Yes, nausea is associated with anxiety. When you have a perceived fear or danger in the environment, the body has an automatic reaction to this threat, and this is where the fight-or-flight response is activated. This stress response is almost instantaneous, which is good for survival from the danger, as you are not always prepared psychologically or physically (i.e. planning for the attack, putting up defences, loading up on calories for the energy expenditure of battle or fleeing, stretching the muscles to do battle, etc.) to deal with a danger that comes out of nowhere. In other words, you don’t always have time to MacGyver a fortress to defend yourself, so the fight-or-flight response takes over to prepare yourself without even thinking about it.
As a result of this fight-or-flight response, the brain signals the release of stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, into the bloodstream. The body then diverts all of its resources into the extreme muscular effort needed to defend yourself or to flee. As a result, the body shuts down the non-essential systems, such as the digestive system. Blood flow is redirected from the digestive system and skin to the muscles. This reduction in blood flow in the digestive system can be described as having “butterflies in the stomach,” or a “fluttery” feeling.
As the digestive system slows/shuts down during the fight-or-flight response, you may develop indigestion, which is characterized by:
- Upper stomach pain or heart burn
- Feeling full or bloated
So if you have anxiety symptoms, you may also develop indigestion from the shut-down of the digestive system, which includes nausea. If the doctor finds no medical or organic cause for the nausea and indigestion, then anxiety may be the reason. To treat nausea and indigestion associated with anxiety, you need to get a handle on your anxiety.