The science behind stress causing abdominal pain and other stomach symptoms is quite complicated. However, put simply, the digestive system has its own network of nerves and pathways known as the enteric nervous system. For this reason the gut and digestive system is sometimes called our ‘second brain’.
Scientists believe the enteric nervous system is connected to our brain. This is something they call the brain-gut axis. Put simply, this means things that affect our brain and mind such as stress can affect the digestive system and cause physical symptoms such as abdominal pain. Chemicals which affect our emotions and mood (such as the neurotransmitter serotonin) can also affect our digestive system.
The treatment therefore for abdominal pain caused by stress should focus on treating the stress rather than the abdominal pain. A variety of techniques can be utilised such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), self help techniques and hypnosis. The principle of this is to treat the cause of the abdominal pain rather than just trying to treat the symptoms which won’t resolve the root cause of the problem.