Help for Anxiety, Phobias, OCD and Depression

Excessive Sweating, Anxiety and Panic

Sweating too much (from the armpits, hands and often the face) is a very common anxiety symptom.

Sweating excessively usually happens during physical exertion (such as exercise) or when we are too hot. It's the body's way of helping us to cool down. (The warm sweat reaches the body surface where it evaporates, taking heat away from the body).

... We all know that we sweat during vigorous exercise and in high temperatures, but why do we sweat due to anxiety and panic?


Anxiety and panic relate to danger. Our mind thinks we are going to get hurt and causes our body to respond appropriately.

It's the fight-or-flight response and it is initiated by adrenaline which increases our body's metabolism to prepare us for action. This increase in metabolism produces heat.

We have to fight or run away.

To enable us to do this, our heartbeat speeds up to pump blood more quickly to the major muscle groups (arms, legs, chest) to supply them with immediate energy to help us fight or flee. The increase in metabloism and energy production basically makes us hotter inside and we sweat to cool down.

Adrenaline also stimulates the sweat glands to cool down any heat produced so even when we are only slightly anxious we may sweat more. Many people experience 'sweaty palms' even though they are only mildly anxious.



Sweat:

(or perspiration) "the secretion from the sweat glands especially when profuse and visble as during strenuous activity or in times of extreme heat"

(The Collins English Dictionary )

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ANXIETY SYMPTOMS AND 'FIGHT OR FLEE'

Physical anxiety symptoms result from the body re-directing resources to the major muscle groups (legs / arms / chest) to provide them with an energy boost to prepare us for action (ultimately to fight or flee).

* Our breathing becomes more rapid to get more oxygen for these muscles into the blood.
* Our heartbeat speeds up to get the blood to the muscles quicker.
* Blood is diverted from the brain (making us light-headed and dizzy) and the stomach (causing 'butterflies').
* Energy cannot be wasted processing any half-digested food in our system so we need to get rid of it quickly - either through the mouth (feelings of nausea) or the other end (wanting to go to the toilet).
* Other 'energy-wasting ' systems (unnecessary in time of danger) are shut down eg. saliva production, giving us a dry mouth and difficulty swallowing.
* We sweat more to cool down all this energy production.
* The energy boost to the muscles makes them 'jumpy'/ 'jittery'/ 'jelly-like'/ on-edge ready for action.

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The anxiety symptoms we experience and the strength of such symptoms vary from person to person. Some people sweat more, others tremble whilst for many the main focus is palpitations.

It is important to realise that when we focus on one particular symptom and start to worry about it this causes more anxiety which increases the problem.

With Symptoms such as sweating (and trembling and blushing) where our 'weakness' is clearly visible to others it is remarkably easy to fall into a cycle of worrying about the problem which increases the symtoms which increases the worrying and so on.


Reducing Sweating Caused by Anxiety

In some cases, excessive sweating can be caused by health problems such as high trhyroid levels and diabetes so it is very important important to obtain medical advice about any sweating issues to ensure that it's not due to physical problems or illness.

Once it is established that the sweating is caused by anxiety there certain things that can be done to help the situation:-

1. Avoid spicy foods and alcohol.

2. Wear loose-fitting natural clothes – Avoid tight-fitting clothes and man-made fibres wherever possible.

3. Use antiperspirants that stop perspiration rather than deodorants that merely hide the smell.

4. Avoid strongly perfumed soaps which may irritate the skin.

5. For the feet: use absorbant foot powder / wear leather shoes that allow the feet to breathe rather than synthetic ones.


Although these things can help to minimise the sweating, to stop it we have to deal with the actual cause of the problem – the anxiety.

›› How to Deal With Anxiety Problems
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