AnxietyAnxiety Sweating: Understanding And Managing Stress-Induced Perspiration

Anxiety Sweating: Understanding And Managing Stress-Induced Perspiration

Sweating is a natural process of temperature regulation, but it can also be triggered by psychological factors such as stress or anxiety, known as anxiety sweating. This is part of the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response and can be particularly noticeable on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and face. Although it is normal, for some people it can become excessive or problematic and interfere with daily life. Recognising anxiety sweating as a stress response is key to managing it, with strategies ranging from antiperspirants to behavioural therapy available to help those affected.

Key Takeaways

  • Anxiety can trigger sweating by activating the body's stress response.
  • Excessive sweating due to anxiety can be managed with different strategies.
  • Understanding and managing anxiety-related sweating can improve quality of life.

Anxiety Sweating: Overview

Anxiety can trigger a stress response in the body, often characterised by an increase in sweating. This physiological process is a result of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) preparing the body for a ‘fight or flight’ response. Sweating regulates body temperature, but during anxiety the sweat glands, particularly the eccrine glands found in high density on the palms, soles, face and axillae, become overactive.

This excessive sweating is medically known as hyperhidrosis – a condition in which the body sweats excessively, regardless of heat or exercise. Emotional stimuli such as stress or anxiety trigger this response. When people encounter anxiety-provoking situations, their sweat production can increase significantly, often leading to discomfort and social embarrassment.

The nervous system, particularly the ANS, plays a central role in controlling the body’s involuntary functions, including thermoregulation and sweat production. In the context of anxiety, it’s the sympathetic branch of the ANS that becomes overstimulated, leading to excessive sweating. Understanding the physiology of the autonomic nervous system provides insight into how anxiety can affect various systems in the body, including the activation of sweat glands during stress.

In summary, anxiety sweating is both a physical and psychological phenomenon, often reflecting the intense activity of the nervous system as it attempts to prepare the body for perceived threats.

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Why Anxiety Causes Sweating

Anxiety triggers the body’s sympathetic nervous system, leading to various physical responses, including increased sweating. This is a defence mechanism in response to stress.

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety, particularly in stressful situations such as public speaking or social interactions, can cause increased sweating. This discomfort is often exacerbated by the fear that the sweating itself is embarrassing, creating a cycle of anxiety and hyperhidrosis. The excessive sweating tends to be most noticeable on the face and palms of the hands, attracting unwanted attention and increasing distress.

Other Anxiety Disorders

Generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder also cause the sympathetic nervous system to produce excessive sweating. People with specific phobias may sweat when confronted with the object of their fear. Meanwhile, symptoms of anxiety such as increased heart rate and anxiety can make the condition worse, regardless of the actual temperature or activity level.

Can Other Mental Health Conditions Cause Sweating?

As well as anxiety, other mental health conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and certain phobias can cause sweating. The use of medications prescribed for these conditions, such as benzodiazepines, can also lead to increased sweat production. Treatment options for hyperhidrosis, which is often associated with mental health conditions, aim to reduce both the physical symptoms and the associated emotional distress.

How To Stop Anxious Sweating

How To Stop Anxious Sweating

Excessive sweating due to anxiety – known as anxious sweating – can be treated in a number of ways. Medications such as anticholinergics can reduce sweat production by blocking neurotransmitters that stimulate sweat glands. Consultation with a doctor is essential for appropriate prescribing and use.

In addition to medication, therapy – particularly cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – can help people manage the underlying anxiety that causes sweating. Techniques such as slow breathing could have a significant impact on the psycho-physiological changes in the brain-body interaction.

  • Antiperspirants: Over-the-counter or prescription-strength antiperspirants containing aluminium chloride can be effective. They temporarily block sweat pores, reducing sweating.
  • Botox: FDA-approved botulinum toxin injections can block the nerves that trigger sweat glands. Usually administered by a professional, this treatment can be a semi-permanent solution.

On the non-medical front, lifestyle changes such as wearing breathable fabrics, maintaining a cool environment and practicing stress management tactics such as mindfulness or yoga are advisable. For persistent cases, it’s worth seeing a therapist to explore personalised treatments that may include a combination of the above strategies.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to controlling anxious sweating. Each person’s experience of anxiety and sweating is unique and this should be taken into account when choosing the right combination of treatments to manage the symptoms.

Tips To Prevent Sweating When Nervous

When anxiety triggers the body’s natural stress response, it can lead to excessive sweating, especially on the face and hands. This section offers practical strategies for managing anxiety symptoms and reducing sweating.

Prepare With An Antiperspirant

Applying a clinical-strength antiperspirant to the armpits can significantly reduce sweating. For areas such as the hands and face, special formulas designed for sensitive skin can help prevent perspiration without causing irritation.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Practice relaxation strategies such as deep breathing, mindfulness or progressive muscle relaxation. These practices can help calm stress hormones and reduce symptoms of anxiety, which can reduce sweating.

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Take Steps To Stay Cool

Maintain a comfortable temperature to reduce heat-related sweating triggers. Wear breathable clothing, such as cotton, to stay cool and absorb perspiration effectively.

