Can anxiety cause a pulse in the stomach?

In this blog we will address the question “Can anxiety cause a pulse in the stomach?” and if so, how you can manage it.

We will also discuss what anxiety is, the symptoms of anxiety, causes and possible treatments for anxiety. 

Can anxiety cause a pulse in the stomach?

Yes, it is possible that anxiety or when you feel anxious one of the symptoms that you might experience is having a pulse in the stomach. 

This is because of the fact that anxiety and panic has a direct link to fear or stress and this, evolutionarily speaking, leads to individual behavioural and physiological changes as a way to prepare the individual to either fight or take flight. 

Because the brain is wired to respond to threats, real or imagined, with either fight or flight, the brain signals other parts of the body to respond by increasing blood flow to the muscles; this can result in the heart to pump more blood and as a result lead to increased and stronger heartbeats.

Heart palpitations can feel like your heart is racing, pounding, or fluttering and you might also feel like your heart is “skipping” however, if you have no history or your family has no history of heart rhythm disorder then this heart palpitations should not be a problem. 

It is this mechanism, a response to stress and fear, that leads to accelerated heartbeat when an individual is anxious which can not only be felt in the chest but also various parts of the body. 

This is because when your heart pumps blood, your arteries expand and contract which lead to you having a pulse. The body has various arteries in other parts of your body, not just the heart, which leads to various pulse points all over your body.

A few common arteries in other parts of your body include:

  • Temporal artery: On the temple in front of your ear
  • Carotid artery: On either side of your neck
  • Brachial artery: On your upper arm, near the elbow
  • Radial and ulnar arteries: On your wrist
  • Femoral artery: In the inner thigh
  • Popliteal artery: Above the knee, located by holding a bent knee
  • Dorsalis pedis artery: On top of the foot
  • Posterior tibial artery: On the inside of the ankle (PennMedicine)

It is because of this, when you feel stressed or anxious you can hear your heart pumping in your ears, or feel it on your neck amongst other places. 

It is also normal for you to feel a pulse in your stomach when you are anxious. This is because you might be picking up the pulse from the abdominal aorta which is the main artery that carries blood from your heart to the abdomen for supplying blood and oxygen to the rest of the body. 

While it is relatively harmless, a pulse in your stomach could also be a sign of something serious if you are not experiencing stress and anxiety along with the pulse. 

You need to seek out medical attention in case the heart pulse is also accompanied with pain and this is important if you have or your immediate family has a history of 

  • A blood vessel disease
  • High blood pressure
  • A history of aortic infections
  • A family history of abdominal aortic aneurysms
  • A recent traumatic injury (PennMedicine)

What is anxiety?

Anxiety refers to the body’s natural response to stress and it involves a fear or apprehension of a possible threat. 

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as 

“…an emotion characterised by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”

According to this definition, anxiety involves emotions, thoughts, and physiological reactions to a stressor or a state of stress. 

It is a normal response that many people have as a mechanism developed to help people survive and it is what triggers our flight or fight response in the face of danger.

However, when there is no apparent threat and this state of apprehension is caused by triggers that are inappropriate to the anxious response or this state persists for more than six months, it could be possible that the anxiety has developed into a disorder or that in its indication of a negative state of well-being. 

Anxiety that is persistent is a key part of several anxiety disorders identified by the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental disorders. 

The various types of anxiety disorders include:

  • Panic disorder where the disorder is characterised by recurring panic attacks at unexpected times and individuals usually live in fear of the next panic attack.
  • Specific phobia Disorder where the individual has inappropriate and excessive fear of a specific object, situation, or activity
  • Social anxiety disorder where individual experiences anxiety symptoms related to the extreme fear of being judged by others in social situations
  • General Anxiety disorder where the individual has a pervasive pattern of excessive, irrational, and inappropriate worry or tension regarding various aspects of their lives. 

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Here are the commonly reported symptoms of general anxiety:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Feeling keyed up
  • Excess perspiration
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Nightmares or sleep terrors
  • Anxious thoughts and worry
  • Intrusive thoughts about a possible or imagined threat. 

For an individual to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders, these symptoms along with others should be persistent for at least a specific amount of time and should cause dysfunction in all areas of their lives. 

What causes anxiety?

When it comes to the causes of anxiety disorders, possible links have been made. These probable causes include:

  • Stress from work, relationships, family issues
  • Genetics vulnerability
  • Family history
  • Childhood experiences
  • Life experiences
  • Medical factors such as a medical condition that causes the stress or effects of a medication. 
  • Brain chemistry and structure. 
  • Withdrawal from a substance
  • Trauma 
  • Loss and death

What are the treatments available for anxiety?

