Does My Child Have Anxiety Stomach Aches
It may surprise many parents to know that anxiety or stress can often cause a belly ache in kids. In fact, approximately 8-25 percent of children experience ongoing stomach pain that cant be chalked up to illness or digestion. However, this pain is very real and can be a symptom of lifes stresses, which then makes belly aches worse. Whether theyre experiencing issues at home or school, nervous stomach can be the bodys coping mechanism. Long term stomach pain can lead to issues with anxiety and depression. Thats why its so important to deal with them head-on.
Effects Of Stress And Anxiety On Your Stomach
Stress and anxiety can trigger lots of different symptoms, in your mind and also on the rest of your body. Stress, for example can cause headaches, chest pain and problems concentrating. And anxiety can cause things like feeling nervous, sweating and problems sleeping.
But both stress and anxiety can also impact your gut. Experiencing a stressful situation can cause short-term problems in the digestive system, including:
In addition, you might find that stress affects your appetite, causing you to eat more or less than you would normally.
Medical Causes Of Anxiety: Anxiety As A Symptom
Anxiety is rarely just about biology or psychology. Except when it is.
We humans are chemistry, and nothing could make this clearer than the chilling story of an old family friend who suffered lifelong anxiety and panic attacks.After of living with this curse, he was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder. One of the consequences of this genetic disorder are small tumours on the adrenal glands that cause spikes in adrenalin production. He had one on his adrenal gland. The gland was excised, and he was cured or perhaps set free would be a better description.
Thats an exceptionally rare cause of anxiety, of course. But dont neglect the possibility of a medical explanation or complication. Some of them are much, much more common. In fact, there are at least several insidious or underestimated medical causes of anxiety, which may explain an awful lot of allegedly free floating anxiety and symptoms of anxiety disorder in people who do not seem like a good psychological fit for it.
Chronic pain is extremely common, and can be both a cause and consequence of anxiety sometimes equally, sometimes slanted much more one way than the other, but each always influencing the other to some degree. For many people with both anxiety and pain, solving the pain is the best possible treatment for the anxiety. Others must solve both at once. And a few will find that pain is just one of many ways that they are haunted by anxiety demons.
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Did You Know That Stress Can Cause Stomach Pain With Cramps
When the body is under stress due to work pressures or other concerns, you may experience cramping in the stomach and bowel muscles as your digestive system cannot relax. The first thing we recommend for a stress-free life is organising your time sensibly and avoid setting unattainable goals. The philosophy you apply to solving problems is also important. Approaching problems with confidence, assessing the possibilities for practical implementation, and promising yourself not to complain will enhance your effectiveness at achieving a stress-free life while reducing anxiety.
Here are some relaxation techniques:
Identification Of School Stressors
Explore whether any significant threats at school or inappropriate classroom placement contribute to the childs school refusal. Children often cannot articulate why they feel bad at school, and often there are no real threats at school it is just their symptoms of autonomic arousal associated with anxiety.
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Eat Properly To Help Your Digestion
It’s very easy to spend our working lives eating on the move or at our desks, gulping down food between meetings and then crashing out in front of the TV with a takeaway in the evenings.
But eating this way can play havoc with our digestive system.
Follow some basic rules to prevent problems:
- Do not rush your food. Take the time to eat slowly. Try putting your fork down between bites and chew each mouthful well.
- Do not overeat. Reduce the size of your portions at mealtimes, or try eating 4 to 5 small meals instead of 3 large ones.
- Eat regularly and try not to skip meals.
- Avoid eating a big meal just before you go to bed. Eat your last meal at least 2 to 3 hours before lying down.
- Make sure you have plenty of water to drink.
What Is The Connection Between Anxiety And Stomach Pain
The connection between anxiety and stomach pain is not always clear. However, it is believed that anxiety and stomach pain are closely related because of the mind-body connection. This means that the brain and the gut are connected and can influence each other.
For example, when someone is feeling anxious, they may experience stomach pain. This is because anxiety can cause changes in the digestive system, including increased acid production and muscle tension. These changes can lead to stomach pain.
Conversely, stomach pain can also cause anxiety. This is because the pain can be a source of stress and worry. It can also trigger memories of past experiences of pain or other negative emotions.
So, the connection between anxiety and stomach pain is bidirectional. This means that one can cause the other, and vice versa.
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Why Does Stress Or Anxiety Impact Your Gut
Theres increasing evidence showing that theres an important relationship between the brain and the digestive system. This is sometimes called the brain-gut or gut-brain axis.
Communication between the two can affect activity in the brain and in the digestive system. This is why stress can cause symptoms in the stomach and the gut, and why the reverse is also true having digestive problems can make us feel very stressed and anxious.
When were in a stressful situation, our bodies tend to have a fight or flight reaction. Hormones are released which prepare us to act, by keeping us alert and energised.
The theory is that when these stress hormones are released, digestion slows down or even stops altogether so that the body can divert its energy to managing the perceived threat. This slowing down of the digestive process causes the symptoms of bloating, constipation, and pain.
We also know that in some people, stress can cause the opposite problem, speeding up the digestive process and causing diarrhoea.
