Researchers in a new study observed that people reporting symptoms of anxiety were also more likely to say they had peptic ulcer disease. It was long believed that worry gave you ulcers. Then research showed that infection with the common bacterium Helicobacter pylori was a major risk factor, and the link with anxiety was neglected. However, researchers at the University of California now report that people with generalized anxiety do seem to be more likely to suffer form ulcers.
Generalised anxiety disorder affects three to four per cent of Americans and is characterised by feelings of unremitting worry, dread and lack of energy. In a wide-ranging survey, those reporting anxiety were more likely to also report suffering from gastric ulcers. The more anxiety symptoms they had, the more likely they were to report ulcers.
The researchers don't know why such a link exists. It may be that stress undermines the immune response to H. pylori , or that ulcers cause anxiety - rather than the other way round. It is possible that treating anxiety, as well as H. pylori may be a more powerful way of healing a peptic ulcer.