Throwing up is our body’s natural way of telling us that something isn’t right. Whether that’s through overexertion, dietary factors or fear it’s our biological response to an upset status quo. When we’re anxious, we consciously feel like something isn’t right or that a threat is around the corner, so it’s no wonder that vomiting and nausea are common physical symptoms of anxiety.
As with a lot of physical symptoms of anxiety, the triggers lie within our caveman brain. This is the survival-driven part of our brain that our newer, rational cortex grew on top of. Its primary concern is keeping us alive, so when our brain perceives a threat, it releases these stress chemicals and activates a response called the fight, flight or freeze response. The stress hormone cortisol or the chemical adrenaline are released and this puts our body on high alert, and as a result, our body prepares to either fight, flight or freeze.
Why Does Anxiety Cause Vomiting?
There’s a few reasons why anxiety might cause vomiting. The first is the chemical imbalance that occurs during our fight, flight or freeze response. The release of adrenaline and similar hormones actually alters the stomach lining and affects digestion which can then lead to feelings of nausea, bloating and stomach pain, reinforcing the belief that the initial perceived threat is real.
Another reason is that when we’re in survival mode we become hyper aware of what our body is doing, so a small amount of nausea might feel like much more, causing more worry and maintaining that symptom for longer, resulting in vomiting.
How Can I Stop This Symptom?
As with many physical symptoms of anxiety, the key to quelling nausea and, consequently, vomiting, can be found in calming the nervous system through breathing techniques and movement. Additionally, it can be useful to consider your eating and drinking habits as the link between a healthy gut and improved mental health are well established.
Of course, in order to prevent the symptoms of anxiety occurring in the first place, you need to manage or build strategies to tackle your anxiety. There are several options available including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), mindfulness, medication and group therapy. If you’re unsure, please contact your GP for more information.