Panic Attacks

Panic Attack Nausea: Causes and Solutions

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10th, 2020

Panic Attack Nausea: Causes and Solutions

Many panic attack symptoms resemble those of more serious illnesses. It's one of the main reasons that those with panic attacks tend to believe they have some severe health problem, and often believe that they're not really suffering from panic attacks at all.

One of the symptoms that most resembles an illness is panic attack nausea, and while not everyone with panic attacks will become nauseated, those that do often fear that they may be suffering from something worse.

Causes of Nausea From Panic Attacks

The first thing to note about nausea – and all panic attack symptoms – is that those with panic attacks tend to exhibit "monitoring" behaviors, which means that they are more prone to noticing physical sensations that may be very weak that others may not notice. So while nausea may be severe to you, it may have been weak to someone without panic.

Nausea can also be caused by issues unrelated to panic that tend to occur at the same time, and they can be secondary symptoms caused by other issues with panic attacks. Examples of nausea causes include:

  • Stress Related Gastrointestinal Distress The most common reason is stress. When the body is extremely stressed, the digestive system is the first to experience the adrenaline rushes and tension, which disrupt digestive enzymes and function and lead to nausea. Panic attacks are incredibly stressful events, so experiencing nausea is likely a result of the effects of that tension.
  • Digestion Shutdown When the body is coping with panic attacks, the experience is often so severe that other parts of the brain slow down. The digestive system is one of them. Those with panic attacks often feel the urge to urinate during an anxiety attack. That's the same idea – panic attacks take up so many resources that other parts of the brain weaken temporarily, leading to these types of issues – especially if you've recently eaten.
  • Acid Reflux An unrelated reason may be related to stomach acids and acid reflux. Those with severe panic attacks and acid reflux disease may be more likely to experience both at the same time, often with panic attacks resulting from some GERD symptoms. Panic attacks and anxiety also increase stomach acids further, which could result in excess nausea.
  • Sensitivity Some people simply experience mild nausea once in a while when they eat certain foods, drink caffeine, etc. Most can ignore it without issue, but during a panic attack, the feeling tends to feel amplified, which in turn makes it seem like the nausea is much worse – and much more distressing.

Combine all of these issues, and it's not much of a surprise that panic attacks lead to nausea. In rare cases, they may even lead to vomiting, although this tends to be uncommon.

Ways to Stop Panic Attack Nausea

Those suffering from panic attack nausea can reduce it. Most changes need to be made before the panic attack begins. Once it's started, it can be hard to control nausea itself.

First, make sure you're drinking enough water. Panic attacks can exacerbate other problems, and since the majority of the country is dehydrated, drinking too little water can be an issue. Also, while diet doesn't affect anxiety, it can affect digestion, and so it's important that you are also eating easy to digest foods. Staying away from fast food can be a clear change that may improve digestion in general, and thus reduce nausea.

But of course, the key thing you'll need to do is learn to control your panic attacks. If you control your panic attacks, your nausea will be reduced as a result.

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!

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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.

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