Anxiety and IBS: Not posted for a while but been... - IBS Network

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Anxiety and IBS


Not posted for a while but been reading others posts.

Although still not diagnosed with IBS, my doctor is fairly sure this is what it is and from my research I believe it’s IBS-A (will be going back the doctors as my symptoms seem to be worsening).

To add to this I don’t believe I have anxiety and have never been or felt the need to be tested, however here is my question..

Can anxiety (or feeling anxious) increase the risk of an IBS attack?

I’ll give an example..

If I go for a meal just me and my wife, even after a great day with no symptoms, I can worry so much about something upsetting my stomach or having an attack (even if I’m really careful about what I eat) so much that I can bring on an attack from cramps to a full on attack.

If we’re with friends/family or both, whilst an attack can still happen, I do feel more relaxed as I know I won’t be leaving her on her own!

Is this IBS, anxiety, both or just me and I need to relax?


19 Replies

It sounds very much like an anxiety attack to me I like to think I don't suffer from anxiety but my doctor tells me different and he is probably right but i think most people with IBS suffer from some anxiety at times We just need to recognize it ourselves and it's a vicious circle one sets the other off Hope this helped

SueFML in reply to Johopeful

That's is me to a tee.

This is the story of my IBS. My attacks are much worse when I have to go somewhere, like out for a meal or travel on a train or long car journey. My anxiety is about worrying about how I can find a toilet if i need one and panicking if there isn't a loo. Your symptoms sound classic to me. The more you think about the more likely an attack is.

Mnkl44 in reply to SueMount

Thankyou for writing this, this is exactly my problem, I had a lot of trouble thinking what was wrong and your comment has explained everything. How do you cope with this?

SueMount in reply to Mnkl44

I don't really, I have had it for years. I have had CBT , it does help a bit. You need to try and retrain your brain. Distraction works sometimes. I struggle to travel and avoid if possible. I miss out on lots of social events because its easier not to go. It takes over your life. I take Imodium sometimes to get me through but you can't do that every day. I don't have the answers but I wish I did.

Sounds classic synptom. I am not sure though how needing to relax helps in advance. Somehow you would need to prevent the thought occurring. If your feeling fine say, then go out for a meal and out of the blue , the worrying thought of an attack just enters your mind then it is sort of too late.

Maybe trying to relax at that point can help but it is then a battle within to prevent an attack happening.

My thought is that you need to have a sort of back up counter thought . Sort of like , if an attack does happen , I have an exit strategy. Like for example , very sorry guys , I have a bad head ache and something has not agreed with me , I will have to go home. You then can relax , leave , go to restaurant toilet on way out . Then you relax a bit.

Eating out is a difficult one. If it is important to stay for the meal and escape difficult take Imodium. Again maybe because you have taken the Med., The anxious feeling does not occur then , or is less likely , your brain says it won't happen now as I have taken Imodium .

The real answer is how do you stop the thought occurring.

I remember being stuck in a traffic jam and started to think , oh no , I think I am going to have an episode , what will I do ? My wife started talking about something else , like going away on holiday or something, I somehow contributed to this conversation and eventually the urgent feeling disappeared. Later my wife said that she did this purposely to distract me from thoughts of my gut ect.

Probably I was just lucky it worked but the idea nevertheless is there , it is partly in the mind . There is the , what if , type thought , no escape , panic and an attack happens . The question is this, --if there were toilets every few yards along the road and you could easily pull over , would this all occur? It still might but the chances would be less and certainly less panic.

Food for thought maybe , hope this is of some help and interest .

Will 1234

calista in reply to Will1234

Hi Will

You are so right.

Its to stop the thought occuring.

Thank you for your useful advice and comments.

Will1234 in reply to calista

Hi Calista,

Thank you for your reply, I am glad that someone agrees with me and took the trouble to make the effort to reply. Perhaps others have different thoughts, or maybe just want to make a statement about their problem, without wishing to engage in any response.

Who knows but It sometimes feels very pointless commenting at all on the forum.

Usually, most of us are glad of advice and at the very least, take the trouble to thank others for taking the time to respond to their issues. Lately I notice this seems unfashionable and comments in response tend to be ignored. So thank you for taking the time to respond Calista.

Still it is very difficult to stop the thought occurring .. A known escape hatch to get away and Imodium to try to prevent an attack , seems best route to cope.

Best Wishes and hope your well.


