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Constipation and Anxiety

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10th, 2020

Constipation and Anxiety

Most people aren't comfortable talking about their bowel movements. But the truth is that the digestive system is so attuned to how the mind feels that some people call it a "second brain." Your gut and your brain have an incredible connection, and that means that when something is wrong with your mental health, your digestive system will suffer.

So it is unfortunately no surprise that constipation is a symptom of anxiety. In fact, anxiety can cause both constipation and diarrhea, and sometimes switch between the two.

Anxiety Causes Constipation

Psychogenic constipation, constipation caused by anxiety or other psychiatric disorders, is a diagnosis of exclusion. In other words, if you can’t find a physical cause for your constipation, then it is entirely possible that your constipation is being caused by stress and anxiety.

If you have chronic constipation, your first step is to see a doctor to make sure that you do not have a disease that causes constipation. Many many diseases can cause constipation. For example, here are just a few of the illnesses and conditions that can cause chronic constipation:

  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Pregnancy
  • Stroke
  • Parkinson Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Scleroderma

If your doctor can not find a physical explanation for your constipation, then the greater likelihood is that it is caused by stress and anxiety.

Once it is clear that your constipation is psychogenic, then the best thing to do is turn your attention to reducing the stress and anxiety in your life.

What to Do to Stop Anxiety Constipation

It would be great if there were some type of exercise you can do to control constipation caused by anxiety, but unfortunately as long as you still have anxiety, your body is still likely to continue to be constipated. It's the nature of the effects of anxiety.

There are some strategies that could at least help a little bit. Ideally, try to avoid laxatives unless instructed by your doctor. While they may be useful for stopping constipation, they also have a tendency to cause dehydration which can make your anxiety symptoms worse. What you should do:

  • Eat Well There are two main additions to your diet than can help relieve your constipation. Eat more fiber and drink more fluids. If you know there are foods that make you more constipated, avoid them.
  • Exercise Exercise is both an anxiety cure and a healthy way to move food through the digestive tract. Studies have shown that when you exercise, you process food at a much faster rate. The more intense your exercise, the better it is for both your anxiety and your constipation, so strongly consider introducing healthy exercise into your daily routine.

Take measures to reduce your stress and anxiety This is the most important thing you can do, and it could include taking a mindfulness training, learning to accept your anxiety so that it will dissolve or going into therapy to locate and let go of the causes of your anxiety.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

Ask Doctor a Question

Question:

Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient

Answer:

You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

Ask Doctor a Question

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