Can Stress or Anxiety Lead to Appendicitis?

Can Stress or Anxiety Lead to Appendicitis

The human gut consists of billions of nerve cells that regulate the digestion process. If you are experiencing both stress and stomach pain and are wondering if stress can cause appendicitis then read this article in full. 

Stress affects the digestive tract and may cause gastrointestinal diseases, but stress does not directly cause appendicitis. However, it may contribute to other issues of the gastrointestinal system, like abdominal pain.

What is Appendicitis?


The appendix is a small organ that is connected to the large intestine. It measures 3 to 4 inches.

Appendicitis is a condition in which the appendix is in flames and causes severe pain. The pain usually starts close to the belly button and slowly moves towards the lower right abdomen.

The person may even feel pain while coughing, sneezing, or taking deep breaths. Often this pain is so intense that it may wake you from sleep. Moreover, it worsens if you move around.

There are two types of appendicitis- acute and chronic (3). 

  • In acute appendicitis, the inflammation of the appendix occurs suddenly, while in chronic appendicitis, the inflammation lasts for weeks, months, or years.
  • In chronic appendicitis, the pain usually occurs at intervals for months before it can be diagnosed as appendicitis. As the pain is less severe and not continuous, like acute appendicitis, most times, people do not understand the reason for this pain and do not seek immediate help till it gets serious. 

The treatment of appendicitis is appendectomy. 

Appendicitis Symptoms

  • Cramping pain in the lower right abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Malaise
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Inability to pass gas

What Are The Causes Of Appendicitis?

There are various reasons that can cause appendicitis, such as-

  • hardened stool
  • enlarged tissue in the appendix wall
  • intestinal parasites like worms, tumors
  • inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (4). 

Such issues may lead to inflammation of the appendix that causes appendicitis.

Early life stress like abuse, poverty, or neglect can contribute to visceral pain due to the gut-brain axis, a connection between the digestive system and the nervous system.

Remember, stress is a significant factor that can lead to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which could be a risk factor for appendicitis.

Conditions like anxiety or depression may add to abdominal pain. This is because these conditions may result in the release of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol can disrupt processes in the gastrointestinal system that can affect gut motility and the balance of microbes in your gut. This may result in stomach pain.  

How Does Stress Affect The Digestive System?

stress affect the digestive system

Some gastrointestinal diseases like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Dyspepsia may be caused by mental factors like stress. The extensive network of digestive tract nerve cells known as the enteric nervous system and central nervous system influence and interact with each other (1). Chronic stress may primarily affect the digestive system through its effect on the brain-gut axis (2). This may include disorders like diarrhoea, abdominal bloating, stomach pain, etc.

Stress is also responsible for impairing the immunity of the digestive system. The gut microbiome (habitat of microorganisms in the gut) can be affected by chronic stress, making the digestive tract more susceptible to inflammatory disorders and infections. 

Though there is no direct link between appendicitis and stress, the reduced immunity due to stress and the long-term effects of stress on the health of the gut may contribute to appendicitis.  

How to Treat Appendicitis?

Once you visit a doctor with appendicitis syndrome, you will undergo a physical examination and medical history check-up. The healthcare professional may ask to undergo the following tests to confirm appendicitis.

  • Computed Tomography (CT) scan: It produces high resolution images of most regions of the body.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging: It is sometimes used to diagnose appendicitis, especially in pregnant women.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests will help to find if there is any case of infection.
  • Urine test: it helps to rule out illnesses like bladder or kidney-related issues and other problems related to the digestive tract.

Can Gut Health Be Improved By Reducing Stress?

Though there is no direct relation between stress and appendicitis, managing the stress may help to improve overall gut health. Some techniques to reduce stress are:

  • yoga
  • breathing meditation
  • physical activity
  • hobbies
  • stress-reducing application and games
  • talking to loved ones 

There is no known way to avoid appendicitis altogether. Eating a high fibre diet may help to improve the overall digestive health.

Can Appendicitis Cause Any Complication?

If the appendicitis is not treated on time, it can be fatal. It can negatively influence the lifestyle of the person suffering from it. The person may feel irritated and frustrated due to constant pain. Also, the health will keep worsening as the person will lose appetite. Hence, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately if such a condition is suspected (5). 

Chronic appendicitis may also lead to severe infection if not treated on time. If the appendix ruptures, the healing period will increase, and you may need more medications and injections.


So, the answer to can stress cause appendicitis is NO.

No scientific research has so far proved a direct link between stress and appendicitis. 

However, the link between your gastrointestinal health and overall mood, known as the brain- gut axis, can affect the development or worsening of many gastrointestinal conditions, some of which may feel like appendicitis. 

People believe that stress can enhance appendix perforations and appendicitis-related inflammations; however, there is no such well-researched scientific theory. More study is required in this field. 

If you are experiencing continuous abdominal pain on the right side of your stomach and you doubt it is appendicitis, seek immediate medical attention. The doctor can advise you if it is appendicitis or any other condition. 


  1. National Library Of Medicine – The Enteric Nervous System and Its Emerging Role as a Therapeutic Target
  2. The Physiological Society – The impact of acute and chronic stress on gastrointestinal physiology and function
  3. Johns Kopkins Medicine – Appendicitis
  4. Science Direct – Clinical Syndromes and Cardinal Features of Infectious Diseases 
  5. Science Direct – The relationship between daily stress and symptoms of irritable bowel

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