Anxiety affects many of us and has a wide variety of associated physical symptoms, affecting each person differently. One of the more common symptoms of anxiety is blushing or a reddening in the face. Despite this being a symptom, it only occurs with other physical manifestations of anxiety such an increased heart rate or hyperventilation.
These symptoms are often triggered by a release of the stress hormone cortisol or the chemical adrenaline in the caveman part of our brain. This is the survival-driven part of our brain that our newer, rational cortex grew on top of. Its primary concern is keeping us alive, so when our brain perceives a threat, it releases these stress chemicals and activates a response called the fight, flight or freeze response. This puts our body on high alert, and as a result, our body prepares to either fight, flight or freeze.
Why Does Anxiety Cause Blushing?
Whilst blushing is common for those suffering from anxiety, the reason behind this symptom lies with our fight, flight or freeze response. When our brain perceives a threat and this response is activated, our body goes into survival-mode and increases our heart rate and breathing to circulate blood and oxygen to where it’s needed most. In order to do this, our capillaries dilate, widening to allow more blood to get to where it needs to be.
As a result, we get warmer and our face becomes flushed. You might recognise it from when you’re embarrassed or angry and you suddenly feel warmer and your face goes red. This is because the blood and oxygen in your body is circulating, preparing to run or strike out.
Unlike other symptoms of anxiety, blushing doesn’t occur in isolation, so if you find yourself feeling flushed without an increased heart rate or hyperventilation, consider contacting your doctor.
How Can I Stop This Symptom?
Unfortunately, it’s a case of just waiting until your face returns to its regular colour. However, you might be able to speed up this process by calming your nervous system using breathing techniques. This should slow your breathing and your heart rate and start to bring your body temperature back down to normal.
Of course, in order to prevent the symptoms occurring, you need to manage or build strategies to tackle your anxiety. There are several options available including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), mindfulness, medication and group therapy. If you’re unsure, please contact your GP for more information.