Summary: Is your anxiety causing you to sweat more than normal? Here’s a deeper look at this issue.
You already know the basic principle of sweat: it’s our bodies’ natural defense against overheating. When we are exerting ourselves or in a high-temperature environment, our bodies use the ability to produce sweat to cool down. It’s the latent-heat principle, and it prevents important organs (like our brains) from being damaged by those high temperatures. But sometimes our sweating doesn’t seem to happen in connection to physical temperature—so what does it mean when our bodies start to sweat over something like stress?
Can anxiety cause excessive sweating, too?
It can, and the principle that causes us to sweat when we are stressed isn’t actually very far off from the one that makes us sweat to cool down. In fact, they are actually partly related.
Here’s how it works:
When we are stressed or anxious, it triggers a primal response in our bodies. Why? Because back in the day, when our biggest priority was keeping the cave tidy, hunting and foraging for food, and avoiding predators, our bodies typically felt stress in response to a physical threat—like a hungry tiger, or a potentially fatal fall from a cliff. As we evolved into the social sphere of today, our body’s stress responses maintained this traditional pattern—only it became applied to the non-physical factors that began to stress us out, too. That’s essentially the rationality behind panic attacks, too. Our emotional and psychological stresses trigger the same physical threat responses in our bodies, and our bodies react physically, with sweating, accelerated heartbeats, muscle tension, and affected breathing.
Of course, it isn’t just a tangential relationship. There are physical factors: namely hormones. When our body perceive stress, it responds by releasing a cocktail of hormones: adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones. These hormones convey the information to the rest of our bodies that would ultimately allow them to perform necessary, life-saving tasks. Your heart rate increases and your breathing quickens to move more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, which tense in preparation for flight. This also causes your body to heat up, which prompts the activation of your sweat glands to keep you cool and balance your electrolytes and fluids.
Further, because it’s a hormonal response instead of a temperature-based response, you might notice that your stress sweat smells different than your heat sweat. That’s normal, too, but normal or not, it can be unpleasant to experience—especially when it causes your body to sweat excessively, or to suffer a hyperhidrosis spell.
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What can you do to quell the sweating?
For one thing, if you are experiencing excessive sweating and panic attacks on the regular as a result of stress and anxiety, then addressing that anxiety is a top priority. There are products that can help make your sweating less noticeable and more comfortable, but you should find a professional who can help talk you through your anxiety and set you up with some coping mechanisms. Once you’ve taken steps to accommodate your mental health, you can start looking into the products that will ease your mind about your excessive sweating, like Kleinert’s line of products for dealing with hyperhidrosis such as sweatproof undershirts, underarm pads, and Sweat Shield Ultra Wipes.