About stress & upper abdominal pain

Updated July 19, 2017

People suffering from stress may find that they have upper abdominal pain. Stress is linked to this type of pain in a variety of ways. A person under stress may go to the doctor only to find that there is nothing physically wrong. Alternatively they may find that they are now suffering from a physical stomach condition that is caused by stress.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is related to stress. It is a common physical reaction to long term stress and anxiety. The symptoms of IBS are upper abdominal pain, constipation, gas, upset stomach and diarrhoea. There is no actual cure for IBS, but there are many treatment options available including medication and diet change that help manage and remove some of these symptoms. Working to reduce stress can also help to reduce the severity of symptoms.


Although the cause is unknown, stress can also cause constipation without actually causing IBS. Constipation can cause upper abdominal pain and is easily treated. There are many over-the-counter medications that help with constipation, but adding more fibre to the diet can also help. Like with IBS, treating the stress can help in treating the constipation. Most people who suffer constipation as a physical symptom of stress find that it goes away after the stress is eased.

Psychosomatic Pain

Psychosomatic pain is pain that is purely psychological and has no physical cause. Although there is pain, the person does not have anything physically wrong. Psychosomatic pain due to stress can occur as chest pain, abdominal pain and headaches. Because there is no physical cause, pain killers will not usually help. The only way to treat psychosomatic pain is to treat the stress that is causing it.

No Link to Ulcers

Peptic ulcers are often associated with stress even though the two are unrelated. Ulcers can cause upper abdominal pain, but contrary to popular belief they are not formed due to stress. Although it is possible for a person to have stress and an ulcer, one did not cause the other. Ulcers need immediate attention from a doctor to prevent them from getting worse. Medication can be taken that will help prevent the ulcer from causing further problems.

Medication Side Effects

When stress is severe enough, a doctor may choose to prescribe an anti-anxiety medication. Medications prescribed for stress can cause upper abdominal pain. Side effects related to abdominal pain include upset stomach, constipation, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. Although coming off of the medication with the help of the doctor is an option, in some cases it is not always the best decision. Trying different medications that don't cause uncomfortable side effects should be attempted first.

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About the Author

Cassandra Quinonez has been writing professionally since 2009. Her work has been published on eHow and Answerbag, focusing mainly on mental health topics. She holds an Associate of Arts and and Associate of Science from Victor Valley Community College and is working on her Bachelor of Arts in psychology at California State University, San Bernardino.