Can Anxiety Cause Nausea? Why It Occurs and How to Prevent It

Nausea from anxiety refers to feeling sick to your stomach as a direct result of anxiety or excessive stress. When you experience anxiety, the body’s fight-or-flight response is triggered, releasing stress hormones that can affect the digestive system.


Can Anxiety Cause Nausea?


Yes, anxiety can cause nausea. When experiencing anxiety, the body prioritizes immediate survival needs over other functions, such as digestion. The release of stress hormones can disrupt the normal functioning of the digestive system, leading to symptoms like nausea.

How Does Anxiety Cause Nausea?

Anxiety can cause nausea through various mechanisms. Here are some ways anxiety can contribute to the experience of anxiety nausea:

  1. Activation of the Fight-or-Flight Response: When you feel anxious, your body’s stress response is triggered, releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones prepare your body to respond to a perceived threat or danger. They can increase heart rate, blood pressure and redirect blood flow away from non-essential functions like digestion. This disruption in the normal digestive process can lead to symptoms of nausea.
  2. Altered Gastrointestinal Motility: Anxiety can affect the movement and contractions of the gastrointestinal tract, leading to changes in digestion. It can either speed up or slow down the normal transit of food through the stomach and intestines. These alterations in gastrointestinal motility can contribute to feelings of nausea.
  3. Increased Sensitivity to Physical Sensations: Anxiety can heighten bodily awareness and make you more sensitive to physical sensations. This hypersensitivity can include noticing normal digestive processes, such as stomach contractions or acid reflux, which may be interpreted as nausea or discomfort.
  4. Changes in Neurotransmitter Levels: Neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, regulate mood and gastrointestinal function. Anxiety can disrupt the balance of these neurotransmitters, leading to gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea.
  5. Vagal Nerve Stimulation: The vagus nerve, a major nerve that connects the brain to various organs, including the stomach, can be affected by anxiety. Activation of the vagus nerve can lead to changes in stomach function, including increased acid production, delayed gastric emptying, and nausea.

Anxiety Vomiting

Anxiety vomiting refers to vomiting or experiencing the urge to vomit due to anxiety or heightened stress levels. When a person is anxious, the body’s stress response is activated, releasing stress hormones. Anxiety can cause increased muscle tension, particularly in the abdominal area, which can impact the normal functioning of the digestive system. It can also disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, potentially triggering nausea and vomiting. While anxiety-induced vomiting is not uncommon, it is usually temporary and subsides as anxiety levels decrease.

Anxiety and Nausea Fact Sheet

Anxiety Disorders Overview

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions characterized by excessive and persistent feelings of fear, worry, and anxiety. They can significantly impact a person’s thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and physical well-being.


Anxiety Symptoms

Behavioral: Hypervigilance, irritability, or restlessness.

Cognitive: Lack of concentration, racing thoughts, or unwanted thoughts.

Whole body: Fatigue or sweating.

Also common:  Anxiety, excessive worry, fear, insomnia, nausea, palpitations, or trembling.

Nausea from Anxiety

Nausea from anxiety refers to feeling sick to your stomach as a direct result of anxiety or excessive stress. When you experience anxiety, the body’s fight-or-flight response is triggered, releasing stress hormones that can affect the digestive system. This can disrupt normal digestion, causing symptoms such as nausea. Additionally, anxiety can heighten bodily awareness, making you more sensitive to physical sensations and more likely to notice and interpret stomach discomfort as nausea. Nausea from anxiety is usually temporary and subsides as anxiety levels decrease.

Anxiety and Nausea

The correlation between anxiety and nausea is a common phenomenon that many people experience. Anxiety is a psychological and physiological response to stress or perceived threats. When anxiety is triggered, it can activate the body’s stress response, which includes the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones can affect various systems in the body, including the digestive system.

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Anxiety Statistics

Uncover the numbers behind anxiety. Global burden, work impairment, economic costs, and the co-occurrence with depression—discover the profound impact on individuals and society.


