Anxiety and IBS: A Vicious Cycle
Last updated: May 2022
As I once again fasted in order to leave my home, I began to feel a number of emotions. Primarily, I began to feel angry about the impact IBS has on my daily life. After ranting about how I was tired of starving, I started to feel sad. I realized the emotional impact of IBS.
Whether we realize it or not, IBS affects our mental health. The effect may range from anxiety to depression, and it can be severe at times. Our mental health also affects IBS. We need to start paying more attention to how IBS affects mental health and how mental health affects IBS.
Catching my anxiety in action
I have recently had some pretty bad flares and have resorted to taking prescription antispasmodic medication on occasion to help with severe cramping and flares. Since I was going to be out for most of the day, I ate safe foods the day before and fasted overnight. I took the medication right before leaving home.
When I first started feeling the cramping, I paid closer attention because I knew I should not be having cramps. That is when I noticed something that was making things worse. I know this is not the cause of all my cramps. It is the cause of more anxiety, and anxiety irritates IBS.
Noticing how anxiety affects IBS
When I left home, I noted that I was tightening my abdominal muscles. Every time I caught myself doing it, I instantly relaxed the muscles. I noticed this tightening caused cramping and cramping caused anxiety. We all know cramping is one of the first signs of trouble during an IBS flare.
My anxiety over having a flare while out caused tension and that tension led to the tightening of my abdominal muscles. That led to cramping and fear of a flare and that fear led to more tightening and cramping. It was a vicious cycle fueled by anxiety.
Misery loves company so add more symptoms
I spent a good bit of the day paying attention to my abdominal muscles to make sure I was not tensing them. The more I focused on it, the worse it became. I had no idea how to resolve the issue. Anxiety was becoming overwhelming and adding to my misery.
There I was. I was starving. I was cramping. Even though it was a good day overall, I was miserable for far too much of it. I should not have to starve myself and then worry myself into a frenzy. For me, IBS is not just a physical ailment. It also impacts my mental health.
Stressing over flares makes me feel worse
So, if I worry about having a flare when I am not having a flare I can trigger a flare. If you have IBS, you know it is pretty much impossible not to worry about having a flare when you are in public. The anxiety just makes it worse. How do we deal with anxiety? How do we manage our anxiety to minimize its impact on IBS?
I have no answers to these questions as I am just now asking myself how to handle it. Do you have IBS-related stress? How do you manage your anxiety I would love to hear your tips and tricks for managing stress.
Which of the following symptoms of IBS do you experience most frequently?