The Interaction Between Agoraphobia and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Agoraphobia is a psychological disorder that can cause a lot of discomfort for a long time, so it is important to seek professional therapy support when the first symptoms start to appear.

However, although this psychopathology is harmful in itself, when combined with physical illness, the combination is even more negative: more than the sum of the two disorders separately. In this case, we will focus on the topic of the interaction between agoraphobia and irritable bowel syndrome.

    What is irritable bowel syndrome?

    Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as irritable bowel syndrome, is a chronic disorder of gastrointestinal function which causes various discomfort at the digestive level. Some of the most common physical symptoms of this medical problem include digestive spasms, abdominal pain, spontaneous diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, gas, and nausea.

    The exact cause of this syndrome is unknown, and it is likely that there is not just one; however, several factors have been studied as possible causes or responsible for the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including the following:

    • Inflammatory processes that affect the digestive system.
    • Alterations in intestinal permeability.
    • Anxiety, stress, mood disorders and other psychological problems
    • Instability and imbalance of the microbial flora of the intestines.

    On another side, the degree of intensity of the symptoms and the discomfort they cause, in addition to their duration and frequency of occurrence, can be very variable. However, in most cases, it is an alteration that can significantly affect a person’s quality of life as long as the disorder is present.

    And it is that irritable bowel syndrome patients have a condition that makes life very difficult. The gastrointestinal symptoms of this syndrome are not only painful, but are also experienced in a particularly anxious and overwhelming manner.

      What is agoraphobia?

      Agoraphobia is a psychopathology that is part of anxiety disorders, and which is encompassed in phobias. Concretely, this alteration leads people to develop a very intense and unsuitable fear of the idea of ​​being in a situation of extreme disability or vulnerability in a place where they will not have help or will not be able to access the means. to ask. .

      In most of the cases, it is based on the fear of being afraid: the person develops a strong anticipatory anxiety by anticipating that he will undergo a very pronounced peak of anxiety in a place where it can be very expensive. This is why agoraphobia is often mistaken for some kind of fear of leaving home. In reality, those who develop this disorder are not afraid to leave their homes, but rather to expose themselves to places where they feel they can lose control completely and be severely damaged by the lack of protection.

      Thus, agoraphobia creates a vicious cycle: the prospect of having an anxiety problem generates anxiety. And if this anticipation of anxiety is further coupled with the anticipation of symptoms of a physical illness suffered, the problem is magnified.

        The link between irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety problems

        Because no clear organic cause is found to explain the appearance of this disorder, many experts have attempted to find it in the patient’s brain, associating it with a psychological problem such as anxiety.

        Thus, the relationship between irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety disorders has been a broad subject of research. In this sense, the link between this syndrome and anxiety is not fully known, but it is a fact that there is a relationship, because 10-15% of the world’s population suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, around 50% have psychological symptoms, especially in the form of anxiety disorders.

        On the other hand, although it is a digestive condition, the severity of its symptoms and the limitation it causes can lead to multiple emotional issues in patients affected by this condition, so in cases where anxiety is one of the main triggers of the syndrome, a vicious circle is generated. And if anything characterizes anxiety disorders, it is their ability to escalate the consequences of their symptoms (in the event that they are not well taken care of by the person).

        Added to this, it must be said that this is an understandable relationship with a digestive problem with anxiety disorders, since it is common for healthy individuals, without a diagnosed psychological or digestive problem, to have felt more than once how far their nerves go to the lower abdomen area. For example, when we are nervous because we have to give a speech, it is common to experience digestive symptoms in the form of a dry mouth, twists, or even diarrhea.

        If a healthy person sees their digestive function impaired while being anxious, it is logical to think that in a person with an irritable bowel the situation will worsen.

        The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are too physical to be entirely attributed to an anxiety problem. There must also be variables of a biological nature behind, such as certain genetic predispositions, although having an altered emotional state certainly doesn’t help. Suffering from high levels of anxiety can affect bowel movement and at the same time presenting digestive problems such as diarrhea and chronic constipation does not help to stay calm.

        It cannot be said that anxiety directly and unidirectionally causes irritable bowel syndrome (which is understandable, given that many diseases do not have a single cause), but it is this medical condition that makes us anxious. . This is the conclusion of a 2016 study by the Koloski, Jones and Talley group in which 1,900 Australians were monitored, monitoring people with irritable bowel symptoms and who, at the start of the study, did not report not suffer from psychological problems. These same people showed high levels of anxiety and depression one year after being diagnosed.

        In addition, of all the people who had a gastrointestinal disorder at the end of the study, two-thirds had intestinal symptoms rather than psychological ones. This finding suggests that irritable bowel syndrome is more common to cause psychological problems than the other way aroundwhether in the form of anxiety, stress or depression.

        On the other hand, it has been shown that the intestinal microbiota influences the intestinal axis of the brain, that is to say all the organs and neural networks that connect our brain to most of the digestive system. This has been observed in mice, animals where scientists have found stress-related illnesses, both acute and chronic, that can alter the intestinal environment by altering the composition of the gut microbiota. This altered microbiota has been associated with anxious and depressive behaviors in these rodents.

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