Your question: Why do I get anxiety when my stomach hurts?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy.

Experiencing anxiety is universal. Everyone to a greater or lesser extent feels anxious about a particular problem or about life in general. It is an annoying but necessary experience, as anxiety alerts us that something is presenting itself in our life that requires action.

Stomach pain is often related to the feeling of anxiety. Studies (1) have found a correlation between feeling anxiety and feeling stomach pain, and it is considered that both anxiety may precede stomach pain and stomach pain may precede anxiety.

There are explanations for this. When anxiety affects your body, your whole organism becomes dysregulated. Your body goes into a state of alert, and must act in response to a real or imagined threat. Sweating, trembling, tachycardia, intense fear and muscle aches, headaches and stomach pains are common symptoms of anxiety.

On the other hand, when you feel stomach pain from causes unrelated to anxiety, this can also cause anxiety. It is common to feel nervous or worried about our physical health. When you experience a symptom such as stomach pain, headache or pain in any part of the body, your mind automatically tries to find an origin.

It is not uncommon that when you feel stomach pain you start imagining a hundred catastrophic scenarios of its origin, and make the mistake of googling your symptoms, ending up more anxious and worried than a start.

All of these problems are normal. Whether anxiety causes your stomach pain or your stomach pain causes anxiety. It is important that you learn to normalize anxiety as a part of your life, and work on not letting it dominate your life. 

Although you are not to blame for feeling this way, you do have the ability to make changes and improve your quality of life. But first, you need to find the source of your anxiety and stomach pain.

Why is anxiety related to your stomach pain?

Anxiety-related stomach pain can be triggered both by certain foods that trigger stomach pain and by anxious thoughts that cause stomach pain.

Some foods

Many people experience food allergies and intolerances that result in persistent gastrointestinal symptoms. Some foods that can cause stomach pain are eggs, nuts, milk, soy, high-fat foods, sugars and acidic foods.

Anxious thoughts

When you experience anxious thoughts, your whole body is affected. Anxiety deregulates your entire body and your digestive system is no exception. Feeling anxious can cause stomach pain, and in addition, it can make you crave a lot of food very quickly. Eating habits can be altered by the feeling of anxiety and cause you to have a stomach ache.

How can you deal with this?

There are several things you can do to alleviate the physical and psychological symptoms related to stomach pain and anxiety.


Modifying your eating habits is important to decrease stomach pain or any other gastrointestinal problems. Fruits, vegetables, grains and plenty of hydration have proven to be allies of the digestive system.

Know your body

Before going to the doctor for the stomach pain you associate with anxiety, it is effective to write down specifically what the painful sensation you are experiencing is like. Whether it is a burning, stabbing or throbbing pain. It also helps if each time you experience stomach pain you write down how intense it is on a scale of 1 to 10.

Relieve your anxiety

Diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to be effective for patients with gastrointestinal problems (2). Centering the breath is an effective way to encourage the body to relax. When practicing diaphragmatic breathing, the stomach, rather than the chest, moves with each breath, expanding as you inhale and contracting as you exhale. Deliberately paying attention to each breath serves to distract and quiet the mind. 

You do this by sitting or lying down in a comfortable place with your eyes closed. Resting one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. You will take slow 4 second breaths, inhaling 2 seconds and exhaling 2 seconds. Take your time to find your rhythm and while doing so, try to visualize a relaxing scenario.

In my experience…

Stomach pain during anxiety is one of the most common symptoms. Although this pain in itself is harmless, it is important to have regular check-ups with a qualified physician to ease your worries. The mind and body are connected in complex ways, so when you feel anxious you manifest physical symptoms that can be frightening.

These physical symptoms are part of your struggle with anxiety. When you understand their origin, you allow yourself to continue to work on what is causing you discomfort and worry, and alleviate anxious discomfort in general. It is in your power to make these changes, as you have the ability and more importantly, the desire to do so.

I hope that with these suggestions you can improve. I recognize and applaud you for seeking professional counseling, because it shows that you want to feel better and you are on the right path to change the things that make you feel bad. 

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