Whilst there are many physical symptoms of anxiety, with different people reporting different physical reactions, one of the more common symptoms is blotches on the skin. Although not the most severe or scary anxiety-driven symptom in the world, it can be highly irritating and embarrassing.
As with many physical symptoms of anxiety, red blotchy skin or other skin ailments, rarely occur in isolation. They’re normally accompanied by raised heart rates, increased body temperature and sweating.
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 Red Blotchy Skin?
When our body activates our fight, flight or freeze response, a few physiological reactions occur. Our heart rate increases, our breathing becomes quicker and shallower, our body temperature rises and our muscles tense. This is our inbuilt survival mechanism kicking in, preparing to run away or strike out at a perceived threat.
However, when our temperature rises or when we sweat, the hormone histamine is released, the hormone that’s also released when we suffer from an allergic reaction. This manifests as a red blotchy rash on the skin. Although this is harmless, it can cause irritation and embarrassment.
How Can I Stop This Symptom?
As histamine is a chemical same as cortisol or adrenaline, it comes and goes and when it does the blotchiness should dissipate soon after. However, we can speed this up by calming our nervous system through deep breathing, distraction and positive reinforcement. Skin irritation can feel embarrassment, but this embarrassment leads to further anxiety which could lead to more physical reactions.
Of course, in order to prevent the symptoms of anxiety, such as blotchy skin, occurring in the first place, 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.