IBS and Anxiety

I was diagnosed with IBS recently after several episodes of bloatedness with anxiety attacks. but what puzzles me is, does IBS cause anxiety or the stress and anxiety that caused IBS? In the initial stages, the anxiety was really bad i thought i was gona die and slowly i practiced breathing methods to calm myself down. sometimes it helped sometimes not. I realised that whenever i have bloatedness and passing wind, that's when the anxiety comes. Does anyone face the same situation? How do you deal with the anxiety?

26 Replies

  • It can be both. Anxiety may cause the IBS in the first place, but then the IBS may start to cause feelings of anxiety and we end up in a vicious cycle. For some people, they may be worried about the stigma or not being able to get to a toilet when they go out. This could be what you're experiencing. Alternatively, you may have come to associate wind and bloating with anxiety, so when you do have some, your body acts like you are anxious, even though it's perfectly natural to be bloated and have a bit of wind from time to time.

    I have actually started writing a little mini-series of posts on anxiety, depression and IBS, and how I've learned to deal with them Maybe you'll find them interesting: patientj.wordpress.com/2016... and patientj.wordpress.com/2016... (third part due out next Sunday). Let me know if you have any questions.

  • Thanks for the reply. it really helps to know that there are also ppl out there who understands how it feels to hv ibs and anxiety.i will read ur blog. thanks:)

  • definitely - they absolutely cause each other and it leads to us getting trapped in the cycle. Luckily once you can break the circle it also reinforces the other way, so once you can improve your anxiety (i do understandhow difficult that can be!) the ibs will improve and that will in turn help the anxiety more. good luck x

  • Thanks Squiggle4, yes indeed it is a vicious cycle which i duno when it will ever end. Right now what i do is just breathing exercises to help reduce my anxieties.

  • I think reducing the anxiety as a first step is the best approach :) x

  • Maeko, the doctors all say, stress causes IBS. I cannot speak to the anxiety right now. I am feeling weak and if I start talking about my real feelings during anxiety, I may get an attack.

    I can also say that for myself, IBS causes me anxiety. I could see myself having an anxiety attack after or during an IBS attack.

    And, I do notice that when I am very anxious, my stomach starts to hurt. I have had to lie down and do breathing exercises to relax my stomach.

    For now, I think IBS and Panic Attacks and Anxiety are closely related.

    FYI, when I was in the ER for IBS, the doctor said that he was happy that I was taking klonopin. He said that klonopin would be good for IBS. I have been using it anxiety my whole life.

    Klonopin is a grea t drug that minimizes or cuts in half the time of the panic attack. Sometimes klonopin wards that panic attack all together.Klonopin is known as a controlled substance, so doctors right now are being very cautious in giving this pill out.

    However, if it wasn't for klonopin, I don't know where I would be. I cannot live without klonopin or Prozac.

    Lastly about bloatingness: I just received my IBS diagnosis 3 years ago at 60 years old. I never had any bloatingness until my IBS came along.

    Now, that I think about it, while I was growing up, I always had bad stomach aches, but they had no idea it was IBS for sure.

    I hope that my history helps you a little bit.

    I am one that believes in these 2 above drugs. But, lots of people don't want drugs. For me, I was too young to try anything else out.Ever since, I have been on Prozac or Zoloft, my panic attacks are few and far between. Knock on wood..:)Knock on wood.....

    I hope that you continue with your breathing exercises. I am getting from this group that breathing correctly, at the right times, really works as well as medicine. You are a very brave person.

    Keep on asking questions!

    lots of luv,


  • Thanks for the reply and your sharing Sky! currently im prescribed on probiotics and some medicine to help relieve my constipation which i think helps abit. but i do still get bloatedness at times. am trying to monitor the food intake and i realize caffeine drinks seem to make it worse.

  • I find that the IBS causes anxiety because I'm constantly worrying about whether or not I'm gonna be able to go out without an attack and the more I worry about it the worse it gets vicious cycle. I have in the past week swapped lunch for a fruit & veg smoothie, eating only breakfast & dinner & it has made a big difference to my digestion, long may it continue because so far in all the 9 years I've had IBS nothing else has helped.

    Give it a try!

    Clare 😀

  • Hi Clare thanks for the suggestion! so just by fruits and vege helps wif ur ibs? but iv realised if i skip meals or if i didnt hv regular meals, i will get bloatedness and thats when it will all start again. so it seems that regular meals and making sure i dont go hungry is important for me.

  • And anxiety causes IBS.