Find Space For Yourself To Relax
Ultimately, find time and space for yourself to clear your head and take control of your nervousness, even if it must be total alone time. Dont be afraid to excuse yourself, even from an important event.
If talking to a friend, family member, or loved one helps, do so during this time. Talking with someone you trust can help you overcome anxiety.
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How To Reduce Stress
Aside from managing the physical symptoms of stress, the only way to truly make a difference is to address the root of the problem the mind. Whilst its true that stress is not a physical condition, there are ways of managing it and improving your physical health.
Experts have suggested that good ways to reduce stress are meditating, breathing exercises and calming exercise such as yoga. Try to take some relaxing walks outdoors as exercise, combined with fresh air and sunlight, are fantastic natural mood-boosters.
You should also consider your work life are you staying late, or continually worrying about deadlines? Some people may find that their stomach pain or similar symptoms worsen while at work. If this sounds like you, take steps to address this work stress. Speak to someone at work and tell them how you are feeling. They should be able to point you in the right direction.
Some individuals also find that therapy or counselling can really help their stress, which subsequently will hopefully lead to fewer stomach problems.
When Is Stomach Pain Most Likely To Occur
If you have anxiety, stomach pain can occur anytime even when no anxiety is present. However, many people experience stomach pain during panic attacks.
The exact link between an anxiety attack and stomach pain is not clear, other than the fact that during a panic attack, your body is under a considerable amount of stress, and your hormones are often on overdrive. Also, those with anxiety attacks are prone to hyperventilation, which may lead to symptoms that create stomach pain.
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Activities For When Pain Strikes
When you feel stomach cramps, any steady rhythmic exercise loosens muscles and decreases discomfort. Walking may be all you feel up to, but thats exactly what you need. Swimming is also an excellent gentle way to relieve cramps. In addition to loosening cramping muscles, exercise releases tension that can aggravate pain. Other tension relieving activities you can do include deep breathing exercises and meditation.
How To Stop Anxiety Stomach Pain
Anxiety-related stomach pain usually does not result from something you ate or poor lifestyle choices, even though these factors may increase the risk of anxiety in many circumstances. There are no specific dietary changes that can stop anxiety-induced stomach issues.
It is essential to understand that people with panic attacks are more prone to experiencing severe stomach discomfort even when they do not suffer from anxiety. Simply put, it is possible to have stomach pain even without a panic attack. Also, people with anxiety attacks and severe stress could be suffering from over-sensitization. It means they are more likely to notice and feel smaller, even regular changes in the body that can trigger anxiety attacks.
If your diet contains foods that cause gas, bloating, stomach discomfort, or mild indigestion, it is best to avoid them, as even slight discomfort can worsen the feelings and may trigger a panic attack. Eating healthy is very important for people who experience stomach pain with anxiety.
Your diet should consist of:
- Water and fresh juices
- Whole-grain carbohydrates
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Benzodiazepines Role In Managing Gastrointestinal Disorders
Department of Psychiatry, Tolan Park Bldg. #A
3901 Chrysler Service Dr.
Benzodiazepines have been used broadly in gastroenterology, for instance in treating anxiety symptomatology associated with gastrointestinal illness, or in treating some underlying conditions , or in various diagnostic endoscopy procedures, and in preparation for surgery. It is known that anxiety and GI symptomatology/disorders frequently co-exist, with anxiety exacerbating GI disorders, and some GI symptoms provoking anxiety.
What Causes The Anxious Feeling In Your Stomach
The gut-brain connection
There is a very strong connection between our brain and our gut. The thoughts and emotions we experience mentally in our brains, such as stress and anxiety, can be related to our gut,¹ which is we experience anxiety-related symptoms in our stomach.
This happens because we have a long nerve called the vagus nerve,² connecting our brain to our gut. Our gut has over 200 million nerve cells and is controlled by its own nervous system, known as the enteric nervous system. This can respond to signals and hormones from our brain and our central nervous system.
When our brain detects a stressful situation or a threat, it automatically reacts by going into a fight or flight³ mode, a response designed to help us survive. Chemical messengers and hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, are released. One of their roles is to send less blood to the stomach and slow down digestion. This can cause the symptoms in the stomach that we associate with anxiety.
The release of chemicals and hormones in the body allows more blood and energy to go to organs crucial for survival, like the heart and lungs.
However, our brain can see situations that are not life-threatening as stressful, such as an upcoming presentation or interview or even relationship issues. Since our body perceives this stressor as a threat, it still activates the fight or flight response.
Stress can also affect the balance of gut bacteria.
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How Do I Know If Its Anxiety And Not An Ulcer
You may worry that your stomach pain has a more severe underlying cause, not a result of anxiety or stress. Its common for those with stomach pain to fear that theres something more serious going on, such as a stomach ulcer.
Only a doctor can offer advice, diagnosis, or treatment – while online websites may provide you with some guidance, your best bet is to speak to your doctor. They can tell you, for definite, why you are experiencing stomach problems. However, some clues will help you figure this out for yourself:
Should I See A Doctor If I Get Stomach Pains When I Am Stressed
You should be seeing your primary care physician at least once a year, and you should tell them if you often have stomach pain or GI discomfort.
