It’s no secret that Americans are stressed. In fact, according to a 2019 Gallup poll, they are the most stressed in the world. Although stress is often most associated with emotions, it can actually have a substantial bearing on our physical health as well.
Common physical symptoms of stress include headaches, fatigue, high blood pressure, and rashes. Our bodies and brain work together, so it should be no surprise that mental effects of anxiety often create a physical impact, too. When you are feeling stressed, the body reacts by releasing chemicals that can trigger inflammation.
This can make your skin sensitive and cause unsightly flare-ups. If you are a person who gets frequent anxiety rashes, keep reading to understand what they are and how to handle them.
Anxiety or stress rashes are more common in those with underlying skin conditions such as allergies, rosacea, or eczema. Yet they can happen to all skin types; even those without previous skin reactions can develop an anxiety rash at any time.
One thing to note is that anxiety itself is not what causes the rash, but the stress causing your anxiety. When a person gets stressed, the body becomes tense and releases extra adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream.
This can lead to numerous reactions including skin problems. When a person becomes too stressed, the body cannot protect itself as well as it needs to. If left untreated, rashes could turn into more extreme problems such as acne, psoriasis, or even herpes. While stress does not specifically create these conditions, it can keep them from healing.
What Makes Anxiety Rashes Different
Because there are so many different types of rashes, pinpointing an anxiety rash is tricky. Rashes occur for all sorts of reasons – a walk in the woods, using a new laundry detergent, or dealing with stress.
The best way to know if your rash is stress-related is to eliminate all other potential causes. In general, anxiety rashes look like red, blotchy hives and can appear anywhere on the body. They will usually itch and will burn if touched.
Be sure to avoid itching the rash as scratching can cause it to worsen by spreading bacteria. Although a single rash usually goes away in 24-48 hours, if you do not manage your anxiety, new rashes will continue to appear.
Besides being uncomfortable, rashes can be very embarrassing for those experiencing them. The pressure to cover up the red, blotchy irritations, having others notice them, and not knowing when they will suddenly appear, can have damaging mental effects. The uncertainty of rashes – both when they will come and go – can make it difficult to plan social engagements or even work in a job with regular customer interactions.
Attempts to cover the rash with various makeups and creams or clothing can hinder the healing process. All of this can lead to more stress, exacerbating both the anxiety and the rash.
The solution is simple. To control an anxiety rash, you must begin by controlling the stress and anxiety that caused it. Decreasing anxiety will increase your chances of improvement. There are many ways to reduce your anxiety including anxiety medications, deep breathing, cognitive behavioral therapy, and talking to a therapist.
Because stress is simply the body’s attempt to process an anxious or overwhelming situation, you can reduce anxiety rashes by knowing how to handle your stress.
Your body will eliminate negative reactions to tension and uncomfortable situations when you become more aware of the warning signs of stress. Think about the sources of stress in your life. Perhaps you are dealing with an unhealthy relationship, demanding job, financial issues.
You may not be able to change any of those situations, but you can control your reaction and response to the stressful triggers they cause. Once you have greater control over the anxiety in your life, you may notice milder or fewer rashes. Consider the following as ways to manage your stress:
- Go for a walk, practice yoga, meditate, or do tai chi. Physical exercise is as healthy for your head as it is for your heart. Getting your body moving can help take your mind off your stress, lift your spirits, stimulate the production of hormones, and reduce the levels of cortisol and adrenaline, your body’s stress hormones. Regular exercise can help with stress management and keep your anxiety rashes under control.
- Meet a friend for lunch or coffee. Discussing your problems with a trusted friend can be a great way to relieve stress. Even just knowing that there is someone who cares enough about you to take the time to listen to you can make all the difference. Whether you meet up in person or simply talk on the phone, communicating with a good friend may help keep your stress and anxiety rashes in check.
- Listen to music, read a book, watch a show. Sometimes taking a break from your hectic schedule can successfully alleviate stress. When you feel your anxiety start to creep up, take a break. Even if it is just for 10 minutes to watch a funny YouTube clip, listen to a favorite song, or to catch up on a good podcast, you may be able to stay more relaxed during moments of anxiety.
Once you discover relaxation techniques and practice them on a regular basis, you should find that your rash starts to go away. But anyone with anxiety will tell you that it is nearly impossible to handle it on your own. Most often, the support and guidance of a professional therapist is the only way to tackle anxiety once and for all.
Seek Professional Help
Those with persistent rashes should reach out to their doctor or dermatologist to relieve their symptoms. But cortisone creams and antihistamines can only knock out inflammation for so long. If your rash is not responding to medical treatment, and once allergies and other potential causes are eliminated, it could be time to seek the help of a professional therapist. Your medical doctor may even suggest seeking therapy to help your stress-induced rashes go away.
It is important to understand that you do not have to live with constant and persistent rashes. The physical impact you are experiencing as a result of stress is absolutely treatable.