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Nervous Stomach Anxiety Symptoms

Marilyn Folk BScN medical reviewer
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: April 3, 2019

nervous stomach anxiety symptom

Nervous stomach symptoms description:

This symptom is often described as:

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 may 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 then eases off in another.

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

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

What causes nervous stomach?

Medical Advisory
Because there are many medical conditions that can cause anxiety-like sensations and symptoms, such as this one, we recommend that you discuss this symptom with your doctor. If your doctor concludes that this symptom is solely stress related (including the stress that being anxious can cause), you can be assured that there isn’t another medical condition causing it. Generally, most doctors can easily tell the difference between stress and anxiety caused sensations and symptoms from those caused by other medical reasons.

If you are uncertain about your doctor’s diagnosis, however, you may want to seek a second and even third opinion. But if all three opinions concur, you can feel confident that stress, including anxiety-caused stress, is the cause of this symptom and not some other medical or biological problem.

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.

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 persistent stress, it may take a lot more time for the body to recover and to the point where this symptom is eliminated.

Nevertheless, when the body has fully recovered, this feeling will completely 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.

For a more detailed explanation about anxiety symptoms (including this one), why symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.

There are some short-term remedies that you might want to try:

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.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.

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Additional Resources:

Return to our signs and symptoms of anxiety.

anxietycentre.com: information about anxiety and nervous stomach.