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Can Stress and Anxiety Cause Skin Itching?
Anxiety can cause many symptoms, so what is anxiety itching all about?
Anyone who has suffered from anxiety knows that it shows itself in many ways—sweating, racing heart, feeling lightheaded, etc. What most people don’t know is that anxiety can also cause skin symptoms, like itching.
Like a vicious cycle, the more anxious you feel, the more you itch. Then, the more you itch, the more anxious you feel! There is a term for this: psychogenic itching. To learn more about this condition, and about anxiety disorder, keep reading.
Anxiety Disorder Basics
Anxiety is the most common mental health challenge among U.S. adults. In fact, about 20% of adults, or 40 million of us, struggle with an anxiety disorder.
At the heart of anxiety lies a common feature, and that is the fight or flight response when facing triggers. There are different types of anxiety disorder. Each one has its own list of symptoms, but the fear response is the common feature.
The types of anxiety disorder include:
Generalized anxiety disorder. Features excessive fear and worry, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, sweating, dizziness, and sleep problems.
Panic disorder. Features sudden panic attacks that feature trembling, chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath, nausea, and a sense of doom.
Social anxiety. Features an intense fear of being judged or rejected. Symptoms include sweating, blushing, muscle tension, feeling lightheaded, rapid heartbeat, and nausea.
Specific phobia. Features an extreme fear of a specific object or situation, causing avoidance behaviors.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Features a cycle of obsessive fears and compulsive behavioral responses to the fear.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Features a prolonged response to a traumatic event with nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, substance abuse, and avoidance behaviors.
Anxiety and Itching
While it is still not quite known why stress will induce itching, or pruritus, there is evidence of a correlation. In a paper titled, “The Vicious Cycle of Itch and Anxiety,” the authors report 64% of patients with anxiety disorder. In certain people, the histamine response is triggered following a stressful event.
The good news is that once the source of the itching is revealed, it is a very treatable symptom. The anxiety itself must also be treated, though, if there is to be any improvements in the itching. Treatment for anxiety will be provided along with treatment for the skin ailment.
Sorting Out Anxiety Itching
Before it can be determined if the chronic itching is due to anxiety, a doctor must first rule out other skin conditions or health issues. A doctor will explore the source of the itching before assuming it is caused by stress or anxiety. Some of these might be:
- Dry skin.
- Bug bites.
- Kidney failure.
- Liver disease.
- Thyroid problems.
If it is found that no health issue or skin disease is present, the doctor will refer the person out. A mental health expert can move forward with assessing the anxiety itch as a symptom of anxiety disorder.
Treatment for Anxiety Itch
Our skin can often reveal our emotions. When we are nervous, we may break out in a rash or hives. When we feel embarrassed, we might blush. For some people, feeling stressed out or afraid can trigger itching.
If the itching persists, a skin doctor, or dermo, can provide relief for the itching and scratching. Some dermos even specialize in this realm of treating anxiety related skin issues. They are called psychodermatologists. They can work alongside a therapist to assist in treating both disorders.
Some of the skin treatments might include:
- Light therapy sessions
- Soothing ointments
Treatment may take a few months before you notice a change.
Treatment for Anxiety Disorder
To achieve relief from the core issue, the anxiety, you might benefit from seeking help from an anxiety specialist. These mental health experts are well equipped to help improve your quality of life through better management of the symptoms.
The exact type of psychotherapy used for anxiety will be based on the type of anxiety. CBT is an evidence-based therapy that is very helpful for helping the person change their response to triggers. If trauma is what is setting off the itching, the therapist will use an exposure therapy. This type of treatment helps to reduce the impact of the traumatic event.
Medication for anxiety disorders may involve benzos, which are drugs that can swiftly calm nerves. In some cases, antidepressants are used to treat anxiety as well.
6 Holistic Methods that Help Reduce Anxiety
We have so far covered the classic ways to treat the itching symptom of anxiety. Because the itching is a physical symptom of a psychological trigger, it is also good to look at holistic methods. Here are some helpful ways to enhance the other treatments:
- Deep breathing. Deep breathing techniques can quickly reduce stress. Doing deep breathing can slow the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and reduce body tension.
- Mindfulness. This is the practice of focusing on the present moment, versus letting our thoughts keep us stressed out. Paying attention to the breathing process while also observing the sights and smells around us, we can achieve a calm state.
- Exercise. Being active, such as walking, cycling, swimming, running, or spin classes, can help us de-stress. This happens when the body makes chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine, when active.
- Diet. There is a real link between diet and mental health. To help maintain emotional health, eat a diet rich in foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, nuts and seeds. Also, eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy.
- Yoga. Yoga offers a wide range of health benefits, including stress reduction. Yoga uses poses and stances that involve stretching, balance, and core work, calming the central nervous system along the way.
- Meditation. Taking some quiet time to meditate or pray can help you achieve a calm mental state. Meditation helps train the mind to achieve a sense of peaceful serenity. Prayer puts you in touch with your spiritual self.
Anxiety itching can be annoying, especially when you are already dealing with the other symptoms of the disorder. If you are struggling with anxiety, know that there is treatment and support out there to help you.
The Treatment Specialist Offers Information and Guidance for Anxiety Disorder
The Treatment Specialist is an online resource for informative articles on mental health conditions and treatment options for adults, teens, and families. If you or a loved one is enduring the symptoms of anxiety, like anxiety itching, we can offer guidance. Call us today at (866) 644-7911.