Excessive sweating, also called hyperhidrosis, is a condition that has several causes and explanations. While somebody sweats too much in armpits, hands, feet, or head during doing common daily activities, the others experience increased perspiration at night. Some people feel so huge psychical discomfort related to abnormal sweating, that can affect serious mental problems.
In this article, we are going to answer questions whether psychic discomfort can affect perspiration, how can anxiety cause sweating, and what is a relationship between anxiety, depression, and sweating. For offering more complex image about this issue, we will look at this problem from two perspectives:
1: Psychiatric diseases that cause excessive sweating
2: Excessive sweating that leads to psychic problems
Well, sometimes it is not easy to define what was first, if hyperhidrosis that causes mental problems, or psychic disorders manifesting by excessive sweating. From the psychosomatic point of view, we can say that both health difficulties are connected very close. That’s why for better understanding of these specific conditions, the expert opinions of the dermatologist and psychiatrist are equally important.
1. Psychiatric Illnesses Causing Excessive Sweating
We recognize two main types of hyperhidrosis. While primary focal hyperhidrosis affects only some parts of the body (armpits, hands, feet, head) and has no obvious medical reason, the secondary generalized hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating all around the body caused by some other disease or condition. According to this definition, we can see that abnormal sweating related to psychiatric illnesses belongs to secondary hyperhidrosis. Even though several studies in this field were made, their results were not convincing. The differences lied in a methodology and point of view. The most mentioned psychiatric disorder in relation to hyperhidrosis is Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).
Social Anxiety Disorder And Excessive Sweating
Many people experience certain level of discomfort while meeting new people, dating, or doing a presentation in front of colleagues. While these conditions have episodal nature and don’t occur too often, we can say it is just a result of specific temper or personal character. But in people with SAD, also called social phobia, even common daily interactions with other people affect significant fear, anxiety, and embarrassment. They feel like others always scrutinize and judge them. This condition can often lead to avoidance and social isolation. SAD has these symptoms:
- Anxiety and fear that affect daily activities
- Intense fear of interacting with strangers
- Avoiding situations where you can be in the center of attention
- Avoiding all social situations
- Expecting the worst consequences from all social situations
- Loss of self-confidence
- Excessive sweating
- Increased heartbeat rate
- Problems with breathing
- Muscle tension
As you can see, excessive sweating is one of the possible physical side effects of SAD. According to some studies, 25-32% of patient with SAD experience profuse and uncontrollable sweating.These patients were treated by cognitive behavioral therapy or medications such as fluoxetine or gabapentin.
SAD when left untreated can have deeper and irreversible consequences. That’s why, if somebody notices some symptoms of anxiety, the best thing to do is to search for expert help. A psychologist can ask questions, try to find an underlying cause and make an examination that will be a base for a proper diagnosis. While excessive sweating is just a respond of organism for anxiety, it can be suppressed only by healing the core psychic problem.
2. Psychiatric Diseases Caused by Hyperhidrosis
In this part of the article, we focus on anxiety and depression that are caused by hyperhidrosis. Psychical problems affected by excessive sweating occur much more often than sweating caused by SAD.
Several physicians notice that many of their patients with hyperhidrosis suffer from symptoms anxiety or depression. As a certifies dermatologist Dee Anna Glaser, MD, FAAD, says, “There were some who had said they had suicidal thoughts because their sweating was ruining their life.” If we imagine that some people really sweat abnormally almost all the time, in every situations and interaction with other people, they have to feel extremely uncomfortable and embarrassed. When these feeling happens often, it is very good base for depression or anxiety.
Glasser have studied the relationship between mental health and excessive sweating. Her results confirmed that people with hyperhidrosis are more than other people prone to have depression, anxiety or attention deficit disorder (ADD), regardless of age or gender. Of the 500 patient who joins the study, 13,8% complain about anxiety, 12,4% had depression and 6,4% recorded ADD. These numbers, which are higher than in general population, shows the direct link between hyperhidrosis and mental condition. According to Glasser, the most surprising was the correlation between hyperhidrosis and ADD.
We also need to realize that the onset of hyperhidrosis (primary hyperhidrosis) is in the age of puberty, and young people are very sensitive to psychical changes. When excessive sweating starts to bother their lives, the psychological impact can be markable.
Depression And Anxiety Caused by Excessive Sweating
According to the study published in Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia, exploring 197 people with severe primary hyperhidrosis, 49,6% recorded symptoms of anxiety, and 11,2% suffer from depression. These foundings prove a high impact of hyperhidrosis on mental health. Anxiety has been observed in people with axillary and craniofacial hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating underarms and head).
Where to Find a Solution?
If we are talking about excessive sweating caused by anxiety or significant mental difficulties, the best treatment starts with a proper diagnosis. Mental health has been given more attention nowadays. Any psychical problems that lower quality of life should be discussed with a doctor as soon as possible. In the case, when anxiety is accompanied by excessive sweating, the first step is to try to understand and treat the underlying reason.
For serious cases of excessive sweating that markedly affect mental health, strong hyperhidrosis treatments should be used. Injections of Botulinum toxin and Sympathectomy (ETS) offer long-term anti-sweat effects. There is also non-invasive methods like iontophoresis or MiraDry that have compelling results and less possible side effects.