If you are eating or feeling squeamish, you may not want to read this now. Anxiety sucks for many reasons, but one of them is that it can give you the runs. Yup, I’m talking about diarrhea. It is one of those subjects that no one wants to talk about and yet we all do it. And for those of us with anxiety issues, it can be really debilitating. It is one of those chicken or the egg scenarios: I’m nervous so I get diarrhea or I have diarrhea and that makes me nervous. Either way, it’s a real problem. And even for people who have specific medical reasons that cause issues with their bowels, the stress (or shame and embarrassment of it) can also cause them severe anxiety.
There are very few people that I have talked to about their anxiety that have not also confided that they have days with frequent trips to the bathroom and have an emergency stash of Immodium on them at all times.
So why do I choose to write about it? It’s simple, if we are going to eliminate the shame and secrecy of mental health issues, we have to talk about the symptoms. There’s nothing worse than intense stomach cramps and need to find a bathroom asap when you’re at the grocery store with your kids. Or when you’re trying leave for work to make it in time for that early meeting, but you can’t even leave your own bathroom. It’s simply not something that you can pretend is not happening, or ‘push through it’ like you might do with other symptoms.
Even those times when I’m getting ready to get out to an event that I am really looking forward to, I often find myself running back to the bathroom one more time (and maybe one more time) before leaving the house. I have also felt incredible guilt while my family is all ready to leave for a special day out and I have to cancel because I’m not up to it (I’m not sick, I just can’t trust my bowels to cooperate with my desire to out).
Unfortunately, I have no solutions. Good eating habits, learning to manage our stress levels and practicing positive coping strategies for our anxiety can help alleviate the problem, but I don’t know of a cure. My hope is that by talking about it, we may feel less embarrassed the next time we have to explain to a friend why we’re running late, or our desire to know where the closest washroom at any new place (or why we have a stash of Immodium in the secret pocket of my purse).