The Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA)¹ reports that anxiety disorders affect more than 40 million U.S. adults (18.1% of the population) every year, making it the most common mental illness in the nation. However, only about 36.9%¹ of people receive treatment for anxiety. As many Americans continue to battle the changes brought on by the pandemic, this number continues to grow. Yet, there is still a lot of miscommunication about the symptoms associated with anxiety, including nausea.
The more you know about anxiety-induced nausea, the better prepared you will be in identifying and dealing with it.
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Anxiety is common among Americans today, producing a mixture of symptoms that vary by severity and from person to person. If you have anxiety, you may experience nervousness, restlessness, sweating, trembling, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, weakness/exhaustion, diarrhea, and even nausea.
In fact, nausea is a common symptom with many mental health issues. One study found that over 41%² of people with significant complaints of nausea had an anxiety disorder, and 24%² were clinically depressed.
Common anxiety disorders that are known to cause nausea to include:
Phobias — an irrational fear that can be anywhere from mild (an added annoyance) to so severe it's disabling.
Social Anxiety Disorder — sometimes categorized as a phobia, SAD is a type of anxiety disorder that surfaces in social settings, resulting in fear (ranging from mild to extreme).
Panic Disorder — is the reoccurrence of unexpected panic attacks.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)/Chronic Anxiety — is a type of anxiety disorder that results in constant worrying, even when the source of the problem isn't severe. GAD can sometimes present itself without even knowing the problem (rather, it just feels like something bad is going to happen).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — is a heightened sense of impending danger, negative memories, and flashbacks brought on by a traumatic event or experience.
Know the difference: how to tell if nausea is a result of anxiety
Nausea is often a symptom of being overly anxious or stressed. If you are experiencing anxiety-related nausea, the symptom does not continue when you feel calm and back to normal again. However, if you continue feeling nauseous over a long period of time, there's a good chance there are other reasons. Your doctor will be able to help you determine the actual cause of your nausea.
There are some tried and tested methods for treating anxiety-related nausea. What you are dealing with is very real — your body responds to and fights off a perceived threat. While this can be unpleasant to experience, the following tips will go a long way in helping you cope.
Treat your anxiety
If anxiety is the cause of your nausea, the following measures will help you manage it:
Practice calming activities that work best for you, including:
Deep breathing techniques
Drink enough water — dehydration can increase your anxiety symptoms³ because it causes stress, which triggers anxiety and depression.
Distract yourself — go for a run, read a book, talk to a friend, etc.
Treat your nausea
You will also want to treat your nausea to feel better and prevent it from getting worse:
Eat small portions of dry foods over full meals (i.e., plain crackers, toast, and dry cereal).
Slowly sip on water all day to stay hydrated.
Avoid constricting clothing that may press on your stomach.
If you are unable to cope with nausea and anxiety on your own, it is time to consult your doctor. Any anxiety symptom that disrupts your quality of life should be addressed as soon as possible. More often than not, more significant problems like stress and depression can become an issue if your disorder goes unmanaged and untreated for too long. However, with your doctor’s treatment recommendations and the right tactics, most people can get back to feeling like themselves again.
Nausea is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety. In most cases where an individual has both nausea and anxiety, there is a correlation between the two. When you treat your anxiety disorder, you help avoid or lessen the associated nausea. In best-case scenarios, you may even resolve the problem completely.
However, if you notice that your nausea persists despite your attempts to resolve it, you should consult your doctor. Either the cause is unrelated to anxiety, or your doctor can help you develop a more suitable plan for managing your anxiety-related nausea.