Although anxiety affects many of us, there are loads of different symptoms, with each individual showing different physical symptoms of anxiety. One of the most prevalent symptoms is feeling warm or flush. Whilst not dangerous in small amounts, it can be worrying and is often accompanied by other symptoms 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 Make You Feel Hot?
When our fight, flight or freeze response kicks in, adrenaline is released, and our heart rate increases so that our body can circulate blood and oxygen to the areas it needs it most. At the same time, our breathing becomes quicker and shallower through hyperventilation.
Although it feels as if we’re not getting enough oxygen actually the opposite is true. We’re over oxygenating our body and lacking in carbon dioxide. As a result our blood vessels constrict, increasing blood pressure to our vital organs, readying us to run away or fight. The by-product of this is a rise in body temperature. We have all this excess energy building inside us that needs to go somewhere, so our body begins to get rid of it through sweat, which when it evaporates on our skin, cools us down.
How Can I Stop This Symptom?
Unfortunately, these hot flashes are difficult to get rid of on their own, normally you have to wait it out until the perceived threat has passed. You may be able to speed up this process by taking in long breaths to slow your breathing back down, but really the key is to learn to manage your anxiety, not the symptoms around it. If these hot periods happen at night, this can be fairly disruptive of our sleep, so it might be worth sleeping in a colder room to mitigate the body’s physical effects.
Of course, in order to prevent the symptoms of anxiety 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.