264 million

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions worldwide, affecting a significant portion of the population. An estimated 264 million people globally were living with anxiety disorders in 2017.

Source: WHO

50%

Anxiety and depression often coexist. It is reported that approximately 50% of individuals diagnosed with an anxiety disorder are also diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives.

Source: ADAA

$42 billion

The economic costs associated with anxiety disorders are substantial. Anxiety disorders cost more than $42 billion annually in healthcare expenses and lost productivity in the United States.

Source: Journal of Clinical Psychiatry


Anxiety and Vomiting in Adults

Anxiety can sometimes lead to vomiting in adults due to the heightened stress response and potential effects on the gastrointestinal system. While it may not be as common as other anxiety symptoms, such as nausea or stomach discomfort, it can still occur in certain individuals. Here are some possible reasons why anxiety may result in vomiting:

  1. Heightened Stress Response: Anxiety triggers the body’s stress response, releasing hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones can affect various bodily systems, including the gastrointestinal system. In some cases, the intensity of the stress response can be high enough to induce vomiting.
  2. Increased Muscle Tension: Anxiety can cause muscle tension, including in the abdominal area. This tension can interfere with the normal functioning of the digestive system, potentially leading to nausea and vomiting.
  3. Overactive Nervous System: Anxiety activates the autonomic nervous system, which controls various involuntary bodily functions. Excessive activation of this system can disrupt normal digestive processes, leading to symptoms like vomiting.
  4. Panic Attacks: Severe anxiety can trigger panic attacks, which are intense episodes of anxiety accompanied by physical symptoms. During a panic attack, individuals may experience various symptoms, including rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, dizziness, and vomiting.
  5. Conditioning and Learned Response: In some cases, individuals with anxiety may develop a conditioned response where certain anxiety-provoking situations or triggers become associated with vomiting. This learned response can lead to a cycle of anxiety and vomiting, even if the initial cause is not directly related to the gastrointestinal system.

How to Tell if Nausea is from Anxiety?

Determining whether nausea is from anxiety can be challenging, as nausea can have various causes. However, some common signs and patterns can help you identify if anxiety contributes to your nausea. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Association with Anxiety: Consider whether nausea typically occurs in situations or events that trigger your anxiety. If you consistently experience nausea during or immediately after anxiety-provoking situations, it suggests a potential connection between your anxiety and the onset of nausea.
  2. Lack of Other Physical Causes: Consider if there are no obvious physical causes for nausea. If you have ruled out other gastrointestinal issues, such as food poisoning or a stomach virus, and if the nausea is consistently associated with anxiety-inducing situations, it increases the likelihood that anxiety contributes to your symptoms.
  3. Symptom Patterns: Notice if your nausea tends to occur alongside other anxiety symptoms. Anxiety often presents with physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, and increased muscle tension. If your nausea coincides with these anxiety symptoms, it suggests that anxiety may be a contributing factor.
  4. Anxiety Triggers: Take note of specific triggers that consistently lead to anxiety and whether they are accompanied by nausea. For example, feeling nauseous before a public speaking engagement or during high stress indicates that anxiety is likely involved.
  5. Relief with Anxiety Management Techniques: Try utilizing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or engaging in calming activities, when you experience nausea. If these techniques help alleviate nausea, it supports the idea that anxiety is a contributing factor.

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Nausea in the Morning Anxiety

  1. Increased Sensitivity: Anxiety can heighten your overall bodily sensitivity, including your sensitivity to physical sensations. When you wake up in the morning and transition from a resting state to an active state, this increased sensitivity may make you more aware of any discomfort or nausea you might be experiencing.
  2. Cortisol Levels: Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, tends to be naturally higher in the morning. This elevated cortisol level may further contribute to physical symptoms, including nausea in individuals with anxiety.
  3. Anxious Thoughts and Anticipation: Morning anxiety can be triggered by anticipatory thoughts and worries about the day ahead. These thoughts can lead to physical symptoms, including nausea. The combination of anxiety and the physical sensations of nausea can create a cycle where the anxiety about feeling nauseous in the morning can perpetuate the experience of nausea itself.
  4. Sleep Disturbances: Anxiety can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to poor-quality sleep or difficulty falling asleep. Sleep disturbances can contribute to increased fatigue and morning grogginess, which may intensify feelings of nausea.

