Sweating, also called perspiration, is used to control temperature in the body. People perspire most often under the arms, on the palms and on the feet, however, many people also sweat on their face. Although sweating is a normal bodily function, when someone sweats excessively, it can be embarrassing.
Sweating is a common symptom of anxiety. One theory is that anxiety causes the body temperature to rise, which in turn, causes sweating. Unfortunately, however, excessive sweating and fear of embarrassment can increase anxiety, causing more sweating. It becomes a vicious cycle and just the fear of sweating can induce anxiety.
Medical Conditions That May Cause Sweating
As with many symptoms of anxiety, there are some medical conditions that may cause sweating. It is important to talk with your doctor to make sure there is no underlying cause of sweating that should be addressed.
Some medical conditions that may contribute to or cause sweating include:
- Certain medications, such as thyroid medications, morphine, and some medications used to treat mental disorders.
- Fever or infection
- Low blood sugar
- Withdrawal from some medications, illegal drugs or alcohol
In addition to the above, the National Institute of Health recommends contacting your doctor if:
- You sweat excessively
- Your sweating lasts a prolonged amount of time
- There is no explanation for your sweating
- Your sweating is accompanied by chest pain or pressure
- Your sweating is accompanied by weight loss
- Your sweating occurs frequently during sleep
Your doctor will be able to determine if you require additional medical testing or treatment for excessive sweating.
Treatment for Excessive Sweating
Emotional turmoil, anxiety, nervousness and intense emotional situations can all cause sweating. Treatment for sweating can include:
Prescription strength antiperspirants - If over the counter antiperspirants do not work, these may help people with mild to moderate sweating. However, because of the stronger strength, they may cause skin irritation and may need to be applied several times a day. They also may lose effectiveness over time.
Medication - Anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants used to control the amount of anxiety someone feels can sometimes help to reduce sweating due to anxiety. In addition there are several other classes of medication that can be tried, based on the underlying reason for the sweating.
Botox Injections - Botox injections work by blocking the nerves that trigger sweat glands. This type of treatment may need to be repeated several times before being effective and is temporary, lasting anywhere from four months to a year and then must be repeated.
Surgery - If no other treatment works, surgery is also an option. There are two different types of surgery used to treat excessive sweating. One removes the sweat glands and one interferes with the nerve signals that trigger sweating.
Self Help Strategies
- Choose fabrics according to your needs. Natural fibers are a good choice, but may absorb the sweat and feel damp. Polyester fabrics can trap heat inside, however, the fabric will not look wilted from sweating. Wear loose clothing to help keep you cool and wear layers of clothing in the cold weather so you can remove top layers in warmer environments. Silk clothing is probably not a good choice, as it will easily stain from the sweat.
- Keep your environment cool. Keep a small fan on your desk at work or keep a small battery operated fan with you.
- Keep a bottle of Febreeze with you to freshen clothes after sweating.
- Shower daily, using an antibacterial soap.
- Use sweat shields (or dress shields) to help hid underarm sweating and to help keep your clothes dry.
- Incorporate relaxing techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises into your daily routine.
- Avoid foods and drinks that may trigger sweating, such as spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol. Pay attention to what you are eating to see if there are additional foods/drinks that may be triggering sweating.
- Try different antiperspirants available on the market to see what works best for you. Be sure to use an antiperspirant and not a deodorant (which stops odor but not perspiration).
- Be prepared by keeping moist wipes, extra clothing, and a bottle of antiperspirant with you at all times.
The most important way to combat excessive sweating from anxiety, however, is to make sure you receive treatment for anxiety and follow your treatment plan. Many people find that, as they continue therapy and learn to control anxiety, the sweating will be greatly reduced.
“Hyperhidrosis Treatment”, 2009, Author Unknown, Mayo Clinic
“Excessive Sweating or Hyperhidrosis”, 2009, Author Unknown, Chiltern Medical Clinic
“Sweating”, Updated 2007, April 6, MedlinePlus, A service of U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health