If your symptoms are debilitating or severe to the point where it is getting in the way of your day to day life, the most advisable thing you can do is to seek treatment from a mental health professional.

Various treatment options for anxiety include:

Cognitive behavioural therapy

In terms of Cognitive behavioural therapies your therapist will teach you how to regulate your negative and irrational thoughts when you come across triggers. 

As you engage in therapy you will start learning to alter your thoughts, develop an awareness of how you feel, and as a consequence the way you react in situations where you are faced with a real or imagined trigger. 

Rational Emotive Behavioural therapy

REBT is an action-oriented type of CBT that addresses unhealthy or irrational beliefs and attitudes that influence thoughts,  emotions, and behaviours. 

It follows the ABC model of developing an awareness about the processes that influenced the development of the phobia such as the activating event, the beliefs that were developed as a result and the consequences of those beliefs. 

It uses a method known as “disputing” to assist individuals develop realistic and healthy beliefs and as a consequence develop the ability to rationalise their thoughts and their emotional and behavioural responses as well. 

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 

MBSR is an evidence-based program that involves mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety and other mental health issues. 

MBSR could be helpful in helping individuals deal with their phobia as it has been found to be effective in tackling anxiety issues in most cases. 

The program involves teaching and training individuals to develop skills to cope with the anxiety or to reduce the intensity of the anxiety. 

Pharmacological treatment

If your anxiety is extremely severe your doctor may prescribe you antidepressants or an anti-anxiety medication to assist your treatment, your panic, and other physical symptoms.

These medications will most probably be prescribed to you in the case that you have been diagnosed with the disorder, meaning that the anxiety has now affected your life significantly. 

Conclusion

In this blog we have addressed the question “Can anxiety cause a pulse in the stomach?” and if so, how you can manage it.

We have also discussed what anxiety is, the symptoms of anxiety, causes and possible treatments for anxiety. 

FAQ related to “Can anxiety cause a pulse in the stomach?” 

What are symptoms of anxiety?

Here are the commonly reported symptoms of general anxiety:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Feeling keyed up
  • Excess perspiration
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Nightmares or sleep terrors
  • Anxious thoughts and worry
  • Intrusive thoughts about a possible or imagined threat. 

What causes anxiety?

When it comes to the causes of anxiety disorders, possible links have been made. These probable causes include:

  • Stress from work, relationships, family issues
  • Genetics vulnerability
  • Family history
  • Childhood experiences
  • Life experiences
  • Medical factors such as a medical condition that causes the stress or effects of a medication. 
  • Brain chemistry and structure. 
  • Withdrawal from a substance
  • Trauma 
  • Loss and death

How do you know you have anxiety?

It is possible that you have anxiety if you experience the following symptoms for at least two weeks to a month and it causes severe dysfunction in your personal life, relationships, and occupation. These symptoms include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Feeling keyed up
  • Excess perspiration
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Nightmares or sleep terrors
  • Anxious thoughts and worry
  • Intrusive thoughts about a possible or imagined threat. 

Can anxiety disorders be cured?

Anxiety disorders like all mental illnesses are not curable, meaning that anxiety won’t go away indefinitely. 

However, symptoms can be managed with therapy and medication to the point that an individual is no longer affected by the symptoms. 

How do I get tested for anxiety?

To diagnose an anxiety disorder, there is no definite medical test. 

Instead a doctor will perform an examination, explore your symptoms, and in some cases ask that you take a test for hypothyroidism and other medical conditions that cause similar symptoms as anxiety. 

Can a person give you anxiety?

No, anxiety is not a contagious disease. It cannot be given from one person to the other like a flu. However, it is possible that if a child is brought up by an anxious parent, the child can develop anxiety through learned behaviours. 

References

Felman. A. What to know about anxiety. Medicalnewstoday. Retrieved on 3rd February 2022. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323454#what-is-anxiety

Lillis.C. What causes a pulse in the stomach? Medicalnewstoday. Retrieved on 3rd February 2022. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325789#:~:text=Some%20people%20 also%20 experience%20 dizziness,people%20 feel%20 even%20moore%20 anxious.

Osborne.C. Why Do I Feel a Pulse in Stomach? Healthline. Retrieved on 3rd February 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/pulse-in-stomach

Why Can You Feel Your Pulse in Your Stomach? PennMedicine. Retrieved on 3rd February 2022. https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/heart-and-vascular-blog/2020/december/why-can-you-feel-your-pulse-in-your-stomach

Roland. J. Can Anxiety Cause Heart Palpitations? Healthline. Retrieved on 3rd February 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/can-anxiety-cause-heart-palpitations

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