The link between anxiety and sweating

Exploring why feeling anxious can lead to sweating, and what you can do about it.

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Do you ever find yourself sweating profusely in situations where you feel anxious or stressed? If so, it may be that your anxiety is directly causing this. Sweating from anxiety is an excessive form of perspiration that’s often caused by a sudden surge in negative emotion, anxiety or stress. Sometimes referred to as ‘psychogenic sweating’, it simply means sweating due to mental health issues like anxiety, worry or stress.

It can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, and can lead to a cycle of anxiety and worry. In this article, we’ll explore the link between anxiety and sweating, and discuss what you can do to manage it.

Does anxiety make you sweat?

Anxiety can make you sweat. This is because when we feel anxious or stressed, our body releases stress hormones that cause the sympathetic nervous system to kick in. This stress response triggers our ‘fight or flight’ response.

This makes us sweat more in order to cool the body down – a useful adaptation if we're under immediate threat. However, sweating with anxiety isn’t needed to cool the body – instead it just creates a frustrating side effect that can make people feel even worse.

What are anxiety sweats like?

Anxiety sweating is an excessive form of perspiration that’s often characterised by sweat on the forehead, palms of the hands, and underarms. It’s different from the typical sweating that occurs because of physical exertion or heat, as it can happen even in cooler climates. Anxiety sweating is usually accompanied by other symptoms of anxiety such as a racing heart rate and breathlessness.

This type of sweating can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, as it can be difficult to hide sweat stains on clothing. It can also worsen feelings of social anxiety, as the visible signs of perspiration can make you feel more self-conscious in social situations. This can lead to a cycle of anxiety, where worrying about sweating causes more anxiety, which in turn leads to more sweating.

Can anxiety cause night sweats?

Night sweats can be very disruptive to your sleep and are a common symptom of anxiety. They usually come with other symptoms such as restlessness, difficulty sleeping, irritability and racing thoughts.

Night sweats can cause you to wake up feeling hot and sweaty and you might need to change your bedding or clothing. As well as making you feel uncomfortable, night sweats can fuel your anxiety in the long run.

Sleep and anxiety are closely connected. Not getting enough sleep at night can contribute to feelings of anxiety, low mood and generally stop you from getting the rest you need to function at your best. When day turns to night and you head up to bed, that anxiety can linger in our minds, stopping us from getting to sleep and contributing to us feeling anxious the next day. This cycle can be exacerbated by night sweats due to anxiety.

How to stop anxiety sweating

What can we do to reduce anxiety sweats? It can be a challenging task, but there are several strategies you can use to help manage this issue. By implementing these strategies, you can better cope with anxiety sweats, or reduce sweating altogether - improving your sleep and creating the environment you need to improve your overall quality of life.

  • Engage in relaxation techniques - it's beneficial to take some time out of your day to practise relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation. These techniques can help to alleviate anxiety and the sweating that often accompanies it
  • Opt for loose, breathable clothing - choosing to wear clothing that's loose-fitting and made from breathable materials can help to minimise sweating and keep you feeling more comfortable throughout the day
  • Maintain a cool body temperature - keeping your body temperature on the cooler side can help to reduce the amount of sweating you experience. Try to avoid environments that are excessively hot, and have a cool shower before bed
  • Keep yourself hydrated - ensuring that you drink plenty of water throughout the day can help to regulate your body temperature and reduce the amount of sweating you experience
  • Try other strategies for better sleep – more restful sleep will reduce your anxiety, leading to less sweating in the day or at night. Making your bedroom device-free, avoiding caffeine and alcohol at night and engaging in a regular sleep routine can all help improve your rest
  • Get professional help - if anxiety-induced sweating is significantly impacting your daily life, it may be beneficial to get help. A professional therapist can help you identify the root cause of your anxiety and develop effective strategies to manage it

While there are some steps you can take yourself to reduce the severity of your anxiety symptoms, if they persist and are severely affecting your life, then it might be time to get professional support from a mental health specialist such as Priory.

Get in touch and find out how we can help put you on a path to better wellbeing.

Page clinically reviewed by Zhila Alfrouz (BA, MA, BACP), CBT Therapist/Counsellor at Priory Wellbeing Centre Manchester.

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