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IBS and Anxiety: How Are They Linked?

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, you’re all too familiar with the abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea and/or constipation. You also know there are times when these symptoms flare up and times when they all but resolve.

Anxiety definitely has a role in aggravating IBS. Researchers aren’t entirely sure why, but there’s clearly a relationship. 

At Digestive Disorders Associates, our team helps people manage their IBS. This includes understanding how anxiety is linked to flare-ups and what you can do to gain control of your digestive system.

Why anxiety and IBS are related

Anxiety doesn’t cause IBS. But worry about money, your career, relationships, and your health can make you experience IBS more intensely. It can feel like anxious thoughts and fears make IBS symptoms come on.

If you have IBS, it may just be that you’re more sensitive to emotional troubles. You just feel more in general.

Another reason you may feel IBS and anxiety are related is because anxiety and the associated stress can make the mind more aware of the spasms in your colon that cause IBS flares. The colon is controlled, in part, by the nervous system. Your nervous system is sensitive to stress, which may just make spasms worse, too.

Stress and anxiety can cause your immune system to be oversensitive. It’s also thought that your immune system plays a role in IBS flare-ups, hence the connection.

How to ease anxiety

If you can learn to manage your anxiety and stress, you may suffer from fewer or less intense IBS symptoms. 

Not every anxiety-reducing technique works for everyone, but some to try include:

Some people find anxiety is appeased by talking it out with a friend or by listening to music. Regular exercise, proper sleep, and eating healthy IBS-friendly meals also helps you stay in control of anxiety.

If anxiety persists and continues to aggravate IBS, consider talk therapy with a professional. In some cases, a therapist may offer prescription antidepressants to help minimize symptoms of anxiety and depression.

We can also help you get help from a self-help group full of people who are dealing with IBS and other digestive disorders. Because the people in the group are experiencing some of the same digestive distress as you and the embarrassment and isolation it can cause, you may feel more supported and connected than you would with a friend.

You should continue other IBS treatments

Anxiety-easing strategies are just part of a complete IBS treatment plan. At Digestive Disorders Associates we may also recommend:

Exactly which therapies are right for you depends on your personal IBS symptoms and how often and severely they flare up. You work with our gastroenterologists to determine a course of treatment that matches your lifestyle and needs.

Anxiety is just one possible trigger for IBS. At Digestive Disorders Associates, we help identify all the possible reasons you’re experiencing uncomfortable IBS symptoms and work to help you live as normal of a life as possible. Call our office in Annapolis, Maryland, or schedule online for an evaluation with one of our caring physicians.

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