Anxiety related IBS: I am really struggling with... - IBS Network

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Anxiety related IBS


I am really struggling with anxiety related IBS and have the strangest habits. I'm pretty sure my IBS is almost certainly solely anxiety/stress related because the only time I experience the urge to go really bad is when I get anxiety - not after eating etc. It starts with flutters in my chest and before I know it I'm urgently needing the toilet and then the panic of not being able to get to one makes it worse. I've noticed that it tends to be when I'm going somewhere (had a really bad experience on a bus last week and yesterday on a long car journey). I don't know if I'm linking the prospect of travel and not being immediately close to a toilet with the anxiety?

It's becoming a real issue and I'm scared to go anywhere. I'm going on holiday abroad in summer and really worried about how I'm going to cope. I have used immodium in the past and although it helps a little, it doesn't cure the root cause of the anxiety so I still find myself needing to go. It's not always loose, it's just urgent and I can go several times over the course of a day if my anxiety doesn't subside.

90% of the time I'm fine so I don't want to have to take anxiety medication but just wondered if anyone else suffered with this and if they had any advice/techniques on how to calm myself down and take back control.

11 Replies

Hi,Have you ever thought of anxiety medication just for when you need it,like travelling. I have anxiety issues so I can understand how you feel.

One way I'm learning how to deal with it ,is the word CALM just think of that word and tell yourself to CALM down,through the top of your head through the small intestine into the colon and out. That's just the word CALM or something you imagine to be a Calming affect.

I was taught that by hypnotherapist. Good Luck

Yep I can relate to that, actually I just posted for some advice cos mine is pretty similar, I am also to scared to go out for the day in case of accidents which makes the anxiety about it worse. It's quite disabling. Sorry can't offer any help just know you're not alone x

Hi I definitely know where you are coming from. I have had this for many years now. I believe if you get on top of this early then you will be OK. When you have anxiety your body goes into fight or flight mode. This means you have to expel excess. This is done in whatever way your body can manage, be it being sick, or going to the toilet. To do this quickly your body has to purge and therefore that is why we get all these symptoms. Frightening because we don't even know/realise we are doing anything because quite frankly it is the last thing we want to happen but it is and when it does happen it takes over. Then it becomes habit. All of the NHS talking therapies now use Dr Russ Harris the Mindfulness Act. He has a good book called the Happiness Trap and also some videos on YouTube. Please be assured, if this is anxiety related, you will get on top of it. Good luck :o) x

Yoga breathing

Don't start journey too early in am

Think of something else

Good book or audio tape

I too have strong anxiety and sometimes uncontrollable diarrhoea. Maybe the best thing when travelling and toilets are inaccessible, is to take Immodium anyway, before it starts, take a sedative, (small dose of Diazepam, say, in fact I have 2 mg which I break in half a lot of the time) and also wear a thick pad as a matter of course to try to alleviate any worry should a mishap occur.


You could try counselling to help with dealing with the anxiety. Reflexology will also help to relax you as will yoga

You can get a RADAR key which will open any locked disabled toilet - here is the link and having one would give you confidence when going out

You can also get an 'I can't wait ' card in several languages from the IBS

I've previously commented that for myself anxiety/stress is the primary cause of my symptoms. Like yourself, when travelling the thought that you might get 'caught short' can add to the feeling, but can diminish if I'm distracted. Unfortunately it returns because I can't stop myself thinking about it - that seems to be the way my brain has become wired.

As another example, if I'm going out in an evening, I try to leave the bowel movement to the last minute so I feel I'm as empty as possible. This means that the urge, say one hour before, might be strong, but strangely as the time approaches (and I feel less anxious about holding on), often by the time I go there's little urgency at all.

The suggestion about using a trigger word like Calm I think is the way forward. One thing I use is to forcibly say "take it back" over and over in my head; it helped when I was having bad panic attacks, and whilst not 100% definitely helps.

I'd try hypnotherapy before starting any medication. Good luck.

Wow! I'm not actually alone in this, for ages I've been thinking it must just be me.

I was diagnosed a year and a half ago with IBS and this has taken over my life. It now controls every aspect of my life and like yourself it's the crippling anxiety of not having easy access to a toilet and for me the embarrassment of not making it to the toilet on time.

I also find if I'm in the safety net of my own home, I rarely experience IBS effects but as soon as I step out of the house to get on public transport, my own car, carry out the duties of my work, which can involve going to member of the publics houses (my ultimate worst nightmare - who wants to poo in a strangers house!!!?) that's when I get painful gripes and the urgency to get to a toilet.

Although I might not be able to offer you advice to cure what you are going through I hope it offers you some comfort that you are not alone, it certainly has me.

Things have improved for me in the last year and a half, when this first happened I couldn't even pick my son up from nursery without getting severe gripes, I couldn't get on a train for months. Life now is slightly better, I would prefer it to have gone completely but sadly I don't think that will ever happen because my brain is also programmed for my thoughts to permenantly thinking about my bowel movements!! :(

I have just made small adjustments which have allowed me to get on with my life, eg having a pack in the car of wipes, plastic sheet, change of underwear etc. in my bag I'll have a similar kit with a large pad/ nappy. Sometimes I'll need to wear it other times just carrying it gives me peace of mind, these things are there just to help with the anxiety. I also find breathing techniques have helped massively and thinking to myself that I will get to a toilet so relax. I am desperate for this not to beat me so I continue to get on public transport etc even if I start to get the gripes, I find that if you let the anxiety beat you, for instance you don't get on that train journey, but you then get the next journey I find the second journey is so much worse.

I really hope you find something that helps and if you do please post because I'm willing to try anything to get over this. Good luck x

I have this too! Everyone thinks I'm making it up but it is so bad. Whenever I feel anxious I have to go. When I started my job I was going 6 times in the morning! Then throughout the day. I now only get it when I'm in a room with people I'm not comfortable with, in queues etc but it is awful having to run to the nearest loo. Especially in public.

You're not alone. We just need to control our anxieties, hopefully it will improve.

Thank you so much all for the advice. This is the best IBS support forum I have found as people really know what it's like to experience this and have some really helpful advice. I definitely think this is a mind over matter thing. After a horrible experience last week in the car I was really nervous to go anywhere over the bank holiday weekend. My partner doesn't really get it and encouraged me to go for a day out (about an hour away in car) and I did it and was fine. Tried to keep my breathing under control. Took immodium before I went and have also invested in some rescue remedy (haven't noticed any difference from that though).

It's such a bizarre feeling because it comes on at the most ridiculous things. I think waiting makes it worse. For example sometimes when I'm stuck in traffic it can be bad or when I'm waiting to finish work and know I've got a lot to do. It's considerably better if I know where a toilet is. If I'm somewhere unfamiliar the panic of not knowing if/where there is a toilet really gets to me. I am going abroad in summer and must admit, I'm really worried about how I'll cope. I just pray I can try and talk myself out of the anxiety and stay calm.

I have been here also, and would like to tell you that it can get better as you learn to cope with your anxiety. I used to panic & my anxiety would get out of control (can still happen on the odd occasion) but on the whole I learnt to just talk to myself ( sounds bizarre!) & think things like "you are in control of your body" & I also learnt not to get embarrassed using public toilets/toilets on the train/plane etc. I am open with family/colleagues about whether I am having a good day or not which also relieves my anxiety. I also carry meds/spare underwear/leggings in my handbag which I have never used (apart from occasionally some imodium) but this helps with my anxiety as I feel prepared for the worst. My holiday to Spain last year with my partner was the best in years as I felt in control and did not let my anxiety rule my life. It will get better, honestly :)..!

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