How Can I Treat Anxiety-Related Nausea?
I went camping this past weekend — a feat in itself, essentially. Thanks to our awesomely large tent and my penchant for over-packing, I felt safe. I had my anxiety meds. I had enough clothing. I had food and I had water and I had plenty of blankets.
And, thankfully, I also had my “nausea bag”.
Because nausea is one of my most difficult-to-handle anxiety symptoms, I lug around a big black bag of Every Nausea Remedy Known To Man whenever I travel.
I don’t get carsick, exactly — I’ve never actually puked on the side of the road or anything. But no matter: my stomach does flips, I start to sweat, I feel the impulse to dry heave, my mouth gets all spitty, and I sit whining in the passenger seat with my head between my knees.
THE CHICKEN, THE EGG, OR BOTH?
Does the nausea cause the anxiety, or does the anxiety (of traveling) cause the nausea? Framing such a question in an either/or fashion answers nothing. I’m certain it’s a little bit of both. I’m emetophobic, so I’m afraid to puke (and afraid of feeling nausiated in general). And, I’m agoraphobic — so I’m afraid to go out and travel by car.
When nausea and anxiety combine, they form a powerful boss.
And, as we were leaving the campsite on Sunday, my anxiety began to kick in. We collapsed the tent and, immediately, my symbolic safe space had been rolled up into a bag.
This is where I started to feel ill. I ran away from the campsite, thinking a short walk or a trip to the bathhouse might help. It did not.
I rushed back to the campsite, shaking, sweating, and feeling queasy. These powerful ingredients cooked up a powerful panic attack that landed me in the passenger’s seat of my husband’s car, unable to continue packing up, unable to do much of anything except think about the powerful nausea in my gut and what it might produce.
And this is where my nausea bag came in handy.
MY ANXIOUS-NAUSEA REMEDIES
If your own belly crumbles under the weight of anxiety like mine, consider putting together a nausea bag for emergencies. I know that it’s not the best thing in the world to rely on “safe items” for anxiety — but, frankly, when you’re at the breaking point, it can be helpful to have some good stuff on hand.
Here’s what’s in my bag:
1. Dramamine. Obviously, you’ll want to talk to your doctor or your pharmacist before taking any new meds — especially if you’re already on prescription drugs for anything. But I swear by Dramamine — the original kind. Dramamine II is a different drug entirely (meclizine); the original Dramamine is called diphenhydrinate and it works wonders for me. Granted, it’s no quick fix — it takes about an hour to kick in.
2. Emetrol. Emetrol isn’t good if you’re diabetic, and that’s because it’s full of sugar. According to the Emetrol website, the liquid works by calming muscle contractions in your gut. I take a swig when I feel vomity.
3. Pepto-Bismol. This one’s a staple. I keep the chewable tablets everywhere — in my nausea bag, in my purse, in my car, and occasionally I find them in the wash because I tend to shove them in my pockets now and again. I like the chewables because I can either chew them and get them out of the way, or I can stick it behind my tongue and let it work its magic slowly.
4. Peppermint oil. I have a bottle of Aura Cacia’s peppermint oil in there. It’s awesome stuff. Just wafting it under my nose will generally help (and I’m sure it’s part psychological, too, given that I have such positive associations with that scent) — but if I’m really in distress, I mix the oil with a little bit of lotion and I put it on my stomach. Kudos to my fellow emetophobe Sarah Reck of Reader Writer Dreamer for teaching me this trick via Facebook chat when I was down and out on my bathroom floor last month with the stomach bug.
5. Saltines. No explanation needed. They’re comforting and will absorb any excess stomach acid I have from not eating due to the nausea.
6. Anti-nausea wristbands. The jury’s still out on whether or not these are just hocus-pocus, but I strap them on my wrists nonetheless. They put pressure on a point in your wrist that’s said to relieve nausea. They sort of hurt after awhile, but other than that, they’re innocuous enough.
7. Lemon oil. I carry this oil too. While I usually prefer the peppermint oil, the lemon oil is also quite excellent for under-the-nose wafting. A pregnant friend swore by this method — although she carried around an actual physical lemon, which I’d rather not do at this stage in the game. (All bets are off when I do get pregnant, however.)
LET’S END THIS STORY WITH A FRIENDLY DOG
I wish I could end every nausea or panic story with a dog.
So, there I am, sitting in the passenger’s seat while my husband and friends pack up. I slapped on my wristbands, swallowed some Xanax, tossed back a shot of Emetrol, rubbed peppermint oil on my belly, and waited.
Then, my friend Justin’s dog, who’d been camping with us (and managed to eat an entire stick of butter the day prior, amusingly), hopped up onto my lap.
“Car ride?” she would have asked, I’m sure, if she could speak.
Nope, no car ride. Just a nauseous Summer. And Lexi (that’s the dog) seemed to understand my plight — she sat on my lap and started licking the crap out of my face. She sniffed my peppermint oil and tried to lick my belly through my teeshirt.
Then, she laid on my lap, wagged her tail, and I scratched her belly until the nausea — and thus, the panic — subsided.
Photo credit: Sharyn Morrow (Flickr)
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Beretsky, S. (2013). How Can I Treat Anxiety-Related Nausea?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 26, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/panic/2013/06/how-can-i-treat-anxiety-related-nausea/