Sinking Feeling in the Stomach (A guide)

In this blog guide, we will understand the reasons for a sinking feeling in the stomach. We will also find out the signs that indicate stomach problems resulting from emotional stress and see how to manage this feeling.

Have you ever gotten a sinking feeling in your stomach? Do you know why you get this feeling? Have you ever noticed that this sinking feeling in your stomach typically happens during a stressful situation? Let us find out what this feeling means and how to handle it.

Sinking Feeling in the Stomach

There can be several reasons for this sinking feeling in the stomach, including:

Clinical Depression

It is easy to write off this sinking feeling in the stomach as a gastrointestinal issue or a menstrual cramp. However, this pain, particularly when it worsens during stressful situations, is the most concerning and identifiable symptom of clinical depression.

Clinical depression is a psychological disorder involving prolonged periods of depressed mood or profound sadness and a lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities. The symptoms may include:

  • Sleep disturbance;
  • Rumination;
  • Early awakening

Other physical symptoms could include back pain, fatigue, visual problems, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and overall body pain. 

Psychological Stress

Stress typically causes mental exhaustion and can be draining. Such stomach issues are a common symptom of psychological stress and anxiety. 

There is a relationship between our stomach and our brain. The gut is filled with nerves and contains the most nerves after our brain. The brain and our digestive tract share many nerve connections. A stomach in distress sends messages to the brain, and vice versa. Therefore, gastrointestinal issues can be the cause or the result of anxiety and stress.

Stress can negatively impact our gastrointestinal system, whether it is an isolated event or a buildup of stress. Anxiety triggers the production of certain hormones and chemicals that enter your gastrointestinal system and hinder the digestive process. 

They affect your gut flora, which are microorganisms that aid in digestion. This effect decreases the production of antibodies, resulting in chemical imbalance and a plethora of intestinal issues.

Here is a list of common stomach and gut symptoms resulting from stress:

  • loss of appetite 
  • indigestion 
  • stomach cramps 
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • constipation
  • peptic ulcers
  • unnatural hunger 
  • nausea
  • diarrhea 

As mentioned earlier, the stress in your gut or brain has an impact on each other. Therefore, if stress causes gut issues, these stomach issues may become another source of stress. Consequently, we get stuck in a vicious cycle, which takes a toll on our mental and physical health. 

For instance, a person with diarrhea may begin fearing soiling their pants in public, restricting them from stepping out. Similarly, having frequent indigestion or stomach cramps can make you wary of what you eat and where. This fear can impede your social life.

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Signs that Indicate Stomach Issues due to Psychological Problems

When we are stressed, apart from a sinking feeling in the stomach, there may be other signs that our gut is affected by stress. We gulp air more often when under pressure, and this could lead to many problems.

These signs include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Hiccups
  • Belching
  • Nausea and queasiness

Stomach Pain

Stress can cause stomach pain as it traps wind and causes your muscles to tense, which squeezes the stomach. When excess air is built in the stomach, it can be painful. 

Hiccups

People rarely consider hiccups to be signs of stress. Hiccups are caused by the diaphragm, which is a flat muscle beneath our lungs that aids breathing. It pulls downward, opening the lungs as we draw in air through our nose or mouth. 

A hiccup occurs when the brain signals the diaphragm to pull down forcefully. The sudden drawing in of air into our throat leads to a change in pressure. When the stomach has too much air, food, or alcohol, hiccups occur. Moreover, smoking or sudden temperature changes can make you gasp, triggering hiccups. 

Belching

Belching (medical term, eructation) occurs when your body needs to let go of air that has been built up in the stomach. It’s normal to gulp air and swallow more often when stressed. Although you may not be aware of it, it does make you burp more. 

Smoking, eating too quickly or overeating food, and drinking soda can lead to belching or air gulping. 

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or acid reflux, is an uncomfortable issue. It occurs when acids in our digestive tract come up to our esophagus, causing irritation and burning sensations. It may also lead to an influx of air, mainly when nervous, as it promotes swallowing. Drinking water and take the required medication to soothe this disease. 

Nausea

Your body tenses under stress. There is a rush of adrenaline (“fight or flight” hormone), making your stomach shut down while your leg muscles are activated to help us run away from the perceived threat. Your energy is redirected away from digestion and to your leg muscles.

Although this reaction is helpful in certain situations, it is not beneficial for a source of psychological stress. It can stop the blood supply to our stomach and increase our breathing rate, resulting in dizziness, all of which lead to nausea or vomiting.

How to Reduce the Sinking Feeling in the Stomach

Understandably, this feeling is uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are ways to manage it, mainly by tackling the underlying stress and depressive moods. Let us see some of the suggestions in more detail.

Seek Professional Help

Seek professional help to deal with anxiety. A mental health professional like a counselor or psychologist will help you cope with psychological difficulties. The practitioner will usually provide therapy, particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

CBT is used to alter underlying negative thought patterns, and consequently, actions and feelings. You will learn to identify your triggers and cope with the anxiety in adaptive ways. 

Breathe

Start taking breaks to simply breathe. Deep breathing, in particular, can do wonders. Try to develop this habit by taking a break every two hours (no matter what it is that you are doing) to practice abdominal breathing. Even if it seems complicated initially, it gets more comfortable with time, and the results are incredible! 

