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Anxiety and Vomiting

Wendy M Yoder, Ph.D.
Anxiety and Vomiting

Nausea is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety. Nearly everyone in the world can think back to a time when nervousness made them feel sick to their stomach. It's an uncomfortable symptom that is extremely common when you're in nervous situations.

But what you may not realize is that anxiety can cause vomiting as well. While vomiting is much less common than general nausea, it is nonetheless a symptom of anxiety that many people struggle with, especially during times of intense anxiety, such as during an anxiety attack.

Vomiting, Illness, and Anxiety

Vomiting is not a rare symptom of anxiety, but it's not a common one either. Discussing your vomiting with a doctor is always a smart idea, especially if this is the first time you've vomited as a result of an anxiety attack.

But vomiting from anxiety can still be a very real problem. 

Why Anxiety Causes Vomiting

The mind and the stomach are tightly linked. Studies have shown not only that the mind has an effect on the gut but that the gut can have an effect on the mind. The two may not be related in function, but the nerves and chemical receptors are connected.

When someone suffers from anxiety, it sends signals to the stomach related to the fight or flight response. Those signals alter the way that the stomach and gut process and digest food, causing nausea. In cases of extreme anxiety, this nausea becomes so strong that vomiting occurs.

Vomiting may be partly conscious as well. Because nausea makes a person feel as though they want to vomit, those that have greater control over their regurgitation response may encourage their body to vomit. It's not "on purpose" in the sense that a person is trying to vomit, but with their mind they may force their bodies to let it out based on the way they're concentrating on the sensation.

Who Does Vomiting Effect?

Vomiting is most common in those with extreme anxiety and those that have anxiety attacks. In a way, vomiting is a more extreme form of nausea. It occurs in those that experience severe moments of anxiety or fear, which is also why vomiting may occur with those that have severe phobias and encounter their phobia in the world.

If you vomit only after taking anxiety medications, talk to your doctor immediately. Many medications have vomiting as a side effect, and in some cases you may be having a dangerous adverse reaction to your medications.

The Dangers of Vomiting From Anxiety

Occasional vomiting is not believed to be dangerous. Vomiting is a fairly natural event, and while it's not ideal and may cause you to lose nutrients that you consumed earlier in the day, it's also simply a purging of your stomach contents that, if treated successfully, shouldn't have any lasting effects. 

If you vomit too often, it can become dangerous. Eventually, you'll damage your tooth enamel, and you may not be receiving the nutrition that you need from your diet thus leading to serious vitamin deficiencies. Also, regular vomiting from anxiety can cause further anxiety for those that are worried about embarrassment, and this fear may increase the frequency of anxiety attacks.

How to Stop Vomiting From Anxiety

You can manage vomiting in the short term by using some prescription or over the counter medications. Talk to your doctor about what is available for you and your health history. But the only way to ensure that you stop vomiting from anxiety in the long term is is to stop your anxiety altogether. That takes time and effort and a comprehensive treatment specific to your anxiety symptoms. Until then, make sure you try all of the following:

Some people also find that putting cold water on their face can be helpful, and many people have their own anti-nausea remedies.

Still, the most important thing you can do is minimize your anxiety. Severe anxiety will often cause nausea, and while there are plenty of relaxation strategies and supplements that may benefit those with anxiety, none of them are guaranteed to cure your anxiety nausea and stop your vomiting. Manage your anxiety, and the nausea should dissipate.  

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