Anxiety is a common IBS symptom. Usually anxiety will make other IBS symptoms worse. In other words, anxiety & IBS often form a closed feedback loop such as the one below:

IBS & Anxiety Loop

  1. Become anxious from internal or external source, possibly from other IBS symptoms.
  2. IBS symptoms worsen due to anxiety.
  3. Go back to step #1.

Anxiety can eventually lead to having panic attacks in stressful situations, such as in a cramped car or bus, or stuck in a meeting without access to the bathroom. Usually these anxious situations have a social stigma to them. You don’t want to get up to go use the restroom because everyone is going to wonder why that person is using the restroom so often, but at the same time you can’t just sit there and have an “accident” as that would be a complete disaster. Panic attacks may be more likely in people who have other phobias such as Emetophobia, Agoraphobia or who have had traumatic experiences in their past & may be suffering from things like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

This anxiety & possible panic situation makes it harder for someone suffering from IBS to concentrate and focus on tasks at hand due to the fact that they are spending so much effort with their own internal anxiety struggle due to the very physical symptoms they are having.