    No win situation. :(

  • Both I feel, stress definitely causes it, but I can also feel stressed, agitated and lethargic with it sometimes. Now I have sorted what I can and can't eat, ( dare I say it? ) I feel fine most of the time. I hope this helps

  • Hi jv50, thanks for the reply. Yep i have noticed too that if i get too stressed, it triggers the ibs and anxiety. Well, i started having this after the sudden death of a close relative. i guess that started to trigger all the anxieties too.

  • Maybe, wishing you well

  • Hello Maeko.

    Recently, I've had two major gastrointestinal-related anxiety episodes that lasted 3 hrs the first time (would have probably been more if I wasn't rushed to hospital) and 5 hrs the second time (where I tried to ride it off myself with breathing exercises and "stimming")...

    Both episodes started after I was severely bloated - the kind of bloated where it hurts to sit down or walk. My body decided to remedy this with a "purge". For the body to cleanse, heart rate would go up, blood pressure would fluctuate, your body gets flooded with adrenaline - hence, anxiety attack...

    I have had several mini episodes that lasted about half an hour or less. I found that once my body had a short yet "successful" bowel movement (sometimes a violent one) after a case of heavy bloatedness, the body calms down, i.e. not enough time for anxiety build-up and so the cycle is cut at an early stage.

    Other symptoms I had include; migraine, hot/cold flushes, ringing in the ear, chest ache, nausea, heart palpitations, spasms, involuntary movements/shaking ...

    After months of seeing doctors and research I found the following (which might not apply to your case, but might help bring you closer to some answers);

    * Eating a diet low on "fermentables" (foods that are fermented/broken down by bacteria in the large intestines) - also called a Low FODMAP diet - helps with the bloating


    * Drinking Peppermint tea and eliminating artificial stimulants (caffeine, nicotine and sugar) relaxed the stomach and the guts, and the body in general (helps with anxiety)

    * The reason while bloatedness leads to anxiety - potentially - is linked to the Vagus nerve. The Roemheld Syndrome is what some physicians and scientists call this link.

    This cardiologist explains the link nicely :)

    I hope this helps.

    Good luck x

  • Hi Rania, thanks for responding and you really described exactly what i go through. Same for me whenever i have bad bloating, i will get anxiety attacks with the symptoms like what you mentioned and its really scary. There was once i thought im going crazy. And similarly, it gets slightly better after i have a bowel movement.

  • Two random questions;

    * Did you gain weight recently? and,

    * Did you check your Vitamin D (or hormones or minerals) in a blood test?

  • No iv not gain weight recently. iv had a blood test done but results yet to be reviewed with the doctor

  • Thank you for your reply.

    My blood tests showed a deficiency in Vit D and my LDL and triglycerides where slightly higher than they should be... and I'd put on about 3 stones in 6 to 8 months :¬/

    Hope all goes well with your test results.

    Let us know ;)

  • Hi Many thanks for explaining to me why I have had palpitations since I was 29; I am a 57 year old female and now almost 58 !

    I recently had a readout at gp surgery and was given a little monitor to take home.

    But they DID NOT explain to me what was going on and just give me funny looks.

    Well, I will be the one giving the funny looks in future.

    Why couldnt GPs explain this to me and why couldnt the people at A and E.

    I am an inteligent woman; could they not be bothered-do you think ?


    S x

  • Hi Meako, yes, IBS does cause anxiety and anxiety causes IBS !

    I am having CBT cognative behavoural therapy to deal with it. we need to relax more are learnt to relax. Youe GP should refer you; and I was prescribed Amitrityline to get some sleep and it calms tummy down too.

    Best wishes

    S x

  • Hi Pain57 thanks for your reply. so far is CBT helping you with your anxiety attacks?

  • Hi meako yes it is but I have antidepressants too.

    It teached us how to challenge our thoughts and i have home work to do too.

    I was given a relaxation CD too with 5 different things on-sooo good.

    Visualisation etc.

    If you are interested you can ask your GP for a referal I also have speacialest counseling.

    Best wishes S x


  • I'm pretty sure it is stress that triggers my IBS. When I was first diagnosed 30 years ago it was right after a stressful situation. I'm in the middle of a stressful situation at the moment and I've had another IBS flare up.

    It could be psychological, that I expect a flare up because I'm stressed but I don't think it is a case of wishing it upon myself.

    At the moment I'm just living with the stress, trying to get out and keep busy while all the time thinking "this, too, shall pass" because I've found that over time (I'm 68!) everything does, the really good times don't last but then neither do the really bad times.

    Good luck.

  • Thank you all for your replies. It has helped to answer my queries and worries and helped me to understand that Im not facing all this alone. Im glad that we are all going through this together and it helps to support one another through this difficult condition.

  • The third instalment on my blog about managing anxiety and IBS: patientj.wordpress.com/2016...

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