SueMount in reply to Will1234

I totally agree, it is the thought that is the problem. I wish I could stop the thoughts. Distraction does help as I have had this experience myself. I hate waiting for things, like if I have an appointment and I don't get called in on time I start to panic and keep thinking I need the loo and then If I go to the loo I might miss being called in. Its all a vicious circle.

Will1234 in reply to SueMount

Sounds about right when we get anxious and then IBS becomes a problem. Maybe there is a way to develop positive thoughts ,not easy with IBS on the mind .


SueMount in reply to Will1234

No, I did a course of CBT but difficult to keep it up once course finished. I do try.

StevoP in reply to Will1234

Will, firstly please accept my apologies for the lack of reply and thanks for taking the time to respond to my post. I am on holiday and posted when I had good internet but sadly not the case till now.

I think you’re right, maybe trying to change my thought pattern before a meal/activity would be one way to go. Like with your wife distracting you.

I would find it hard to leave even if there is more people than just me and my wife, and it’s not so much having an episode when I’m out it’s more leaving my wife sat on her own. She’s very understanding having IBS herself.

I’m going to speak to the doctor when I get home and see if they can offer CBT to se if this helps. You never know! I need to get some meds sorted I think as I don’t really find Buscopan useful. My mother has IBS and I have tried some of hers (they can be bought over the counter too) and they seem to work quite well.

Thank you again for your advice and taking the time to reply!

Will1234 in reply to StevoP

Hi Stevop,

Thank you for reply. I am away on holiday now and have similar Wi-Fi issues . Originally I thought you were just not answering. So I apologise for my response . Some people just ignore responses, which are supposed to be of genuine help .

Hope your well


StevoP in reply to Will1234

Will, Don't worry. I always try to respond to people when I ask a question.

Enjoy your holiday wherever you are! Mine finishes tomorrow, although after 3 and a half weeks away I'm looking forward to my own bed and TV!

Will1234 in reply to StevoP

Hi StevoP

Thanks for reply . I am in Gran Canaria .


I've never heard of IBS-A but I definitely have IBS-D and anxiety. The anxiety for me started years before the IBS. They definitely feed off each other, it's a vicious cycle. I have been put on various prescriptions over the years but none made me feel better, most made my symptoms worse. Right now I manage my anxiety with Xanax (lowest dose available) and my IBS with Imodium (taken only if I've had a bad BM or diarrhea or if I have someplace to go and am anxious about having any issues.) I also take a Calcium Carbonate supplement that has made a huge difference in the quality of my BMs. My diet is pretty boring but I know what my main triggers are (milk, fried foods, etc) so I avoid those as much as I can. Remember you are not alone! Keep trying new treatments, keep reading these forums and posting questions!

StevoP in reply to Merth83

Mertha, IBS-A is an alternating type of IBS meaning that I can have diarrhoea then constipation or vice-versa.

My main issues are; 1) if I know there are no toilets or if the toilets are particularly unsanitary this can make me worse . Or 2) if I’m out for a meal with just my wife. The issue isn’t having an episode per say it’s leaving my wife sat there on her own. I’m not so concerned if we’re out with friends/family. She wouldn’t be on her own so I’m calmer so an issue is less likely, sometimes if at all.

As I said to Will above, my wife is very understanding having IBS also so this I know is my issue.

I’m learning my trigger foods: milk, onion, sweetcorn (which I love), peas (again which I love). The last one more difficult to sort and that’s when I’m tired and working shifts doesn’t help!

Thank you for your reply and my apologies for the tardy reply.


I can be perfectly fine all day, all week but if I know I am going out that’s it. I have to immediately change my thought pattern and act as if I am sitting home watching t v. I will have to run to the bathroom, feel like I can’t breath, stomach ache, lightheaded. All if I let my mind start worrying, so, I breath deep, calm myself down, tell myself I’m going and what will be will be! So yes, you absolutely can have social anxiety without feeling that you are. You admitted that if you go out you worry about getting an upset stomach, you are already anxious before you even leave. This is why you must retrain your brain. Start now, your future depends on your it. I live it so I speak from experience.

Best of luck to you

StevoP in reply to torcol

Torcol, as I have said above please accept my apologies for a slow reply.

My IBS I feel is quite minor compared with the majority of people on here. Never experienced a light-head or felt like I can’t breathe.

I think maybe CBT would be worth a try to see if I can find ways to control my negative/worrying thought into something more positive. I need more thorough tests to see what’s going on. I know I don’t have coeliac disease (sorry if disease is the wrong word!) as I have had tests for that which were negative.

Thank you again.

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