Can Anxiety Cause Nausea? Here’s What You Need to Know
Anxiety is a common experience that many people face, and it can manifest in a variety of ways. One of the most distressing symptoms of anxiety is nausea, which can be a confusing and uncomfortable experience for those dealing with it.
While anxiety and nausea are often linked, many people may not realize the extent to which they are related or how anxiety can cause nausea.
In this blog post, we will explore the connection between anxiety and nausea, discuss common triggers for this symptom, and provide tips and strategies for managing anxiety-induced nausea.
Can Anxiety Cause Nausea?
Yes, anxiety can cause nausea. However, nausea can have various causes, and its exact mechanism is not fully understood. It seems to be a bodily reaction to various factors that disturb the natural equilibrium.
For instance, overeating, getting sick, or excessive motion like spinning around can lead to nausea. Nonetheless, it is important to note that a person’s emotional and mental state can have a powerful impact on their physical sensations, including nausea.
Therefore, one of the most overlooked causes of nausea is anxiety. And beneath the anxiety is typically a dysregulated nervous system.
Why Do We Get Nauseous?
Nausea serves an evolutionary purpose as a form of self-protection. When the body detects that an action should not be repeated, it triggers internal signals, which can originate from different parts of the body, including the cerebral cortex, chemoreceptor trigger zone, and peripheral and vestibular systems. These signals travel to the brain stem, where they initiate a sequence of events that cause stomach symptoms and the upward movement of stomach contents known as vomiting.
According to a report, nausea is a common symptom, affecting up to 50% of the general adult population and only 25% of people seek professional help for it. While nausea can be caused by various factors as we stated before, it is often associated with anxiety and stress.
What Is Anxiety Nausea?
Anxiety is a common stress response, and it can cause a range of physical and psychological symptoms. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety or panic disorder affects over 40 million adults in the United States, making it one of the most common mental health conditions in the country.
When experiencing anxiety, the body’s stress response is triggered, increasing blood pressure and leading to physiological changes such as an increased heart rate and breathing rate. These changes can also cause nausea, leading to the familiar “butterflies in the stomach” feeling that many people experience before giving a public speech or interview. However, severe anxiety-related nausea can be distressing, causing intense stomach churning and even vomiting.
A study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders found that people with anxiety disorders were significantly more likely to experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhea.
While it’s normal to feel anxious occasionally, frequent anxiety accompanied by nausea can be problematic and affect daily life.
Why Does Anxiety Make You Nauseous?
Anxiety can make you nauseous due to the body’s natural response to stress. When faced with a perceived threat or stressor, the body activates the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the fight, flight, or freeze response.
As a result, stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are released, diverting blood away from the digestive system to the large muscle groups, slowing digestion, and altering immune system responses. This can lead to a person being nauseous.
What’s the Connection Between Our Gut and Our Mind?
The connection between our gut and our mind is well-established and is often indicated as the gut-brain axis. It is a bidirectional communication system that allows for constant communication between the gut and the brain. Our gut has neurons that form the enteric nervous system, also known as the gastrointestinal nervous system, which is linked to our central nervous system.
When we experience stress or anxiety, the body’s fight-or-flight response is activated, leading to the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline as we mentioned before. This response can cause digestive issues, including nausea, bloating, and abdominal pain.
However, the link between our gut and our mind is not just one-way. Our gut can also impact our emotions and cognitive function. The gut produces and contains many of the same neurotransmitters that are found in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine, which play a crucial role in regulating mood and emotion. A large percentage of serotonin is produced in the gut.
Does Anxiety-Induced Nausea Go Away?
Yes, anxiety-induced nausea can go away. In many cases, nausea caused by a person’s anxiety is a temporary symptom that will pass once the underlying cause of the anxiety is addressed or when the person relaxes and calms down.
However, in some cases, anxiety-induced nausea may persist or become chronic, especially if the person experiences chronic anxiety or has a dysregulated nervous system.
How Do I Stop Feeling Nauseous from Anxiety?
Feeling nauseous is one of the physical symptoms of anxiety that can be very uncomfortable and distressing. Fortunately, there are ways to manage anxiety-induced nausea and prevent it from happening in the future. One approach that is effective for long-term relief is nervous system regulation.
The nervous system plays a crucial role in how the body responds to stress and anxiety. However, if the nervous system is chronically dysregulated due to ongoing stress, anxiety, or trauma, it can cause a host of physical and emotional symptoms, including nausea.
Nervous system regulation involves learning how to regulate the body’s response to stress and anxiety. It can help the body switch from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation.
Here at Heal Your Nervous System, we teach a range of techniques that can help regulate the nervous system and reduce anxiety-induced nausea. Our approach involves identifying the root cause of anxiety symptoms and dysregulation, and tailoring a plan that works best for you. It starts with knowing your sensitivity profile and tailoring a plan that suits your profile best.
It is important to note that nervous system regulation is not a quick-fix solution. It requires patience and consistency to see long-term results. However, by committing to this approach, individuals can build resilience to stress and anxiety, manage stress and prevent symptoms such as nausea from occurring in the future.
At HYNS, we are here to support you in your journey toward healing and finding relief from anxiety and its physical symptoms. One of the ways we do this is with The Nervous System Solution, our world-class program for healing a dysregulated nervous system. If you’d like to learn more about our comprehensive, affordable program, please click here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is anxiety nausea a mental illness?
No, it is not categorized as a mental illness. However, it is not uncommon for individuals with mental health issues to experience nausea. According to a study, more than 41% of people who reported significant nausea also had an anxiety disorder, while 24% were diagnosed with clinical depression. This suggests a strong correlation between nausea and these particular mental health conditions.
What relieves nausea fast?
Some natural remedies that may help relieve nausea quickly include sipping on clear fluids such as water or broth to stay hydrated, warm ginger tea, warm peppermint tea, eating small and bland meals such as crackers or toast, and applying a cool compress to the back of the neck. Additionally, it may be helpful to avoid strong smells, stay in a quiet and calm environment, and rest as much as possible to reduce symptoms of nausea.
What sleeping position is best for nausea?
When feeling nauseous, it’s advisable to sleep on your side with your head elevated. This position can help alleviate the symptoms of nausea and prevent the risk of choking on vomit if you’re unable to make it to the bathroom on time. It’s important to note that this position is not a substitute for long-term relief, and healing of your nervous system is imperative in reducing anxiety and it’s symptoms, especially if you’re experiencing severe or persistent nausea or vomiting.
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Dr. Linnea Passaler
Dr. Linnea Passaler has dedicated 20+ years to serving patients, first to a small number of individuals as a successful surgeon and then to thousands of people worldwide as the CEO of a digital health startup. After overcoming her own struggles with a dysregulated nervous system, she created Heal Your Nervous System (HYNS) to empower others in their healing journey. Her combination of neuroscience and somatic work helps those struggling with overwhelm, trauma, burnout, and anxiety to heal their dysregulated nervous systems and thrive.