Anxiety is a debilitating mental health condition typically associated with internal, mental, and emotional symptoms. Yet anxiety disorders have several physical health effects as well, particularly associated with your stomach and gut. And yes, this means that diarrhea from anxiety is a common and uncomfortable symptom.

Stomach Problems From Anxiety

Anxiety can lead to a variety of gastrointestinal problems. Researchers have found increased rates of stomach issues in people with anxiety disorders, such as:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in appetite
  • Stomach cramping

Most commonly, people experience these symptoms when they are experiencing a heightened level of anxiety. But the stomach problems from anxiety can persist even when your anxiety has subsided, adding a new layer of stress and discomfort to this common mental health challenge.

Diarrhea From Anxiety

Diarrhea from anxiety is one of the most common gastrointestinal symptoms. Particularly for people who have co-occurring irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea can be a pernicious and troublesome consequence that interferes with your daily life.

When diarrhea from anxiety becomes a common symptom, it can lead to increased anxiety and fear from day to day. You may get nervous about taking extended trips in the car, being too far from a private restroom, or eating certain foods that could trigger your stomach issues — all of which can further increase your anxiety levels.

However, the connection between diarrhea and anxiety often works in the other direction as well. People with irritable bowel syndrome are significantly more likely to develop anxiety due to the increased stress that living with this uncomfortable syndrome can cause.

Researchers have found that nearly 40% of people with irritable bowel syndrome have a co-occurring anxiety disorder. This is nearly triple the rate of anxiety in the general population, suggesting that gastrointestinal issues may lead to the development of anxiety and that anxiety may also play a role in developing irritable bowel syndrome.

Why Anxiety Causes an Anxious Stomach

Anxiety and stomach issues are pernicious, and the reasons for an anxious stomach are multifold. The first relates to how anxiety affects the central nervous system.

Anxiety and the Sympathetic Nervous System

When people experience anxiety, their sympathetic nervous system becomes activated. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the fight-or-flight response, preparing the body for potential danger.

Activation of the sympathetic nervous system has a wide range of physical effects, including:

  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Constricted blood vessels in non-essential areas
  • Increased blood pressure

Essentially, activation of the sympathetic nervous system prioritizes blood flow to the heart and lungs, preparing people to escape from danger. However, this draws blood away from the gastrointestinal tract, which can lead to a variety of stomach problems.

This is also why, when experiencing anxiety, many people feel an anxious stomach. This could feel like tightness in your abdomen or a fluttering feeling when you experience anxiety.

For people with anxiety disorders, this sympathetic nervous system activation can happen frequently. It often occurs when there is no real danger to protect yourself from, and repeatedly experiencing these physiological changes can have a direct impact on your gut health.

The Gut-Brain Connection

The other connection between anxiety and stomach issues is the gut-brain axis. Essentially, your gut and your brain are thoroughly interconnected. Many researchers have taken to describing parts of the gastrointestinal tract as the enteric nervous system (ENS), which contains over 100 million nerve cells.

The ENS is primarily concerned with digestion, but it sends signals to the brain that can lead to serious mental health consequences. And when your digestion isn’t ideal, the ENS sends signals to the brain that can contribute to stress, anxiety, or emotional difficulties.

The gut-brain connection is still a relatively new science, and much is still yet to be learned about how the gut and brain communicate. But what is clear is that addressing stomach problems can help people recover from mental health challenges, just as recovering from mental health challenges can help stomach problems.

What You Can Do About Diarrhea From Anxiety

Treating diarrhea from anxiety typically requires a multi-pronged approach. An anxious stomach is in part due to psychological causes, such as your body responding to anxiety-provoking situations by activating the sympathetic nervous system, and physiological causes, such as dietary issues or digestive problems.

Treating either source of your physical and psychological troubles can help the other in turn. For example, most people who achieve remission from anxiety disorders typically experience less frequent and less severe digestive problems, and reducing your digestive problems can help reduce your anxiety.

Treating anxiety first is the more common approach. Not only are anxiety treatment methods highly effective, but seeking out evidence-based mental health care can provide rapid results that greatly reduce the impact that an anxiety disorder has on your life.

In order to get the best and most effective treatment for anxiety disorders, it’s first important to recognize what type of anxiety problem you are facing and what treatments are available to help.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Not all anxiety disorders are the same. Different anxiety disorders have unique causes, symptoms, and treatment options, so understanding the type of anxiety you’re experiencing can help you on the path to recovery.

Some of the most common types of anxiety disorders include:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) refers to anxiety that happens most days of the week without a specific cause. People with GAD may experience intense fear or apprehension in everyday situations, such as if they experience traffic on the way to work or if a loved one misses a phone call.