Find A Positive Distraction

Using positive distraction techniques can take your focus away from the cause of your emotional distress and reduce the occurrence of sweating. Activities such as listening to music or taking up a hobby can help people cope with anxiety during daily activities.

When To Reach Out

Persistent sweating due to anxiety may indicate an underlying medical condition, such as an anxiety disorder. If sweating is interfering with daily life, it’s a good idea to see a doctor or therapist for professional advice and possible treatments.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section addresses common questions about managing excessive sweating due to anxiety, including insights into treatments, differences from normal sweating, and different coping strategies.

What treatments are available for excessive sweating due to anxiety?

Treatment options for excessive sweating due to anxiety, clinically known as hyperhidrosis, range from prescription antiperspirants and medications such as antidepressants or anticholinergics, to medical procedures such as iontophoresis, Botox injections or surgery. Behavioural therapies may also be considered. A systematic review focusing on psychological sweating provides further understanding of treatments specific to anxiety-related sweating.

Is there a difference between normal sweating and anxiety-related sweating?

Yes, there is a difference. Normal sweating is primarily for temperature regulation, whereas anxiety-related sweating is triggered by emotional stress and often occurs on the palms, soles and axillae, where there is a high density of eccrine sweat glands. More information can be found in studies of psychological sweating.

Can anxiety medications effectively reduce excessive sweating?

Anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines, SSRIs and SNRIs can sometimes reduce sweating by reducing the underlying anxiety. However, the effectiveness of treatment varies and should be discussed with a healthcare professional. Data on the effectiveness of medications can be found in research on hyperhidrosis in social anxiety disorder.

Are there any natural ways to treat excessive sweating caused by stress?

Natural methods include lifestyle changes such as stress management techniques, mindfulness, yoga and dietary changes. Limiting caffeine and spicy foods can also help. For evidence on non-pharmacological approaches, see research on central nervous system disorders.

What techniques can help manage sweating caused by social anxiety?

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy are effective for social anxiety, which can reduce sweating. Learning relaxation techniques and breathing exercises can also help manage the physical symptoms of anxiety. The impact of social anxiety on adolescents provides a context for managing related symptoms.

How can I prevent night sweats associated with anxiety?

Good sleep hygiene, a cool bedroom environment and relaxation techniques can help manage night sweats. A consistent sleep schedule and addressing anxiety triggers before bedtime are also important. For more information, it may be helpful to review research on anxiety symptoms in hyperhidrosis.


Anxiety-related sweating can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, going beyond discomfort to affect social interactions and physical activity levels. People with social anxiety disorder (SAD) often face exacerbated challenges, as sweating can cause additional stress in social settings, perpetuating a cycle of anxiety.

Incorporating regular exercise into your routine can help alleviate anxiety symptoms by promoting the release of endorphins and improving overall health. Exercise can also reduce the frequency and severity of sweating episodes associated with anxiety.

Working with a therapist can provide tailored strategies to manage both the psychological and physiological aspects of anxiety sweating. In particular, cognitive behavioural therapy has shown promise in improving coping mechanisms.

Anxiety sweating is a manageable condition and with appropriate intervention, individuals can see significant improvements in their daily lives. Whether through lifestyle changes such as regular exercise or therapeutic interventions, the prognosis for managing anxiety sweating is positive.


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  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. “How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life” PubMed Central, PMC6137615. Link.

  3. PubMed. “Psychological sweating: a systematic review focused on aetiology and cutaneous response ” PubMed ID 23428634. Link.

  4. PubMed. ” Hyperhidrosis in social anxiety disorder” PubMed ID 12502021. Link.

  5. National Center for Biotechnology Information. “Hyperhidrosis: A Central Nervous Dysfunction of Sweat Secretion” PubMed Central, PMC9884722. Link.

  6. National Center for Biotechnology Information. “Understanding Social Anxiety Disorder in Adolescents and Improving Treatment Outcomes” PubMed Central, PMC6447508. Link.

  7. National Center for Biotechnology Information. “Symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with primary hyperhidrosis and its association with the result of clinical treatment with oxybutynin” PubMed Central, PMC8221552. Link.

Mark Willson, holding a Ph.D., functions as a psychotherapist in Washington, D.C. His specialized fields encompass addiction, anxiety, depression, as well as sexuality and interpersonal connections. Dr. Willson holds the distinction of being a diplomat for the American Board of Addiction and Anxiety, further serving as a certified counselor and addiction specialist.

Aside from his personal professional endeavors, Dr. Wilson has engaged in roles as an author, journalist, and creator within substantial medical documentary projects.

Isabella Clark, Ph.D., held the position of a professor within Emory University’s School of Medicine, working in the Department of Mental Health and Nutrition Science. Alongside this role, she served as a research associate affiliated with the National Research Center. Dr. Clark’s primary area of research centers on comprehending the mechanisms through which adverse social encounters, encompassing prolonged stress and traumatic exposure, contribute to a spectrum of detrimental mental health consequences and coexisting physical ailments like obesity. Her specific focus lies in unraveling the reasons behind the varying elevated susceptibility to stress-linked disorders between different genders.

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