Why People With GERD Are Likely to Have Anxiety

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These two conditions may be unrelated since Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a medical disorder, while anxiety is a mental health condition. However, researchers found reason to believe that the two may have a deeper connection than initially thought. 

GERD is when your lower esophageal sphincter closes in the wrong way, causing stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus. This disorder causes heartburn, chest and abdominal pain, chronic coughing or hoarseness, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms. GERD may also result in complications like Asthma, Esophagitis, and Laryngitis. In the United States alone, about 20 percent of adults have GERD. 

On the other hand, anxiety is characterized by extreme worry, fear, and nervousness. It limits the daily functioning of people suffering from this mental health condition, causing them to miss out on many things. 

What connects GERD and Anxiety? 

Studies found that a significant amount of people with GERD suffer from anxiety more than those who don’t. The reason why this happens is unclear, but researchers formulated two hypotheses into this relationship.

  1. Anxiety may be a trigger to GERD or increases the likelihood of developing it. Due to the number of people that have GERD and anxiety at the same time, researchers hypothesized that anxiety could be a predisposition to developing this medical disorder. 
  1. Psychological conditions like anxiety may cause physiological effects that result in GERD. A change in the esophageal motility and an increase in gastric acid are the body’s responses to stress, with the latter one of the main causes of anxiety. Animal studies on rats have supported this hypothesis, but not in human studies. 

Researchers theorized that GERD symptoms might increase anxiety due to the relationship between the severity of GERD symptoms and the mental health condition. Another study found that people with GERD have higher anxiety levels in connection with more severe retrosternal pain and burning. 

While all these studies may have gathered conclusive evidence, it was unclear whether GERD symptoms worsened anxiety or the other way around due to how they were performed. One thing researchers agreed to is that there is an undeniable relationship between the two.

How to Treat GERD and Anxiety

Researchers have long urged physicians to deliver mental health assessments to patients with GERD to determine if they also suffer from anxiety. This way, the patient gets the best possible treatment.

If someone has GERD and anxiety, a plan that considers both conditions is pertinent to the treatment. That is due partly to studies that common anxiety medications have been found to worsen GERD symptoms. 

Aside from getting the right treatment plan, there is one other thing that people suffering from both conditions can do, and this is getting good sleep. A good amount and quality of sleep may help reduce GERD symptoms and help with anxiety. That is because researchers also found a connection between GERD, anxiety, and poor sleep. 

While the exact connection is still unknown, a night of good sleep provides health benefits for several conditions. You may discuss your sleep patterns with your therapist or your doctor so they can prescribe supplements like melatonin. You can also improve sleep quality by using blackout blinds, reducing screen time during bedtime, and using yellow instead of white lights. 

Conclusion

GERD and anxiety are two health conditions that many people suffer from. While the exact connection between the two is still unknown, there is evidence that one affects the other. If you have been diagnosed with both conditions or suspect having them, talk to your doctor to provide a proper treatment plan.

If you want to know more about GERD and its symptoms, such as heartburn and acid reflux, you can read about it on Reflux Away. We provide guides and articles that discuss the causes of heartburn and what it does to your body. We also tackle overall wellbeing and what you can do to achieve it. Learn more about what we do.