Dealing with Anxiety Symptoms: Stomach Problems

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

Virtually all types of anxiety, from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) to Panic Disorder, include physical symptoms, such as stomach problems.

Stomach problems can include:

  • Cramps

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Indigestion

These problems can be mild to severe. For some, a feeling of butterflies in the stomach may precede social events or situations that may produce anxiety. For others stomachaches and nausea may interfere with the ability to carry out daily tasks, rendering someone incapacitated.

Obviously, treatment to help would first and foremost include treatment for the anxiety disorder. By effectively treating the underlying cause of stomach problems, symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea should be reduced or disappear. However, beginning treatment for anxiety does not immediately relieve symptoms and stomach problems may continue for months.


Diarrhea is characterized by loose or watery stools. It can also include abdominal cramping, bloating, and an urgent need to use the bathroom. If diarrhea is accompanied by a fever, blood in the stools or black stools or lasts more than three days, you should contact your doctor. Because diarrhea can cause dehydration, it is important to treat it.

The most important factor in treating diarrhea is to replace fluids in the body. This can be accomplished by drinking plenty of clear fluids.

Foods to avoid include: caffeine, milk and dairy products, high fiber foods, very sweet foods and foods that are greasy. These types of foods can make symptoms of diarrhea worse.

Foods to eat during bouts of diarrhea include: bananas, plain rice, boiled potatoes, and baked chicken, with fat and skin removed.

There are some over-the-counter medications available to help reduce symptoms of diarrhea. Often, however, no treatment other than a temporary change of diet is necessary.


Nausea can include a feeling of stomach upset or vomiting. There are many causes of nausea including infections, food poisoning, morning sickness, reaction to medications or motion sickness.

As with diarrhea, vomiting can cause dehydration and it is important to replace bodily fluids by drinking clear fluids. Drink small amounts and sip slowly but consistently. Clear fruit juices or electrolyte solutions are good to drink when feeling nauseous.

Avoid eating solid foods, especially if vomiting is present. You should avoid solid foods for at least six hours after vomiting.

Over-the-counter stomach aids can be helpful, however, these should not be given to children and teenagers that may have chicken pox or the flu.


Indigestion is associated with a feeling of fullness shortly after beginning a meal, being unable to complete a meal because of feeling full, feeling uncomfortable after eating or a feeling of burning in the upper abdomen after eating.

Over-the-counter antacids may help to relieve the symptoms of indigestion. For more intense symptoms of indigestion, a doctor can order prescription strength antacid.

Additional ways to manage symptoms of indigestion include:

  • Eating several small meals throughout the day, rather than eating three larger meals.

  • Easting at a slow pace

  • Avoiding caffeine, carbonating beverages, alcohol and smoking as these substances can irritate the stomach and contribute to indigestion

  • Avoiding medications that can cause stomach irritation, such as aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medications

  • Using relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or yoga to minimize stress

When indigestion persists, despite taking precautions, you should consult your physician for further tests and treatment.


"Diarrhea", 2007, March, The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC)

"Indigestion", Date Unknown, National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse

"Nausea and Vomiting", 2007, July 25, Updated by Jenifer K. Lehrer, MD, National Institutes of Health, MedLine Plus

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.