Anxiety/Panic Attacks and Stomach Issues

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Veteran Member

Date Joined Nov 2006
Total Posts : 1745
   Posted 11/11/2006 2:57 AM (GMT -6)   

I'm new here. Normally I think it is customary to read through a message board before posting questions, but in this case I've done very little of that. I would like to see if people recognize my symptoms rather than read someone else's to draw my own conclusions, as I have been known to be a little over-analytical. Get ready for a very long question:

I've been having chronic stomach issues for just about two years now. Basically, what usually happens is that my stomach will swell up and I will feel the uncomfortable "bloated" feeling along with a varying degree of nausea. It's VERY uncomfortable to lay down or even sit down. I'll feel a little better if I stand up and slowly pace around. These attacks can last anywhere from a few minutes to many hours. Often I will belch or fart and that will relieve it for a second or two. Sometimes I will feel moments of relief even without that. Pain sometimes occurs, but rarely, and I have a pretty good tolerance for pain so even when it does happen, it doesn't bother me. Also, quite a lot of the time I cannot tell the difference between hunger sensations and nausea. It's almost as if my stomach "gets stuck" as it's trying to growl. Sometimes eating a piece of toast will alleviate it when it feels like this, but sometimes it does not.

I've been unable to discern any correlation between this illness and what I eat UNLESS I tried to eat something while I was feeling bad. In that case, spicy or fatty foods are worse. For a long time it was pretty clear that on most days I'd wake up feeling a little poorly, have a decent mid-morning, late afternoon, and early evening, and then experience problems as I was getting ready for bed and sometimes deep into the night. Recently, however, these attacks can happen at any point during the day or night, and at times have been accompanied by a strange variety of really bad tastes in my mouth. Occasionally it will wake me up in the middle of the night, but generally if I can get to sleep I'll be okay until morning.

No medicines seem to alleviate it. I'm on Prevacid for acid reflux, but for this other problem I've used Pepto Bismol, simethicone gel caps, Maalox Plus, and a couple of other things to limited or no effect. All I can do is wait it out.

When this business first started happening a couple years ago, I eventually went to the doctor but it took several appointments with several doctors before anything started happening. Even though I never really had gall bladder pain, eventually I had a HIDA scan which indicated that I needed a cholecystectomy. I did, but there was no improvement. After some time I found a new gastroenterologist who decided I had an "acid and gas" problem. She's the one who directed me to take the symethicone (I was already on prevacid). When I still didn't improve she sent the camera down my throat. It showed that I have a hilatal hernia and some gastritis. She said she couldn't do much for me. Several more months passed and I started getting WORSE. At this point I decided to go back to my primary care doctor to see if they could prescribe me an antidepressant. After being sick for a year and a half at that point and missing a lot of work, I was understandably depressed. I was prescribed Lexapro, but it made me violently ill the first night and a nurse said I shouldn't take it anymore until I'd talked to my doctor.

The next day, I decided I'd had enough and that would just go to a renowned teaching hospital about 75 miles from where I live. That's pretty much where I'm at now. After having a gastric emptying exam that came back normal, my new gastro threw me for a loop the other day when he said I'm probably having "modified panic attacks". I'll have a couple more tests (the barium thing and something else that tests my breath [not H.Pylori though -- something else) just to rule out everything else, but he seems pretty sold on the anxiety/panic attack thing. His plan is to set me up with a doctor of internal medicine to begin treatment for that. For the meantime he's put me on a drug called Nortriptyline which is an antidepressant, but he says he's giving it to me for "motility". Given my experience with Lexapro I'm scared to death to take it, but I guess I'll get around to it tomorrow.

I NEVER would've imagined that my mental state could make me so physically ill. Plus, I've always tended toward depression and not anxiety. Also, I'm pretty sure that any anxiety I have is DUE to the nausea. There's no doubt I feel anxious when I get sick, and the more anxious I get the sicker I get. But it seems weird to me that it could be the cause of my problem. Usually I'm just sitting around when I get sick, not at all nervous until I'm already miserable!

My question is, does this seem plausible? Has anyone had similar experiences? I'm sorry to have written such a long post, but I'm desperate and figure too much information is better than not enough. Thanks in advance for any and all replies.


Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2006
Total Posts : 789
   Posted 11/11/2006 9:07 AM (GMT -6)   
Hello debaser
Welcome to HW were happy you have joined us here. You will find pleanty of support and friends here that have or are going thru the same things you are.
My stomic always seems to be swollen and bloats but I get bad cramps with mine off and on. There are a lot of times I look 9 months preg. and yes during these times I have to stay away from dairy and greesy foods and I usually keep a headake too.
I know how frustrating it can be going from one doc to another and test after test and there were times I think I was really upset because they didn't find anything but I was still in pain.
I was finelly dignosed 5 years ago with Fibromyalgia and a few others problems and it help explain alot you may want to google that.
I hope your feeling better soon and I hope this helps you out some. There will be others come along to help you too. 
I have an illness, My illness don't have me.


