Nervous Stomach Anxiety Symptoms

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated May 19, 2021

nervous stomach anxiety symptoms

Nervous stomach feeling, including having a queasiness, butterfly feeling, upset, and nauseous feeling are common symptoms of anxiety disorder, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and others.

This article explains the relationship between anxiety and nervous stomach.

Nervous stomach symptoms description:

This symptom is often described as:

  • A nervous feeling in the pit of the stomach
  • Butterflies
  • A fluttering, churning feeling
  • A rolling stomach feeling
  • Queasy feeling
  • A knot in the stomach
  • Tight stomach
  • Swirling, burning feeling
  • A trembling, vibrating feeling
  • Upset
  • Nausea
  • Bloated feeling
  • A warm feeling in the pit of the stomach

To name a few.

You might experience one of the above feelings, many of them, or all of them all at once or at different times. These types of feelings can also change from one feeling to another at any time.

The nervous stomach symptom can precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other sensations and symptoms, or occur all by itself.

The nervous stomach symptom 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.

The nervous stomach symptom can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.

The nervous stomach symptom can occur before eating, immediately after eating, not until a few hours after eating, or might persist regardless of whether, when, or what you eat.
The nervous stomach symptom can occur rarely, frequently, or persistently, and can change from day to day and even moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your symptoms, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test, Anxiety Disorder Test, or Hyperstimulation Test.

The higher the rating, the more likely anxiety could be contributing to or causing your anxiety symptoms, including nervous stomach anxiety symptoms.

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What causes anxiety nervous stomach?

Medical Advisory

Anxiety and stress are the most common causes of nervous stomach. Here’s why:

Stress and anxiety activate the stress response. The stress response secretes stress hormones into the bloodstream where they bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes 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.

In addition to all of the other physiological changes the stress response brings about, it causes the body’s blood to be shunted away from the stomach to other parts of the body more vital to survival. It also suppresses digestion so that most of the body’s resources are used to either fight or flee. The stress response also causes the body’s muscles to tighten, including the body’s stomach muscles.

The above combination of changes result in a nervous stomach feeling. This is why most people who are nervous experience a nervous stomach to one degree or another.

While anxiety-caused nervous stomach can feel unsettling, it’s not harmful, a sign of a medical condition, or serious. It’s a common reaction to being nervous, anxious, afraid, or stressed.

When we're not anxious often, the nervous stomach feeling can come and go with nervousness. When we're anxious too often, however, the body can become chronically stressed, since stress responses stress the body. Chronic stress, which we call stress-response hyperstimulation since stress hormones are stimulants that stimulate the body, can cause chronic nervous stomach feelings.

Hyperstimulation is the reason why we can have a nervous stomach feeling even though we aren't anxious or stressed in that moment.

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How to eliminate nervous stomach

When this feeling is caused by apprehensive behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, this feeling should subside and your stomach should return to its normal self. 

Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

When this feeling is caused by hyperstimulation (chronic stress), it can take a lot longer for the body to recover and to the point where this symptom subsides.

Nevertheless, when the body has recovered, the nervous system feeling should subside. Therefore, this symptom needn’t be a cause for concern.

You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about this feeling. Sure, it can feel unsettling and even bothersome. But again, when your body has recovered from the stress response and/or sustained stress, this symptom will completely disappear.

There are some short-term remedies that you might find helpful:

  • Eat lighter meals when nervous or stressed
  • Eat smaller more frequent meals, rather than a few big and heavy meals
  • Avoid stimulants
  • Reduce sugar consumption and raw sugar foods
  • Breathe calmly
  • Calm yourself down
  • Relax your body as best you can
  • Do not take antacids, as nervous stomach isn’t caused by too much acid in the stomach
  • Increase your rest and relaxation
  • Light to moderate exercise can help reduce the body’s stress
  • Reduce your stress and give your body time to respond
  • Adopt a positive, less apprehensive attitude
  • Identify and address the behaviors that make you anxious

We don't recommend stomach medicines or remedies for nervous stomach, as they can harm the body’s natural digestive and absorption processes. Learning to manage your anxiety and how the body responds to stress using natural strategies is the preferred approach.

If you are having difficulty with anxiety, its symptoms, and troublesome worry, you might want to connect with one of our recommended anxiety disorder therapists. Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to overcome problematic anxiety.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

Return to our anxiety disorders signs and symptoms page. Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including Nervous Stomach anxiety symptoms.