If your primary care physician identifies symptoms of a chronic GI condition or other warning signs, they may refer you to a gastroenterologist like myself. A gastroenterologist can help determine if your stomach pain or GI symptoms are related to stress, or due to another condition that requires different treatment.
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How Emotions Affect Our Body
Why do our feelings sometimes make us sick?
âOur lives are filled with emotions, from anger to shame, fear to delight,â says Tracy A. Dennis, PhD, associate professor in the department of psychology at Hunter College, the City University of New York.
Each of these emotions causes complex physical responses. When weâre angry, for example, our heart rate increases, adrenaline flows, blood pressure spikes, and we âsee red,â Dennis says.
âThese physiological and neuroendocrine changes associated with emotion influence all aspects of our body, including the digestive system,â Dennis tells WebMD. âThese physical responses can start and stop quite suddenly and be very intense.â
Dennis says itâs the intensity of emotions that can send our body into overdrive, producing immediate gastrointestinal distress — stomachaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
Could The Relationship Between Your Anxiety And Stomach Issues Be The Other Way Around
Just like how our brain can communicate with our gut, our gut can communicate with our brain. Evidence has shown that your stomach pain or other gastrointestinal symptoms may be contributing to your feelings of anxiety.
It is believed that gut bacteria can impact the parts of our brain that manage stress and emotional behavior. So, an imbalance of our microbiome can influence stress-related behaviors such as anxiety. This can then begin a vicious cycle where anxiety about stomach pain causes the stomach pain to stick around as a symptom of anxiety.
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Techniques For Calming Down
Here are some of the techniques clinicians teach anxious children, adapted from CBT and mindfulness training:
Deep breathing: Drawing in air by expanding the belly, sometimes called belly breathing, helps kids relax by slowing breathing, and reducing the heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones. It can also help relax tense stomach muscles.Mindfulness exercises: Techniques such as focusing on whats around them, what they see and hear, can help pull children away from the anxiety and ground them in the moment.Coping statements: Children are taught to talk back to their worries, Ms. Greenspan explains. They can say, Im feeling scared and I can handle it. Or something along the lines of, Im bigger than my anxiety.Coping ahead: Children are taught that when you have to do something that makes you nervous, it helps to anticipate that you might have some discomfort, and plan what you can do to counteract it, knowing that if you can push through it, it will get easier.Acceptance: This involves acknowledging the discomfort without fighting it. Instead of trying to push the feeling away and get rid of it, Dr. Domingues explains, we ask you to hold onto it and tolerate it and get through it.
Can Anxiety Or Stress Cause Ibs
Stress and anxiety are also known to be a trigger for long-term conditions affecting the digestive system, IBS is often caused by stress, and flare ups of inflammatory bowel disease, like Crohns or Colitis, can be triggered by stress.
If you have IBS, youll probably know that feeling stressed and anxious can cause a flare-up of symptoms. Before a big event or on a day where you have to meet lots of work deadlines, you might experience cramps, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation.
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Check With Your Pediatrician
When a child develops a pattern of physical symptoms before school, or other potentially stressful moments, experts recommend that you visit your doctor to rule out medical concerns. But if the child gets a clean bill of health, the next step is to help the child make the connection between their worries and their physical symptoms.
We help them understand in a very child-friendly way that sometimes our body can actually give us clues into what were feeling, explains Ms. Greenspan.
Parents can start by validating their childs experience and reframing it in a more helpful way. Instead of telling kids theres nothing wrong with them, the goal is to tell them that what theyre feeling is worry.
We give it a name, adds Dr. Domingues. We help them connect it to an emotion and label it. And after some practice kids are able to identify it, she adds. Yes, my stomach hurts and, oh yeah, I remember thats because Im feeling worried. And after learning some skills to help them calm down, I think they feel a sense of control. And that helps.
Get A Massage If You Possibly Can
Getting a massage isnt exactly efficient or cheap, but it may be an extremely effective method of relaxation. Literally all non-human primates groom each other social grooming and this is clearly a behaviour used for stress management. It is a near certainty that humans can benefit from the same kind of interaction, and massage is basically just ritualized, formal social grooming, without the parasite eating. Or you could pay for a cuddling service. Yes, thats a real thing these days. Or, ahem, certain other services. The common denominator here is touch.
Theres no denying that massage is pleasant for most people but its medical benefits are much less clear and proven than you might think. Myths about massage abound:57 it does not flush lactic acid out of cells, or increase circulation,58 or reduce inflammation.59 Maybe it reduces cortisol levels, but even that popular notion is far from proven, and there is actually evidence that its wrong. Even in the unlikely event that massage actually does reduce cortisol levels, the physiology of stress is much too complex to assume that cortisol reduction is in itself a meaningful and good thing.60 Theres just too much going on.
While many benefits of massage are still disconcertingly uncertain and hotly debated , there are two truly proven ones. Dr. Christopher Moyer explains that the only truly confirmed benefits of massage are its effects on mood ,61 specifically:
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