Anxiety rash: what is it and how do you stop it?

Most people experience some stress each day and it manifests itself in different ways. [Photo: Getty]
Most people experience some stress each day and it manifests itself in different ways. [Photo: Getty]

Anxiety manifests itself in different ways and contrary to popular belief, the symptoms aren’t just psychological.

According to the NHS, physical symptoms might include pins and needles, a dry mouth and excessive sweating.

If you’re one of the thousands of people in the UK like me, your anxiety might present itself in the form of a bumpy rash letting you know (as if you didn’t know already) of your impending anxiousness.

But why do some bodies respond this way and, is there anything we can do to stop it?

READ MORE: Surprising signs you could be suffering from a mental illness

Why do I get an anxiety rash?

An anxiety rash is sometimes also referred to as a stress rash. Most often, it’s a response to your body’s immune system attacking the anxiety, so Fortunata Oleszkiewicz, clinic director at Koha Skin Clinics explains.

“During stressful events, our body produces cortisol - the fight or flight hormone. It was very useful back in the days when we needed to hunt for our meals, but less so now as we enjoy safe shopping in supermarkets.”

“Experiencing prolonged stress could overdose your body with cortisol and, in the long run, cause anxiety and skin sensitivity that results in rashes and hives.”

The body’s response to the feeling of cortisol levels rising is a partly physiological one. It releases histamines to the rest of the body in a bid to fight anxiety.

Feelings of anxiety cannot be alleviated with histamines. In turn, the skin reacts to this build up by producing a rash or hives.

Thank you, body, but you really didn’t have to.

READ MORE: Stroking a cat or dog can reduce stress levels

How can you tell it apart from other rashes?

It doesn’t look any different to any other rash. However, it will be accompanied by the familiar psychological feelings of anxiety, which tends to be quite a giveaway.

For me, it looks almost identical to a heat rash. For others, you might have itchy, raised bumps or perhaps it only affects one part of your skin.

There’s no hard and fast rules for what your rash should or shouldn’t look like but if you’re not sure, or your rash is accompanied by other symptoms, a trip to the GP might be in order.

What can I use to help my stress rash?

“A good way to effectively manage skin conditions caused by chronic stress is by taking over the counter antihistamines to reduce itching and pain.” Dr Rikin at ZO Skin Health UK explains.

It makes sense, right? If your body is producing too many histamines, it’s time to get rid of them.

“Applying cold compresses to the skin can also help relieve itching, whilst wearing loose-fitting clothing will stop excessive perspiration which may irritate the skin further.”

READ MORE: What are the white spots we get on our skin in the summer?

Home remedies

Home remedies are becoming increasingly popular to soothe the skin, but you should always check with your GP first before trying something new.

It’s important to choose the right natural ingredients, otherwise you could end up making it worse.

Dr Rikin suggests aloe vera (which is renowned for soothing the skin after spending too long in the sun) or an oatmeal bath.

Ultimately, the skin’s response is part of a larger problem, so even if you do manage to get the skin part of your anxiety under control, it’s important to look at ways to lessen the impact of anxiety altogether.

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