When we’re nervous, it’s natural that we begin to sweat, after all the purpose of sweating is to prevent our body from overheating and injuring ourselves, however if we suffer from anxiety, this can happen more often and likely in scenarios that don’t warrant a stress response. This can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, and often accompanied by other physical symptoms of anxiety such as 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 Sweating?
When our fight, flight or freeze response is activated our heart rate increases, as does our breathing. This is to prepare our body for either running away or striking out at the perceived threat. A consequence of increased heart rate and the increased flow of blood and oxygen around the body is a rise in body temperature.
In order to combat this rise in body temperature, our body begins to sweat. This rids the body of excess energy and allows the body to operate as it should, unburdened by the restriction of overheating. Once the sweat on our skin evaporates, our body feels cooler and able to operate fully.
How Do I Stop This Symptom?
Unfortunately, as this thermoregulation is an important part of our biology, sweating is not something that we actually want to stop entirely. That being said, we can use deep breathing to calm our nervous system, wear breathable clothes and air out our underarms to counteract the effects of our fight, flight or freeze response.
Of course, in order to prevent the symptoms 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.