Regular Member

Date Joined Sep 2006
Total Posts : 248
   Posted 11/11/2006 9:09 AM (GMT -6)   
I know when I get very anxious and depressed, my stomach goes nuts. I can't eat and it rolls around and knots up. I've actually lost 35 pounds with this bout of anxiety and depression because I just can't eat.
I went to the doc a few weeks ago and she felt my stomach and such and it's tender. She is running a bunch of different blood tests and I go back in a month to find out the results.
I'm on prozac right now for the anxiety and depression and as I'm calming down, my stomach is calming some too. I hope you get to feeling better and that the docs can help. I'll try to keep you updated, if you are interested, about what my doc says about my stomach in a few weeks.

Elite Member

Date Joined Jan 2005
Total Posts : 24909
   Posted 11/11/2006 10:36 AM (GMT -6)   
Some of what you are saying yes I have gone thru and I was finally dx with Crohns disease a couple of yrs ago
I have just gone thru a patch where as soon as I ate I looked like I was ready to give birth and i would wake in the night with the actual feeling I had vomitted once with the actul taste of it .My mornings are my worst and yet I am slowly getting better I still feel there is something that is being missed and I am going to get checked out next week come he** or high water I am so "sick and tired of being sick and tired" ya know
I hope you will find out what it is that is causing all of this for you
Please come and post often and let us know how you are doing
You take care
God Bless
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Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2005
Total Posts : 1449
   Posted 11/11/2006 6:52 PM (GMT -6)   

acid reflux and GERD are common with anxiety and panic attacks

details on the net

recovered former longtime anxiety and panic attack sufferer and helper of other sufferers  but no training or  qualifications in medicine or psychology, any remarks that may be taken as advice must be confirmed with doctor or other health professional

Veteran Member

Date Joined Nov 2006
Total Posts : 1745
   Posted 11/11/2006 7:39 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks for the replies. No doctors have ever mentioned Crohn's disease or anything like that. And while I do have some sort of acid reflux, that's not my main problem. The Prevacid together with some Maalox will usually handle that, and when it doesn't it's not that big of a deal. It is swelling and especially the nausea that's pretty much ruined my life and career, and suddenly I get this news that it may be a "modified panic attack". Weird.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Sep 2006
Total Posts : 717
   Posted 11/11/2006 9:13 PM (GMT -6)   

Hi and welcome,

I've had panic disorder and gernalized anxiety as well as agoraphobia for 17 years.  I've never experienced stomach issues until about 6 months ago.  I have the bloating, nausea, sometimes pain and tightness around my stomach and lower ribs.  It's something that terrifies me more than any other symptoms I have!  I've been told that stomach issues are one of the most common symptoms with panic and anxiety, so it is entirely possible that this is the reason for yours.  You're doing the right thing by seeing your doctor and ruling things out, but you should look into the anxiety angle as well.  Hope this helps.


Veteran Member

Date Joined Nov 2006
Total Posts : 1745
   Posted 11/11/2006 11:35 PM (GMT -6)   
Thank you. It's good to know that someone has experienced something similar to me and that my doctor's not some kind of quack. He's sending me back to a doctor of internal medicine, who I imagine will either treat me for anxiety or send me to someone who will.

As for your stomach symptoms, if it's the same thing I have it's nothing to be terrified of. I know that's easy for other people to say, but if you have what I have it's definitely not going to harm you. Do your own ruling out to be sure, of course. I'd call these symptoms a "major annoyance" at best, and debilitating at worst. But it's debilitating only because of the nature of the problem (it's hard to move around, concentrate, etc. while experiencing nausea) and not because I feel like I'm dying or anything.

After you said you have this agoraphobia, I looked it up and some of it matches how I feel. Not all of it. I don't like to be outside my "safe zones", although that's because I'm afraid of getting sick rather than an embarassing situation. I am, however, embarrassed when I get sick around friends. I'm definitely hyper-sensitive to my own body. If I feel the slightest quirk in my stomach I'd better distract myself and fast, or it seems to develop into a problem.

Since I apparently know very little about this, I'd like to know more about how panic attacks start in other people (and especially how they affect the stomach). When you guys have them are they triggered by something? Are they random? Mine seem pretty random a lot of the time. When these attacks are accompanied by a physiological response, does the response occur concurrently with the panic attack or later?

Thanks again!

Veteran Member

Date Joined Nov 2006
Total Posts : 1745
   Posted 11/13/2006 10:52 AM (GMT -6)   
Strange things are afoot.

It was last Thursday that my doctor said he "thinks" my stomach problems are the result of panic attacks. Since then, I haven't had as many of these stomach attacks and when I have had them they've gone away pretty quickly. Now I can say to myself, "hey, there's nothing wrong with you-- you're just a little nervous" and I can generally work out of it. The biggest problem I faced was when I went to go see BORAT yesterday with a couple of friends. On and off I would get nervous, and it was really cold in the theater so I don't think that helped. There was one really funny scene that made me laugh so hard I almost got sick, but I was able to keep things together.

I'm still new at this, but it seems like framing my issues in terms of anxiety has changed things quite a lot. I'm paying more attention to my mental state of being even when my stomach feels fine, and yes, I do seem to have "nervous" problems. It's pretty interesting because I never really noticed it before. I suppose it happened gradually over time so there was never a "turning point" I can really look back at and pinpoint when it started.

I'm not out of the woods yet. You may have seen my other post about pills and my refusal to take them. I called into work today for no good reason. And I still feel my stomach "try" to get sick a lot. I finally feel like I may be able to make it through this.

Anyway, thanks for all the replies. I hope all of you are doing well today.
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