Anxiety is not merely a psychological problem. It can present itself as a physical symptom, as well. One such symptom of anxiety is itching. This sensation can occur anywhere on your body, including your arms, legs, face, and scalp. In this article, we will look at the symptoms of anxiety itching, prevention tips, and how to treat it. Keep reading!
What Is Anxiety Itching?
Anxiety and stress can manifest themselves in different ways. For example, when you are anxious, your body produces a stress reaction, which affects your neurological system and leads to itchy or burning skin. Many types of itching are associated with anxiety (1).
Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo (Ph.D., CEO, Global Keynote Speaker, Concierge Coach) explains, “When worry sets in, your body’s stress response may go into overdrive. This can cause nerve damage and sensory symptoms like skin burning or itching, which may or may not be evident. This sensation can affect your arms, legs, face, and scalp, among other places on your body. Stress generates a variety of physiological changes, including hormone imbalances and neural system modifications, which can result in unpleasant sensations along one or more nerves. Anywhere on the skin, these sensations can generate a burning or itchy sensation.”
Anxiety is manifested as both mental and physical symptoms. Let’s look at them in the next section.
Common Symptoms Of Anxiety
The mental symptoms of anxiety include (2):
- Racing thoughts
- Uncontrollable over-thinking
- Difficulty concentrating
- A feeling of panic
- Heightened alertness
- Sleep problems
- Changes in appetite
Some physical symptoms of anxiety are (2):
- Heavy and fast breathing
- Hot flashes
- Dry mouth
- Hair loss
- Fast heartbeat
- Lack of energy
- Dizziness and fainting
- Stomach aches
Itchy skin comes with its own set of symptoms that can cause you some distress. Learn more about the symptoms of itching in the next section.
Symptoms Of Itchy Skin
Itchy skin can lead to redness, skin breakage, bleeding, and serious infection if scratched too much. People with eczema and itchy skin can scratch excessively, leading to open wounds. These wounds can become infected and require treatment via steroids or other antibiotic medications.
Are you wondering how to identify itching caused by anxiety? Find out in the next section.
How To Identify Itching Caused By Anxiety
Itching and anxiety can be two unrelated things. Anxiety rarely causes itching on its own, and other symptoms are often associated with it. It is difficult to establish the source of itchiness caused by anxiety. It may need a comprehensive medical examination. The following are the most common causes of anxiety itching:
- Stress Hives: Hives are itchy bumps that occur when your immune system reacts to allergens. But they can also be caused by stress and anxiety (3).
- Sweat Rash: Anxiety raises the rate and volume of sweating, leading to a rash (also referred to as heat rash). While these rashes are harmless, they are exceedingly itchy and may last for two weeks (4).
- Triggered Itch: While uncommon, anxiety can exacerbate pre-existing skin issues. Stress and anxiety have been found to be closely related to eczema, psoriasis, and other skin diseases (5).
- Worsened Itch: Being anxious may aggravate an itch that already exists. What would typically be a minor itch could be amplified and made to seem a lot worse. It can also be associated with sensations similar to itching, such as tingling.
What is the best way to get rid of anxiety itching? In the following section, you will learn about the treatment methods that may benefit you. Keep reading!
How To Treat Anxiety Itching
Understanding the itch-anxiety cycle and keeping it in check should be an important part of treatment for all chronic itch patients (1).
To begin with, you will need to address the cause of your anxiety. A health expert can help you manage your anxiety and minimize the impulse to scratch.
In addition to speaking with your doctor or dermatologist, here are some home remedies for anxiety itching:
- Keep your fingernails clipped to minimize infections from scratching.
- Use calamine lotion or an over-the-counter corticosteroid cream.
- Avoid scratchy clothing, hot baths, direct sunshine, and other irritants.
- Apply fragrance-free moisturizer every day.
- Use a humidifier.
- Put on gloves or cover your skin to avoid scratching yourself.
Other treatments that are recommended by doctors to control chronic itching caused by anxiety include oral selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and undergoing light therapy.
You can also practice stress-relieving techniques like deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, and acupuncture to regulate anxiety-induced itching (6). It is also critical to eat a balanced diet, get plenty of rest, and exercise regularly. You can also see a therapist for behavior modification therapy and other anxiety-relieving treatments.
Dr. Lombardo adds, “All B vitamins aid in the reduction of anxiety and the improvement of mood. People who ate B vitamin-rich foods, for example, reported significant improvements in their anxiety and stress levels compared to those who didn’t.”
You can get rid of anxiety-related itching by following the remedies mentioned above. But what if the symptoms don’t subside and become severe? Read on to find out what to do in this situation.
When Should You See A Doctor?
You should see a doctor if:
- Anxiety and itching interfere with your daily life or cause skin damage or infection.
- The itching lasts for more than 2 weeks and does not reduce with self-care measures.
- The itching is accompanied by fever, night sweats, or unintended weight loss.
- The itching becomes severe and painful and results in blisters.
The doctor may refer you to a dermatologist for skin tests or a mental health professional to treat anxiety-related problems.
The Final Takeaway
Anxiety and itching can be related, regardless of which occurs first. Stress and anxiety can cause hives or trigger an eczema or psoriasis flare-up. You can use calamine lotion, moisturizer, or a corticosteroid cream under the guidance of a medical professional to treat this type of itching. Excessive itching for no apparent reason could signify another health concern. If this occurs, consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can itching be psychosomatic?
Yes, psychological factors are known to cause itching.
How long can anxiety itching last?
Itching from anxiety usually resolves by itself in 24 hours.
What does anxiety rash look like?
An anxiety rash usually manifests as raised red bumps known as hives. It can appear anywhere on the body, although it most commonly appears on the face, neck, chest, or arms. They can also be accompanied by a burning or tingling sensation.
- Stress or anxiety can trigger your body’s neurological system and cause itching.
- Anxiety can cause hives or a heat rash or trigger a pre-existing skin condition like eczema or psoriasis.
- You should see a doctor if anxiety itching lasts for more than two weeks or causes painful blisters.
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- The Vicious Cycle of Itch and Anxiety
- Stress itch and quality of life in chronic urticaria females
- Risk factors for mental illness in adults with atopic eczema or psoriasis: protocol for a systematic review
- Mindfulness as Predictor of Itch Catastrophizing in Patients With Atopic Dermatitis: Results of a Cross-Sectional Questionnaire Study
- Global prevalence of mental health issues among the general population during the coronavirus disease-2019 pandemic: a systematic review and meta-analysis