Anxiety disorder is commonly found in IC patients. In fact, IC patients are 4.37 times more likely than the general population to have been diagnosed with general anxiety disorder previous to their IC diagnosis. And if they weren’t, patients are still 2.4 times more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety after the onset of their urinary symptoms.(1) Interestingly, when anxiety is treated, urinary symptoms often reduce dramatically.
Why? What’s the connection? New research has found that patients who struggle with chronic overlapping pain conditions (IC, IBS, vulvodynia, fibromyalgia, TMJ, migraines and more) have a central nervous system and brain stuck in “fight or flight,” often the result of physical or emotional trauma in childhood. This results in a gradual, sometimes persistent, sensitivity of nerves and muscle tension throughout the body, including the bladder and bowel. Thus, in addition to struggling with IC symptoms, many of you are also struggling with chronic anxiety disorder and there is a downside to that. Pain that is accompanied by anxiety is intensified by the midbrain but pain accompanied by laughter is minimized by the brain. Of course, almost every IC patient can attest to the fact that their IC symptoms have occasionally been exacerbated by stress.
“Every day I work with patients who have chronic anxiety disorder, often triggered by a traumatic event or PTSD early in their life. Some are so anxious that they are literally spinning in place, unable to take any step forward in their medical care,” offered national IC support group leader Jill Osborne. “What they don’t see is that their anxiety is not only worsening their pain, it’s causing the nervous system to become more sensitive. Every catastrophic thought triggers a “fight or flight” response that, over months or years, can take a terrible toll on our nervous system.” Unchecked anxiety disorder and catastrophizing are common.