Nausea, Vomiting Anxiety Symptoms
Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of anxiety. Nausea is more common than vomiting, but both can occur when anxious and/or overly stressed. Common descriptions include:
- An unsettled feeling in the stomach that accompanies the urge to vomit
- Stomach distress that causes an urge of vomit
- An upset stomach that causes you to think you need to or are going to vomit
- A rolling feeling in the pit of your stomach that causes you to think you need to vomit
- A warm uncomfortable bloating feeling in the stomach that causes you to think you will throw up
- A fullness in the stomach
- An anxiety stomach, a feeling in the pit of your stomach that makes you feel like you could throw up
- To expel the contents of your stomach through the mouth as a result of involuntary spasms of the stomach muscles
- Eject matter from the stomach through the mouth
- To throw up
Anxiety nausea and vomiting can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you might experience nausea and vomiting once and a while and not that often, feel them off and on, or feel them all the time.
Anxiety nausea and vomiting may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by themselves.
Anxiety nausea and vomiting can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.
Anxiety nausea and vomiting can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. They can also come in waves, where they are strong one moment and ease off the next.
Anxiety nausea and vomiting can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.
All of the above combinations and variations are common.
Why can anxiety cause nausea and vomiting?
Many things can bring on nausea and vomiting. Some common causes are seasickness and other motion sicknesses, early pregnancy, intense pain, exposure to chemical toxins, emotional stress, physical stress, anxiety (worry, apprehension), gallbladder disease, food poisoning, indigestion, various viruses, and certain smells or odors, to name a few.
Nausea and vomiting are NOT diseases in and of themselves. They are symptoms of other conditions. For example, they can be a symptom of stomach flu, food poisoning, motion sickness, overeating, blocked intestine, illness, concussion or brain injury, appendicitis, inner ear conditions, and migraines. They can also be a symptom of more serious conditions so it is important to see your doctor if your nausea and vomiting persists.
As mentioned, nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of anxiety and stress. While vomiting can be a symptom of anxiety, it's not as common as nausea.
Behaving anxiously activates the stress response. The stress response immediately causes specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes in the body that enhance the body's ability to deal with a threat - to either fight with or flee from it - which is the reason the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response.
Part of the stress response changes includes suppressing digestion so that the majority of the body's resources are made available for emergency action. When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly and easily from the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes the stress response brings about. When stress responses occur too frequently and/or dramatically, however, the body has a more difficult time recovering, which can result in the body remaining in a semi emergency readiness state. This semi emergency readiness state can adversely affect normal stomach and digestive system function, which can cause all sorts of stomach and digestive related maladies, such as nausea and even vomiting.
Common examples of stomach and intestinal distresses include nausea, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, lump in the stomach, constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and general stomach malaise, to name a few.
How to get rid of anxiety nausea and vomiting?
Stress and anxiety caused nausea and vomiting should NOT be considered as serious problems. Many anxious and stressed people experience nausea and vomiting when overly anxious and stressed. Because this symptom is just a symptom of elevated stress, including the elevated stress anxiety can cause, it needn't be a cause for concern. They will subside when you calm yourself down, reduce your body's stress, and give your body ample time to recover. As you calm down and your body's stress returns to a more normal level, symptoms of stress subside, including nausea and vomiting. Therefore, anxiety nausea and vomiting needn't be a cause for concern. The calmer you keep yourself, the less of a problem these will become.
There are some immediate remedies for anxiety nausea and vomiting:
- The best remedy is to keep yourself calm: Keeping yourself calm can end an active stress response and its changes. This will allow your stomach and digestive system to return to normal functioning, which will allow the body to naturally process the contents in the stomach. If you keep yourself calm, you'll notice that the nausea feeling passing in time, and therefore, needn't be an issue. Keeping yourself calm can also prevent vomiting. The calmer you keep yourself, the easier the nausea and vomiting feelings will pass. Remember, no one has to vomit due to anxiety or stress caused nausea. By keeping yourself calm, you can decide whether you want to vomit or not. The choice is up to you.
- When your stomach or digestive system is upset, we can expel the contents in one of two ways: Through the mouth or the anus. If you are in a hurry to expel the contents, vomiting is the fastest way. If you'd rather not vomit, you don't have to. Keeping yourself calm will allow your body to process the contents and expel them naturally through the elimination tract.
- Distracting yourself can allow nausea and vomiting to pass uneventfully: The body will naturally breakdown and eliminate the stomach contents if you choose to not react to how nausea feels, and then give your body time to process the contents. You can do that by distracting yourself in the meantime. Focusing on how you feel will magnify the nausea feelings, while being distracted can minimize the feelings of nausea.
- Walk/pace: Walking helps the digestive process. If you are feeling nauseated, walking/pacing can help ease stomach distress and facilitate the normal processing of the stomach contents.
- Relax breathe: Relax breathing - slow medium sized breaths that are exhaled slowly - can activate the body's natural tranquilizing effect, which can help end an active stress response, help calm you down, and allow the stomach and digestive system to return to normal functioning. As your stomach and digestive system return to normal functioning, they can naturally process the stomach contents and alleviate nausea.
- Don't drink any fluids: When the stomach is upset, the last thing it needs is more contents, especially fluids that can exacerbate the problem. It's best to let the stomach contents be processed on their own without adding anything else to them. Keeping yourself calm is the best approach, and then, let your body take care of the problem naturally.
- If you feel you need to, take an over-the-counter stomach remedy: First, it's best to find out what's causing your nausea. Since there can be many different types of causes, you want to be sure you are treating the correct one. Working with your doctor, but better yet, an experienced Natural Nutritional Therapist, such as our Liliana Tosic, can help you pinpoint the exact cause. For example, most often anxiety caused nausea is caused by the reduction of stomach juices, which can cause food to ferment in the stomach rather than being digested. In this regard, taking an antacid would exacerbate the problem rather than remedy it. There are other possibilities as well. Knowing the exact cause allows you to use the right remedy if you believe you need one. We aren’t proponents of antacids because while they might give you temporary relief, they can cause chronic indigestion, as well as malabsorption of vital nutrients. Resolving anxiety caused nausea naturally is the best approach. We list a number of natural remedies in the Recovery Support area of our website.
The Recovery Support area of our website has a more detailed explanation about anxiety, how it affects the body, the stress response, anxiety sensations and symptoms, why anxiety sensations and symptoms can persist and even long after stress has been reduced, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, including those on nausea and vomiting, such as how to overcome a fear of vomiting / throwing up.
You can learn more about our Recovery Support area by clicking on the button below.
If you'd like personal assistance with your recovery, you can learn more about our Personal Coaching option here.
Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated April 2015.