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Anxiety is a condition that can cause many different kinds of symptoms. One of the more apparent and uncomfortable symptoms of anxiety is a rash. Rashes caused by anxiety are often referred to as ‘stress rashes’ because they emerge as a reaction to stress. While typically harmless, a stress rash can be very upsetting for a person with anxiety, as it causes embarrassment and increased anxiety. Stress rashes can come in many different forms: they can be hives or blotches, and can feel itchy, tingly or can feel like they are burning. It is not always easy to cope with a stress rash, but understanding what a stress rash is and how it comes about can make a difference in learning how to cope with and manage symptoms.

What Does a Rash Mean?

Having a reaction to high amounts of anxiety is your body telling you that something is not right. Sometimes it is emotional issues and sometimes life stressors trigger it. Whatever the reason, this physical reaction to stress is your body’s way of telling you to slow down and assess what is happening that is causing anxiety. In general, here are several contributing factors to getting a stress rash. For example, when a person is stressed his or her immune system suffers. The stress causes a strain on the body, which weakens its defenses against allergens and infections. It is not uncommon to develop a stress rash that has to do with an allergic reaction or the inflammation of a pre-existing condition. This is particularly common in people who suffer from skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema.

What to Do If You Have an Anxiety Rash

Fortunately, there are many ways to treat stress rashes. To begin, be sure to resist the urge to scratch. Scratching a stress rash will cause it to become more irritated. The irritation may make it itchier or even painful. It will also likely cause it to spread further over the skin. Instead, try using the following itch remedies:

  • An ice pack or cold compress
  • Over the counter antihistamine medication
  • Calamine lotion
  • Soft, breezy clothing
  • Keeping a humidifier in the bedroom while sleeping

Please note that it is recommended to seek medical attention if the rash does not clear or gets worse within 5-7 days.

How to Prevent Anxiety Rashes

It is also important to take measures to prevent stress rashes. The best way to prevent a stress rash is to learn how to manage anxiety. Managing stress and anxiety can at times be difficult, but as a person learns about his or her triggers and reactions to stress it becomes easier to identify helpful coping skills that will prevent the anxiety from escalating to the point where he or she breaks out in a rash.

There are many ways for you to manage your anxiety. The first step is to identify your triggers. Everyone gets anxious in different situations, and everyone’s anxiety symptoms are different. It can be difficult to identify triggers if it is the first time they are being monitored. That is why it is recommended you consult a mental health professional, who will help you identify and understand the meaning and causes behind your triggers.

The next step is to learn coping strategies for your triggers. There are many different ways to cope with anxiety. Each person will have different coping strategies, but it is important to understand that learning to cope is a process- you must have patience when learning how to manage your symptoms. Your therapist will be able to help you with this process. Mental health professionals are trained in different approaches of therapy for stress management. Some effective approaches include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective therapeutic approach because it teaches the patient how thoughts trigger emotions like fear and stress, and how those emotions fuel their anxiety and behavior. The goal is to have the patient learn how to challenge distressing thoughts to reduce anxiety and prevent a stress rash.
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy. In some cases therapists will use dialectical behavioral therapy. Dialectical behavioral therapy is similar to cognitive behavioral therapy, but it focuses on the emotions that cause anxiety. Sometimes when a person has emotional issues that are linked to his or her anxiety it can be difficult to know how to prevent the emotions from taking over. Dialectical behavioral therapy helps by teaching skills to manage emotions and resulting stress. A popular term used in dialectical behavior therapy is ‘distress tolerance’. This refers to a person’s ability to handle stress caused by physical or emotional crisis. Learning distress tolerance skills contributes a great deal to the prevention of stress rash breakouts.

It is also important for you to take care of your body. People with anxiety disorders are prone to react to stress, so minimizing the power it has is important in preventing stress rashes. Maintaining a healthy diet is crucial in managing anxiety and preventing stress rashes. A diet to minimize anxiety and stress rashes consists of drinking a lot of water, limiting sugar and caffeine intake, and making sure to get proper nutrients from fruits and vegetables. All of these dietary modifications will not only reduce anxiety, but will also keep the skin healthy. Healthy skin is the first defense against a stress rash.

Finally, to control your anxiety, be sure to get enough sleep. The less sleep a person gets the more emotionally reactive he or she becomes. Emotions will trigger anxiety, which increases the risk for a stress rash. Unfortunately, it is quite common for anxious people to have sleep issues. Both falling asleep and staying asleep have proven to be challenges for people with anxiety. Some people with anxiety, particularly those with a history of trauma, will also experience nightmares that prevent a restful sleep. If you are struggling with sleeping it is important that you address the issues with your doctor and therapist. A doctor will be able to prescribe medication or make recommendations about over-the-counter medication, while a therapist will have tips for ways to improve quality of sleep.