Chronic pelvic pain can be caused by a number of underlying conditions.
Many women suffer from endometriosis, for instance, or fibroids, both of which can cause pain in your pelvis area. But stress can make pain worse, and that includes pelvic pain. If you’re feeling stress about your health, that’s a double whammy that definitely has an impact.
Let’s explore how health anxiety can cause pelvic pain.
Chronic Pelvic Pain
Chronic pelvic pain is defined as pain in the area below your belly button and between your hips that lasts six months or longer.1 Chronic pain can come and go, or be constant; it doesn’t have to be present every day.2 It can follow a cycle, like happening after your menstrual cycle, or only at certain times, like after sex or when you’re urinating.2
The pain may be related to your reproductive organs, your urinary tract or bowel, or muscular and skeletal problems like lower back pain, disk injuries, and pelvic muscle spasms.2
Anxiety and Pelvic Pain
Doctors stress that pelvic pain is often caused by physical factors, but the mind can play a significant role as well. Psychological factors, such as depression and anxiety, can lead to pelvic pain.3 For instance, stress and anxiety can lead to tightening of the pelvic floor muscles, which can result in pain or high-tone pelvic floor dysfunction.4
That doesn’t mean the pain is “all in your head.” It simply means there could be more to your pain than what is easily diagnosed. Even something as seemingly innocent as clenching your bum during times of stress—which you may not even realize you’re doing—can make matters worse.5 Pelvic pain can cause stress and anxiety, and anxiety and stress can cause pelvic pain.5
Risk factors for chronic pelvic pain include depression, chronic stress or a history of sexual or physical abuse. Such emotional distress makes pain worse, and living with chronic pain contributes to emotional distress—leading to a vicious cycle for women in pain.1
If you have been diagnosed with an underlying physical condition that’s causing the pelvic pain, the stress and anxiety of worrying about your health can make it worse. That’s because your mind can play a big role in the development and experience of chronic pain, even without physical pain triggers.3
See a Doctor
It’s important to see a doctor if your pelvic pain is causing anxiety, or if you think the underlying condition is stress, depression or anxiety.3 Identifying the cause of the pain can set you on a path to recovery. Use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health, who can help with diagnosis and treatment of your pelvic condition, as well as support for stress, anxiety and depression.