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Anxiety is Scary

answered 01:50 PM EST, Tue March 13, 2012
I have GAD, panic disorder and now, to really make my life great, I’ve developed Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). I am living with constant bloating and pain and there are so many things that I eat that leave me running to the toilet for hours after. I feel like a prisoner here at home because whenever I go out my urgent need to use the toilet seems to get worse and it’s really stressful and it really doesn’t help with my anxiety or panic to get those cramps and feel my heart quicken and know that I am about to soil myself.

The only way I knew how to deal with my anxiety was to try to relax through deep breathing exercises and to remind myself that my anxiety was false response to a non-dangerous threat. With my crazy diarrhea deep breathing exercises are a joke and the ‘threat’ of embarrassing myself in public is unfortunately all too real.

I feel trapped in a circle here. How can I manage and live with IBS without triggering anxiety?

David Johnson Says...

I'm not an expert on IBS, but I do understand that stress and anxiety can be a trigger. There is some good information from the National Institute of Health. As I understand your story, your IBS symptoms trigger anxiety, which likely triggers more IBS symptoms. This is a common phenomena with anxiety. When anxiety becomes severe, it's scary, which triggers more anxiety and fear. 

I recommend a two track treatment program, one focused on reducing symptoms of IBS and the other focused on reducing anxiety. Therapy may be helpful in discovering what might underlie your sensitivity to anxiety. Issues like past trauma, low self-esteem, and a tendency to allow anxiety to make decisions for you can have a huge effect on your anxiety. It is also important to begin a sustained commitment to a Mindfulness practice to learn how to manage your thoughts and feelings so that they do not contribute to your anxiety. This should be part of your daily exercise routine. 

Anxiety can be effectively treated if you make a commitment to learning everything you can on managing your anxiety and IBS. Then commit yourself to the lifestyle changes required to improve both. 

Good luck!

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Page last updated Mar 13, 2012

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