While it’s normal for people to feel anxious from time to time, people with GAD experience intense anxiety frequently. Living with GAD can feel like you are always expecting the worst, and it can severely interfere with your ability to live your life as you see fit.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is a type of anxiety where people specifically feel anxious about social situations. People with this disorder may fear judgment, criticism, or embarrassment and typically experience anxiety in situations such as:

  • Performance for others
  • First dates
  • Public speaking
  • Social gatherings

Living with a social anxiety disorder often interferes with people seeking their goals. It might interfere with your ability to work, perform well in school, or maintain healthy social relationships.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is defined by people experiencing frequent, debilitating panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden, overwhelming feeling of anxiety and fear and often has symptoms such as:

  • Not being able to catch your breath
  • Thoughts racing out of control
  • Hyperventilation
  • Sweating
  • An inability to calm down
  • Chest pain

Panic attacks can be crippling, unexpected, and seemingly impossible to control. But panic disorder is a highly treatable condition, and finding effective treatment can often lead to complete remission and cessation of panic attacks.

Specific Phobias

Phobias are an intense fear of objects, places, or creatures that are out of proportion to the risk they actually pose. For example, people can have an intense fear of spiders, enclosed spaces, or airplane travel. Exposure to these situations can lead people to feel overwhelming anxiety and fear.

Traditional Anxiety Treatment Options

Anxiety has typically been treated through either talk therapy, medication management, or combining these two interventions together. Decades of research have supported the effectiveness of these techniques, providing relief and recovery for most people living with an anxiety disorder.

In terms of talk therapy, several different modalities are used in anxiety treatment, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Exposure therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing

All of these techniques can help you overcome the symptoms of anxiety, learn healthy coping strategies for dealing with anxiety-provoking situations, and achieve a higher quality of life in the process.

Medication management takes a different approach: treating anxiety through the use of targeted medications. Anxiety medications come in many varieties, from those intended to be used to rapidly relieve anxiety in the moment to those that prevent anxiety from occurring in the first place.

Medication management pairs you with a psychiatrist who works with you to determine the right medication, dosage, and timing for taking the medication. They will monitor your progress in treatment to ensure you’re getting the results you’d hoped for.

How Plus by APN Takes Anxiety Treatment Further

Despite the support for traditional treatment methods, there is still a significant portion of people who are unable to achieve their treatment goals with therapy and medication alone. But there is still hope. At Plus by APN, our team offers innovative and effective treatment methods that can help even when traditional treatment methods have failed.

Stellate Ganglion Blocks

Anxiety is often caused by overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system. But what if you could slow down these signals, prevent the sympathetic nervous system from getting overly excited, and block the physical symptoms of anxiety altogether?

That’s what a stellate ganglion block can do. The stellate ganglion is a bundle of nerves located in the lower neck that serves as a neural highway for the sympathetic nervous system. By administering a small dose of local anesthetic to this nerve bundle, you can stop the “fight-or-flight” response from occurring, leading to rapid reductions in anxiety symptoms.

A stellate ganglion block isn’t permanent, but it can essentially serve as a sympathetic nervous system reset. This leads to lasting improvements in anxiety symptoms, even after the effects of the anesthetic have worn off.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Some anxiety disorders are associated with reduced electrical activity in certain brain regions. With deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS), these regions can be stimulated through a completely non-invasive process, which helps them return to a pre-anxious state.

dTMS uses a specialized cap outfitted with electromagnets to deliver targeted impulses to these regions. After just a few sessions, these regions can achieve stable improvements in electrical activity, leading to lasting reductions in anxiety symptoms.

Ketamine-Assisted Therapy

Ketamine-assisted therapy is an innovative approach to talk therapy. Using the dissociative psychedelic ketamine, people can make rapid breakthroughs in an individual therapy session, leading to lasting changes in mood, behavior, and overall anxiety symptoms.

Remarkable changes in your overall level of anxiety can be seen after just a single session. However, repeated ketamine sessions can further enhance the benefits you experience and ensure that your recovery from anxiety lasts for years to come.

Start Treatment at Plus by APN

To get started with the best in anxiety treatment at Plus by APN, reach out to our team by calling 424.644.6486 or by filling out the online contact form on our website. Our team can help guide you toward the treatment methods that work best for you and will be there to guide you through every step of your recovery.


  • Lee, Changhyun, et al. “The Increased Level of Depression and Anxiety in Irritable Bowel Syndrome Patients Compared with Healthy Controls: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, Korean Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, 1 July 2017,
  • “The Brain-Gut Connection.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, 24 Jan. 2024,