Can stress cause skin issues like itching? Whether you’ve felt a mild tingling on the skin or scalp during a particularly stressful moment, or broken out into full-blown hives from anxiety, it’s easy to feel like there could be a correlation between the two.
Read on to learn more about the fascinating relationship between stress and skin, how your emotions and mental state might impact skin problems.
Potential Reasons Behind Your Itchy Skin
If itchiness, stress hives, a rash, and/or patches of dry skin have become a persistent problem, it may be a good idea to open up a conversation with your doctor about potential underlying causes. It may not necessarily be stress-related or psychological in nature.
Several possible medical reasons could cause your body to react and manifest different skin problems. Isolating the true cause with the help of your doctor can certainly up your chances of dealing with both the skin reactions and the root cause successfully.
Here are some common reasons for your skin to break out (be it a rash or hives) or manifest excessive itching:
- Certain skin conditions, like eczema or psoriasis
- An allergic reaction to food, insect bites or stings, or certain medications
- A seasonal allergy
- Thyroid or hormone conditions
- Kidney-, liver-, and blood sugar-related health issues1
Depending on your official diagnosis, your doctor may recommend topical creams or ointments to help relieve itching, avoidance of identified triggers of the itchiness or hives, medications, and lifestyle adjustments to help you handle the discomfort brought about the excessive itch.2
Barring these potential explanations for your itchy skin, you may explore the possibility of stress and anxiety as a trigger for the itch or hives you often experience.
Stress And Skin: What A Stress Rash Or Persistent Itching Might Mean
Understanding how your body responds to stress and anxiety could be a good first step to understanding any skin issues that arise from it.
Studies suggest that skin itch might be one of the lesser-known stress and anxiety symptoms. This is because when the body goes into a stressed state, the nervous system goes into overdrive. This may lead to an inexplicable skin itch or a bout of hives. Simply put: Science says that itching could be your nervous system’s natural reaction to your body in stress.3
The association between stress or anxiety and your skin can also be somewhat of a chicken-and-egg situation. It’s possible that one of the aforementioned health conditions could be causing uncontrollable itching that’s stressing you out — thus, causing the itch to become even worse since your body is under a lot of stress or in a state of anxiety.4
How Stress Shows On Your Skin
Stress may impact your skin in varying ways and levels of intensity. For some, redness or a mild itch would be common. For others, it can be either acute or long-standing hives.
Stress Rash Or Stress Hives
Your anxiety or stress can manifest on your skin as hives — raised, puffy welts that seem similar to insect bites. These patches of hives can spread or join together as they intensify, and can take up to 24 hours to dissipate or resolve.5
Rashes refer more to itchy bumps or reddened skin, but generally, stress rash or stress hives are similar skin conditions that could be made worse if you already have sensitive skin. And the major thing to remember is — the more you scratch them, the more they might spread or get worse.6
What Might Constant Itching Do To Your Skin And Anxiety Levels?
If your itching is mild and easily resolved, you may be able to deal with it (and its triggers) more easily. However, there is the possibility that an ongoing itch could exacerbate both skin issues and the anxiety that causes it.
Constantly scratching itchy skin, or trying unsafe methods to resolve the itching, may cause the skin to break or become swollen. This scenario can also cause infections on the open skin, worsening the skin condition.7
On top of this, there is a psychological component to constant itching of the skin. Studies show that people who have aggravated or exacerbated skin issues due to itching will probably also experience higher levels of stress and anxiety, largely because they’re uncomfortable and worried about how others might perceive them.8
So therein lies the rub (pun intended): The more stressed out, overwhelmed, or anxious you are, the worse the itching could become. And trying to deal with the itch on a physical level (by scratching) won’t really do much to help, since the underlying cause isn’t always dermatological by nature.9
This is why it’s especially important to deal with both your mood and stress levels and address your skin concerns holistically.
How To Nix The Itch: For Now And For Good
First and foremost, you’ll need expert guidance when dealing with skin problems related to your mood, stress, or anxiety — both on the physical and psychological levels. Make sure to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and in-depth treatment to up your chances of getting the itch under control.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have your own itch-solving strategy. Here are some simple ways you can try to address the itch.
- Remember that the itching sensation might be tied to your heightened anxious or stressed state. Try to calm yourself down with deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, or grounding exercises. Resist the urge to scratch.10
- Seek solid support for dealing with stress or anxiety. Learning strategies to deal with these conditions may help resolve itching long-term.11
- Soothe skin with a little more TLC and avoid fragranced laundry detergent, overly hot water, and tight fabrics that might further irritate sore skin.12
Stop The Stress, Soothe Your Skin
Your skin may be telling you more about your stress levels than you know. If you experience increased skin sensitivity, inexplicable itching, or bouts of hives, make sure to observe your symptoms closely and take note of your current lifestyle. Consult with the right medical professionals and come up with a good plan to deal with both your skin concerns and your stress levels.