybe with blood pressure implications for some)
- the body funnels blood to the core, leading to cold, clammy hands
- pupils dilate, respiration increases
- and all kinds of other things to help you survive in the wild.
If there’s an ACTUAL tiger, this is all pretty useful. But if it’s just an angry text message from a partner or boss, it can look a lot more like a panic attack or just becoming overwhelmed or super-stressed.
Anxiety and stomach troubles
In some cases, anxiety can definitely cause nausea! There’s actually a nerve that runs from the brain to the gut, and it’s called the Vagus Nerve. This nerve is a superhighway of information that can get the gut to react to the stress response in the brain.
There’s a wonderful book about the stress response I can recommend to you – Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky. It’s an informative, entertaining read. You can also check out the Resilient Self Recommended Books list for more great suggestions for your reading list!
Stomach troubles from anxiety can show up in a variety of ways:
- nausea or queasiness, especially before stressful things like tests or interviews
- irritable bowels, running to the bathroom more
- loose stool
- loss of appetite
- burning stomach/ indigestion
As you can see, this list of symptoms could be interpreted as a variety of conditions! While it is important to rule out any more severe medical conditions, anxiety-related stomach troubles can be addressed by a qualified therapist.
How do we treat anxiety?
There are many ways to address anxiety. Again, if you experience any of the symptoms listed above (or others), you might start by making a visit to your medical doctor, just to rule out any other health conditions. Sometimes those with panic disorder or social anxiety can feel extremely uncomfortable when their anxiety is triggered, but it’s a good idea to be sure it’s not sometime more serious!
Mental Health Counseling
Working with a qualified counselor to develop coping skills can be a big help. I like to use Mindfulness techniques, controlled deep breaths, and other techniques to help quiet the mind and body. I think it can also be useful to engage in long term therapy to help uncover underlying psychological concerns that may contribute to your anxiety.
While coping skills can help us calm down after anxiety flares up, there are ways to help control it before this becomes a problem. Meditation, yoga, and other contemplative practices can help calm your nervous system to help you become more resilient in the face of life’s daily stress.
Meditation and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
If you’re open to more intensive meditation work to calm your mind-body system, check out the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program that’s offered for free online at Palouse Mindfulness. Dave Potter offers this course, and he trained with Jon Kabat-Zinn, who created Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). You can also search online to find other in-person MBSR classes in your area, which may have a cost to them. As of this writing, the online class at Palouse Mindfulness is completely free.
Of course, there are medical interventions for anxiety. While some prefer to seek more integrative solutions, some patients prefer medical interventions. Of course, medicines have effects and side effects, so you’ll want to discuss these with your medical professional to be sure you’re well-informed. You can check out a discussion of some of the most common anxiety medications here.
Your anxiety solution
In the end, your approach to managing anxiety symptoms is a very personal choice. Understanding your symptoms and how best to treat them can help you live a more fulfilling and healthy life. We look forward to supporting you on your journey!
Be sure to check out The Resilient Self Podcast for more content to help you along your path.