Diarrhea and psyche

Reactions of the psyche are very closely related to the digestive system and the gastrointestinal tract. The gastrointestinal tract is now even seen as a second brain, as it has a highly complex nervous system of its own and its health is closely related to mental health and emotional affect states. Mental diarrhea is now a recognized and widespread independent disease.
Nausea, indigestion, constipation, abdominal cramps and abdominal pain can also have psychological causes or be aggravated by the psyche. The intensity of gastrointestinal reactions to psychological stress varies greatly from person to person. Some people are very sensitive to this. Many complaints of the gastrointestinal tract today cannot be attributed to any organic disease and most likely have a psychological cause.

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The most common causes of stress-related complaints of the digestive system are psychological reactions such as strong emotions, stress, grief, mania or fear. The complaints occur above all in all mental states that are associated with a form of stress reaction. Strong emotions but also fear can provoke extreme stress, as can physical stress from increased physical activity. This leads to a release of stress hormones that flood the whole body and cause reactions in all cells and organs.

These reactions are known as "fight-or-flight" reactions and prepare the body to deal with the situation. The pulse and breathing increase, the tendency to sweat increases, the body releases adrenaline and digestion can accelerate. This can cause abdominal cramps, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Also read the article on the topic: Causes of diarrhea


Stress can occur as physical or psychological stress. In both cases, the stress leads to a release of hormones that prepare the entire body to cope with the stressful situation. This is a physiological and sensible process that activates physical resources in acute stressful situations in order to survive the situation with full physical functionality.

Stress becomes problematic when it occurs repeatedly or permanently. Both physically and mentally, the physical resources are exhausted after a while, so that various symptoms such as exhaustion, depression and numerous other mental and organic diseases can occur. Diarrhea can occur and be present both in the acute stress reaction and in the chronic course. Diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome can also be associated with recurring digestive problems and can be traced back to a stress reaction.

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The diagnosis of the psychological cause of the indigestion is a so-called "exclusion diagnosis". This means that if diarrhea recurs, it is first necessary to look for physical and organic diseases. As a rule, if you have diarrhea with accompanying symptoms, blood tests and stool examinations are carried out first.

Furthermore, with a stomach and colonoscopy, some parts of the digestive system can be examined with the camera, where possible organic diseases of the stomach or colon can be uncovered. The examination with the ultrasound can provide further rough information on structural changes of the abdominal organs.

If the complaints remain unexplained, a CT examination can follow, in which the entire abdominal area can be examined in layers under high radiation exposure. Other special procedures can complement organic diagnostics. Only if there is further uncertainty can the suspected diagnosis of mental illness be made. This can be diagnosed and processed in more detail in psychological treatment.

Find out more about the topic: Colonoscopy

Other accompanying symptoms

The accompanying symptoms can resemble those of an acute or chronic stress reaction. Symptoms appear all over the body and various organs, as the stress reaction is activated by hormones in all body cells. Typical symptoms are increased heart and respiratory rate, tendency to sweat, excitement, insomnia, weight loss and weight gain.

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The digestive tract can experience cramps, pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation. Furthermore, stress reactions occur in the muscles with an increased tendency to tension and muscle cramps.
The immune system can also decrease throughout the body, leading to a wide variety of infections, which in turn are associated with symptoms. Psychologically, stress can manifest itself acutely as a psychological stress reaction with fatigue, stupor (rigidity), burn-out symptoms and depression. In the long term, numerous other psychological symptoms can arise.


Treatment of diarrhea in the event of a psychological stress reaction can be symptomatic and causal. The causal treatment, which includes psychological care and treatment, should always be in the foreground. In many cases, talk therapy is primarily used, which deals with the causes of the psychological stress and develops solutions as well as relaxation options for everyday life. Various psychotherapeutic methods can be used for the respective situation.

In order not to aggravate the diarrhea, you should also eat a healthy diet and avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine. Medicines for the symptomatic treatment of diarrhea should only be an option after a long period of time and therapeutic attempts have been made.

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Duration / forecast

The duration and prognosis of the symptoms can vary widely and depend on the individual psychological stress reaction. The diarrhea can only be a temporary symptom in the acute phase of the stress reaction or it can persist chronically. The psychological stress can subside by itself or require psychotherapy.

In these cases, the prognosis depends on the type of psychological stress and the individual response to therapy. Mental illnesses can sometimes take on a chronic course and decrease in waves and then increase again. It is not possible to estimate the general duration of the illness.

Read more on the topic: Duration of diarrhea

Course of disease

The course of the disease is unpredictable and highly dependent on the person concerned and the individual case. Mental illness and its physical consequences can take many forms and can therefore be difficult to diagnose and treat. The diarrhea can occur both in the acute phase of psychological stress and in the chronic course.

The initiation of psychotherapy is not always accompanied by a continuous improvement of the symptoms, but can be frustrating. Many cases can be permanently improved within a few weeks to months, while in other cases the symptoms can often remain chronic. Often there is a wavy course in psychological complaints with temporary improvements.

Find out more about the topic: psychotherapy

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