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Can Anxiety or Stress Cause Diarrhea?

Priyanka Kosta Sonkushre Apr 21, 2019
Have you ever felt those butterflies in your stomach when you are tensed, nervous or stressed? We all must have experienced it at some point or the other in life. Stress and anxiety can lead to bowel movements in the body. Let's find out more on this.
Diarrhea is a condition associated with frequent, loose and watery bowel movement. Every person has a fixed pattern of bowel movement. But sometimes, due to certain reasons, the regular pattern gets altered.
The frequency of bowel movement can either increase or decrease. Decrease in the frequency leads to constipation, while increase in frequency leads to diarrhea. There are several causes behind it and stress is assumed to be one of them. Let's find out more about it.
A person can suffer from anxiety or stress due to varied reasons. A new or demanding job, family issues, excessive traveling, and physical work can build up stress and anxiety in a person.
Stress is categorized in 2 types. One, when a person can identify the reason for stress and second, when the reason is not evident. People with an evident reason can be helped to overcome the stress and related diarrhea. Whereas, it is difficult to cure diarrhea in people with inevident reason for stress because the reason cannot be targeted for treatment.

Effects of Anxiety and Stress on the Body

Our body functions normally when our mental state is healthy. When a person is anxious or stressed, several changes occur in the body. In state of anxiousness, the sympathetic nervous system of the body comes into picture and prepares the body for the "fight" or "flight" response. Adrenaline is poured into the circulatory system to get ready for action.
Due to adrenaline rush, the heart rate increases, blood pressure is elevated, there is increase in blood supply to the intestines for enhanced nutrient absorption, and decrease in blood supply to the stomach. There is increased bowel movement resulting in frequent and loose bowels due to improper re-absorption of water in the body.
Certain studies prove that stress and Irritable Bowel Syndrome(IBS) are co-related. One of the symptoms of IBS is diarrhea. It is found that 50-90% of the people who seek treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome have associated psychiatric disorders which cause stress and anxiety in the person.

Treatment of Diarrhea Related to Anxiety

Anxiety or stress is linked to diarrhea. When a person is stressed, he/she can feel the abdominal spasms better than a normal person. This raises the need for bowel excretion. Diarrhea caused due to stress is just a symptom of the anxious mind.
Treatment of this symptom may not rectify the problem completely. There are several over-the-counter as well as prescription drugs available to treat diarrhea. However, failure to identify the reason causing stress, will lead to recurrence of the symptom.
Symptomatic relief from diarrhea can be achieved by medications like anti-diarrhea compounds, anti-inflammatory drugs and anti-spasmodics in case of IBS. Dietary changes also help in relieving the problem. One can also try home remedies for diarrhea to get some relief.
Treating the root cause will also help in curing diarrhea. Person suffering from stress should opt for counseling and therapy.
Certain medications like antianxiety agents and anti-psychotics are also prescribed to reduce stress levels. It is advisable to go through a thorough checkup by a doctor if the person is under continuous stress.
A person suffering from stress and anxiety should try to manage the stress on his own. Stress management techniques like deep breathing and meditation help to get over stress. Getting involved with activities that are enjoyed by the person can also help.
Listening to favorite music, partying, talking to friends, and involvement in hobbies are good stress busters. It is important to understand that stress-related diarrhea can be completely cured only if the reason behind it i.e., stress is reduced. So, remain stress free and lead a healthy life.