Is Your Stomach Anxious?
It should come as no surprise that when our minds are anxious, our bodies feel it too. According to Harvard University's School of Public Health, anxiety has been implicated in several chronic physical illnesses, including gastrointestinal conditions. While the cause of conditions such as acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may not be strictly emotional, when people with these disorders have untreated anxiety, the physical disease is more difficult to treat. In the two most common functional digestive disorders — IBS and functional dyspepsia (upset stomach)—the nerves regulating digestion appear to be hypersensitive to stimulation. A 2007 New Zealand study of subjects with gastroenteritis (inflammation of the digestive tract) found an association between high anxiety levels and the development of IBS following a bowel infection. Therefore, some form of counseling can be an important part of the treatment process. According to a report by Harvard University's School of Public Health, in situations where anxiety is present, "medications alone are less effective than psychotherapy over the long term."