Anxiety and bowel problems

Bowel issues, depending on their severity, can have a tremendous impact on your day to day life. Problems with your bowel and gut can lead to feelings of frustration and anxiety as they can quite often make you feel out of control with your own body. Symptoms of conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for instance can be worsened by feelings of anxiety and stress.

Even those who do not suffer with IBS can find themselves needing the toilet more than usual if they are feeling stressed or anxious. This is known as the ‘brain-gut connection’, where the digestive system is affected by feelings of stress. This brain-gut-connection can lead to many feeling stressed or anxious about going to the toilet, and can usually be attributed to a previous experience which has lead them to associate going to the toilet with feelings of stress (e.g. if they once struggled to find a toilet in time when they were in desperate need). This in turn creates a vicious cycle resulting in improper bowel habits.

If stress triggers your bowel problems, you might find it helpful to look for ways of reducing your stress levels. Please read our list of helpful ways to reduce anxiety and stress on our talkIBS hub. There you will find some practical tips to help manage your anxiety levels.

If you feel that your bowel problems are affecting your day to day life you can speak to your doctor about possible treatments to help manage the physical or emotional symptoms of your condition.

You can also talk with others in the talkhealth forums – the bowel discussion form can be found via this link, and the IBS discussion forum here.

Sources used in writing this article are available on request

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Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 10 February 2017
Next review: 10 February 2020