Having anxiety and IBS


Let’s be honest, talking about bowels and toilet habits can be very awkward and quite often taboo. I found I had IBS around a year ago and talking about it with my friends and boyfriend was pretty hard, because I was embarrassed. But one year on I am learning to deal with it, and am also learning its absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about.

Having anxiety and IBS, one of the biggest struggles I had was not believing it was IBS. I felt so ill all the time I believed it had to be something more serious. I went to different doctors and they all said that it was just IBS. The symptoms of IBS can feel so severe, sometimes you think it can’t just be IBS but try and put trust in doctors and know they wouldn’t tell you it was IBS if it wasn’t.

As if anxiety wasn’t already hard enough to deal with, having IBS can make it a vicious cycle. Feeling anxious, and therefor feeling sick, which leads to more anxiety and so on.

IBS symptoms can include, feeling sick, having abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and general feeling of being unwell.

Although anxiety is a mental health illness, a lot of the time the physical symptoms are the hardest to deal with. Anxiety has very real physical symptoms on the body and IBS is one of them. IBS is not easy to deal with, because it manifests itself in so many different ways, there isn’t just one fix.

The most important thing to know you are not alone. It can feel lonely and pretty terrifying but so many people know how you feel, and after time you will work out what helps you.

Of course, none of my tips are from a professional, only from my experience. Some of them may sound strange but they are things that help me, and things I hope you will find useful.

  1. Massage the tummy – Something I find really helps me when I am having IBS is massaging my tummy. I get what feels like a lump in my tummy that makes me feel really unwell. To help this I get moisturiser, I usually use a nice smelling body butter, and rub it all over my tummy. I then get my fingers and rub downwards from my chest down, using quite a bit of pressure. This really helps me. Try different massaging techniques and see what works for you.
  2. Lying on tummy – Pretty similar to the last but putting pressure on your tummy can help. I sometimes lie flat on my tummy, sometimes using a pillow under my tummy, and wait for a while. It feels strange at first put after a while really relieves discomfort.
  3. Eating – Something you may of heard before is you need to watch what you eat with IBS, I agree but not in the way most think. Fodmaps and high fibre diets may work for some but for me they didn’t. I believe it is all about trial and error. See what foods make you feel better and worse. Try writing a diary of exactly how certain foods make you feel.
  4. Anxiety medication – Something I know may be taboo are anxiety medications. Whether you are prepared to try anti depressants or not, they have really helped me and i would recommend them to any anxiety sufferer. However I would remind you they may take a while to help. You may have to try a few different medications before you find the right one (I tried fluoxetine and it didn’t help, but then tried citalopram and it has really helped.) After a while of taking your medication is should really lessen your IBS symptoms.
  5. Don’t fight the symptoms – For a long time I would try and fight the symptoms of IBS and anxiety. I would panic if i started to feel sick or had constipation. I would freak that I was getting ill and make myself worse (the vicious circle would last for days). In order to ‘tame’ your anxiety and stop yourself making you symptoms worse you have to try and sit with your symptoms. Stop and think what are my actual symptoms? Try and remember you’ve been through your symptoms before and nothing bad has happened because of them. Try and take deep breaths and remember it is just anxiety making you feel like this.
  6. Hot and cold compresses – something that has helped me so much hot and cold compresses on my tummy. Whenever my tummy is really sore or uncomfortable I will run myself a hot bath. Often lying on my front in a hot bath can really ease symptoms. Something that almost always helps is getting a cold pack ( a can of drink also works ) and hold it on the uncomfortable part of my tummy. I hold it there until it feels better. I have no idea why this works but it really does for me.

I hope some of these tips helped for you. These are just a few things you can try. Anxiety is really hard, and IBS does not help, but you can get through it. Good luck.


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