Exercise 

Exercise, yoga, and other physical activities can help reduce stress and elevate your mood. Nothing intense is required; a mere 15 minutes of active time that makes you sweat and get the blood pumping is enough. Exercising leads to a release of endorphins, which trigger pleasant and positive emotions.

Say No

Learn to say no if a person is adding to your long list of responsibilities. Attempting to please people and trying to do everything at once is the perfect ingredient for stress, anxiety, depression, and other psychological difficulties. Understand what you can and cannot do, and when you are nearing your goals, do not take on more responsibilities.

Acceptance

Stressing over things that are beyond your control is unproductive. Instead, focus on things that are within your control, such as your response to a stressful circumstance. This reaction extends to stomach problems as well. Accepting the sinking feeling in the stomach will help decrease stress and the associated physical symptoms. Worrying makes it worse.

Meditate or listen to a guided relaxation tape every day. Doing this would bring prolonged relaxation and calmness. 

Parts Model

This model is based on the fact that there are various aspects or parts of our personalities, roles, and responsibilities. We play the role of a child, a professional, a relative, a friend, a member of an organization or culture, and the like. Every part is governed by its principles. These parts, despite their differences, usually fit together.  

However, even when one aspect perceives a threat, it can trigger feelings or actions that may seem unhelpful but are coming from the best of intentions. It is crucial to keep in mind that every part of you has the right intention for you as they are all parts of you. Similarly, if you have a sinking feeling in the stomach, it is a sign that something is wrong.

Try to do a body scan when you have unpleasant sensations. Ask yourself from which body part this sensation is coming. Acknowledge that this part is an aspect of you and has the right intention. Dissociate yourself from this part and ask this part about its intention and thank it for having the best interests for you and everything it has done for you all your life. 

Ask the part if it is okay to do something else instead, a promotion of sorts to help keep you well and safe without eliciting the current sensation.

Upon the management of these stressful feelings, define a source of fear in a new light. When you rephrase the issue as a concern, it allows you to solve the problem effectively. This process is in itself is relaxing and enables you to take control. 

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Conclusion

In this blog guide, we saw what can cause the sinking feeling in the stomach. We learned of signs that indicate stomach issues related to mental health and ways to manage the sinking feeling in the stomach. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Sinking Feeling in the Stomach

Why do I have a sinking feeling in my heart?

A sinking feeling in your heart indicates anxiety. It is a feeling of impending doom caused by severe stress. Moreover, it could also be atrial arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat, which could be an aftermath of a heart attack.  

Can you experience stomach pain because of nervousness?

Yes, you can experience stomach pain because of nervousness. Symptoms of nervousness include stomach pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and constipation.

How can one stop feeling nauseous due to anxiety?

Here are a few ways one can stop feeling nauseous due to anxiety:

If you are clad in tight clothes, change into loose-fitting ones;
Sip water or on something clear and cold;
Take small bites of dry food, like plain crackers or bread;
Take deep, long, calming breaths.

How to alleviate the physical symptoms of anxiety?

To alleviate the physical symptoms of anxiety:

Practice relaxation techniques;
Sleep well;
Exercise regularly;
Avoid consumption of alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine.

What indicates an anxiety attack?

Here are the indications of an anxiety attack:

Trembling
Restless or tensed sensations;
Hyperventilation;
Having a sense of impending doom;
Weakness;
Sweating;
Difficulty concentrating;
Always focused on the worry.

Which anti-anxiety medication does not cause dependence?

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are anti-anxiety medications that do not cause dependence. They are the most commonly prescribed drugs for anxiety. Apart from being non-addictive, they are beneficial, do not cause memory difficulties, do not come in the way of therapy, and have minimal side-effects.  

What is the difference between anxiety and heart attacks?

Chest pain is shared between the two, but chest pain in anxiety is a sharp pain in the middle of the chest. Chest pain in a heart attack feels like there is pressure or a squeezing sensation. 

What we recommend for curbing Anxiety

Below are some of the services and products we recommend for anxiety

Anxiety Weighted Blankets

  • Anxiety Weighted Blankets are by far the number 1 thing every person who suffers from anxiety should at least try. Anxiety Blankets may improve your sleep, allow you to fall asleep faster and you can even carry them around when chilling at home.

Online Therapy

  • Online therapy is another thing we should all try. We highly recommend Online therapy with a provider who not only provides therapy but a complete mental health toolbox to help your wellness.

Anxiety Course

  • With over 50,000 participants, this anxiety course may be just what you need to regain control of your life.

Light Therapy

  • Amber light therapy from Amber lights could increase the melatonin production in your body and help you sleep better at night.  An Amber light lamp helps reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep and increases overall sleep quality.

References

https://www.avogel.co.uk/health/stress-anxiety-low-mood/stress/4-signs-that-your-stomach-is-being-affected-by-stress/

https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/how-calm-anxious-stomach-brain-gut-connection

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/physical-symptoms-of-depression#Pain-is-another-way-your-brain-communicates

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Sara Quitlag is an Applied Psychologist, with a deep interest in psychopathology and neuropsychology and how psychology impacts and permeates every aspect of our environment. She has worked in Clinical settings (as Special Ed. Counselor, CBT Therapist) and has contributed at local Universities as a Faculty member from time to time. She has a graduate degree in English Literature and feels very connected to how literature and psychology interact. She feels accountable and passionate about making a "QUALITY" contribution to the overall global reform and well-being. She actively seeks out opportunities where she can spread awareness and make a positive difference across the globe for the welfare of our global society.