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Constipation and Anxiety

Henry Vyner, MD, Psychiatrist
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:

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:

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.

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