Around the middle of my teen years, I started to feel sick a lot. Sometimes, it was even so bad that I’d have to run to the bathroom in the middle of the conversation to go and vomit. Because I didn’t know what the cause could be, I tried everything from changing my diet to avoiding food altogether. Sadly, nothing seemed to be working.
It was years before I realized what the cause of all this was. If I had known then what I know now, maybe I could have made things a lot easier for myself. Sadly, I just didn’t know that feeling nauseous all the time is a sign of anxiety.
This Symptom Ruled My Life
It would be an understatement to say that my nausea was an inconvenience. Because of it, I couldn’t do all the things that everyone else could, my body just wouldn’t allow it. Any time I was excited or even just a little nervous, I’d be left hugging the toilet for anywhere for a few minutes to a few hours. Truly, my anxiety was in control.
Just like most people my age, I’d often get calls from friends inviting me to a party or some other kind of get together. I wanted to go out and have fun like everyone else, so I would always say yes. Then, my body would decide that it was time for me to vomit until I had the strength to grab my phone and cancel. After that, I would be completely fine again.
I Couldn’t Understand What Was Wrong
It’s not that I didn’t know what anxiety was, I knew it very well. In fact, I was already aware that I was suffering from anxiety. The problem was that I couldn’t connect my physical symptoms to my mental state. Despite how obvious it may seem in hindsight, it wasn’t clear to me back then at all.
On TV shows and in movies, when someone is stressed or anxious they start clutching their chest and fighting for air. Although that was true for me sometimes, that was only a small fraction of what was going on. Because of the way anxiety was represented, I thought that the only physical symptom I would experience would be struggling to breathe.
I was very wrong.
Finally, I Got Help
Almost 3 years after my regular vomiting had started, I began to talk to my therapist about it. Even though I’d been in therapy for even longer than that, I never thought that my nausea was relevant. I had always thought that that was something physical that had nothing to do with my mental health.
Together, we eventually worked out that this constant puking was indeed a symptom of anxiety. All the times I was stressed and throwing up started to make sense. Finally, I didn’t feel so hopeless, because now I knew that there was a way that I could address it.
Why Anxiety Makes You Nauseous
When you’re in danger, your body goes into fight or flight mode. This means that your brain sends hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, to the rest of your body to prepare itself to either fight the danger or run away from it.
These hormones affect your body in a lot of ways. It makes your blood pressure rise, makes your heart beat faster, sharpens your senses, and tightens anywhere from your windpipe to your gut. One such thing it can do to your body as well is to make you feel nauseous or like you need to go to the toilet.
People with anxiety often perceives danger that isn’t there, and I am one of those unlucky people. That causes me to go into a fight or flight response when I don’t need to. Although there’s no need for me to fight some terrible enemy or run as fast as I can in the opposite direction, my perceived anxiety will still give me a rush of hormones. This means that when that happens, my body’s response is often to feel horribly sick.
The truth is that anxiety doesn’t always present itself the way it does in movies. Every person is different and can have their own individual experience of this mental illness. Some will fight to breathe, others will fight not to vomit. In either case, what’s important is talking to a health professional and getting to the root of the problem.
Do you know someone who feels nauseous a lot? Share this article with them because it may be anxiety in disguise.