Gastrointestinal illnesses, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), have been known to affect as many as 55 million Americans a year. IBS is a common condition that impacts the large intestine. Like many other gastrointestinal illnesses, IBS may cause:
- Abdominal pain
In some cases, IBS or other gastrointestinal illnesses can be caused by a parasite (think of the “Traveler’s Diarrhea” that some people pick up on vacation) or as a result of having an ailment such as food poisoning. Often, however, there are no physical abnormalities causing these symptoms. Instead, this condition can be triggered by a combination of lifestyle and behavioral factors such as being under intense stress, having an unhealthy diet, or having problems sleeping.
Anyone who has suffered from this condition or knows someone who has dealt with it knows that IBS can be an extreme source of stress. It is because of this that it is becoming more and more obvious that ther is a link between IBS and anxiety. In fact, anxiety or depression has been found in between 40% and 60% of patients who seek treatment for IBS. It seems the two conditions form a catch-22 of symptoms. Those who suffer from IBS and other gastrointestinal illnesses are also likely to suffer from anxiety due to the nature of their symptoms. On the other hand, people who suffer from anxiety often exhibit symptoms similar to those of IBS:
- Upset stomach
- Excessive gas
- Frequent trips to the restroom
Despite research, it is hard to determine which condition comes first: does IBS cause anxiety or does anxiety cause IBS? Experts lean toward anxiety being the trigger for IBS and more specifically that panic disorders and generalized anxiety disorders are the chief instigators. Severe IBS and anxiety can combine together into something very similar to a generalized anxiety disorder.
Fortunately there is treatment for both IBS and anxiety. For many people the first goal should be to determine which of these conditions is their primary concern. Speaking with your doctor and zeroing in on when the symptoms began can go a long way in determining the appropriate treatment program. If anxiety is the problem, your doctor may work with you to determine the source of your anxiety. Treating the anxiety through cognitive behavior therapy or with the help of medications will reduce the symptoms that mirror those of IBS. If a gastrointestinal illness is the concern, your physician may help you identify the foods or lifestyle factors that are causing your symptoms. Reducing the symptoms will, in turn, reduce your anxiety.
For more information on gastrointestinal illnesses and stress or IBS and anxiety, call Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.