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Anxiety Nausea Treatment

  1. Therapy and Counseling: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other forms of talk therapy can help identify and address the root causes of anxiety. These therapies can provide coping mechanisms, stress management techniques, and tools to challenge negative thought patterns contributing to anxiety and its physical symptoms, including nausea.
  2. Relaxation Techniques: Learning and practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness, can help reduce anxiety levels and promote a sense of calm. These techniques can help alleviate nausea by reducing stress and promoting overall well-being.
  3. Lifestyle Changes: Adopting a healthy lifestyle can positively impact anxiety and its physical manifestations. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and avoiding substances like caffeine and alcohol can improve overall mental and physical well-being, potentially reducing anxiety and nausea.
  4. Medications: Sometimes, healthcare professionals prescribe medications to manage anxiety and nausea. This can include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), benzodiazepines, or antiemetic medications targeting nausea symptoms.
  5. Stress Management: Developing effective stress management techniques, such as time management, setting boundaries, seeking social support, engaging in hobbies, and practicing self-care, can help reduce anxiety levels and minimize the occurrence of nausea.

Anxiety Nausea Medication

Anxiety nausea medication refers to medications that are prescribed to alleviate or manage nausea associated with anxiety. While no specific medication is designed solely for anxiety-induced nausea, several medications can address anxiety and its associated gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea.

One commonly prescribed class of medications is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs are primarily used to treat anxiety and depression. Still, they can also help regulate serotonin levels in the brain, which may contribute to improved gastrointestinal functioning and reduced nausea.

Anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines may also be prescribed to alleviate anxiety symptoms, which could indirectly relieve associated nausea. However, these medications are typically prescribed for short-term use due to their potential for dependence and other side effects.

In some cases, antiemetic medications, which are specifically designed to reduce nausea and vomiting, may be used temporarily to provide relief. These medications work by blocking certain receptors in the brain that trigger nausea signals.

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  1. Can anxiety cause nausea?

    Yes, Anxiety can trigger the release of stress hormones, disrupt the normal functioning of the digestive system, and increase muscle tension, all of which can contribute to feelings of nausea.

  2. How to get rid of nausea from anxiety?

    Practicing relaxation techniques, deep breathing exercises, and calming activities can help alleviate anxiety-related nausea.

  3. Why does anxiety cause nausea?

    Anxiety can cause nausea due to releasing stress hormones, disrupted digestive system functioning, and increased muscle tension.

Powerful Coping Skills for Anxiety. Top Mental Health Tips & Anxiety Tips Advice from a Therapist.


“Anxiety, when gone untreated, can increase over time. So here are four tips to calm your everyday anxiety. Take a breath. Do something that you enjoy. Remove yourself from the situation and go for a walk. Doing these four things gives you a better chance of calming your anxiety.”

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Search We Level Up WA Mental Health Can Anxiety Cause Nausea? Topics & Resources
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  1. National Institute of Mental Health – “Anxiety Disorders” Link: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – “Mental Health – Anxiety and Depression” Link: https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm
  3. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute – “Coping With Stress and Anxiety” Link: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/coping-with-stress-and-anxiety
  4. MedlinePlus – “Anxiety” Link: https://medlineplus.gov/anxiety.html
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – “Anxiety Disorders” Link: https://www.samhsa.gov/conditions/anxiety-disorders
  6. National Institute on Aging – “Anxiety Disorders in Older Adults” Link: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/anxiety-disorders-older-adults
  7. Office on Women’s Health – “Anxiety Disorders” Link: https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/anxiety-disorders
  8. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health – “Anxiety” Link: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/anxiety-at-a-glance
  9. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – “Anxiety Disorders” Link: https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/anxiety.asp
  10. National Library of Medicine – “Anxiety” Link: https://medlineplus.gov/anxiety.html