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Adverse Effects of Stress on the Skin

The link between psychological stress and skin conditions have been known since centuries. However, recent clinical studies have revealed a close link between psychological stressors to the onset of various skin disorders. The mechanism of this is not fully understood as not much data has been available on this topic. An individual is said to be under psychological stress if he or she is under tremendous amount of physical, mental, or emotional trauma. This can happen out of a failed marriage, pressure at work, or a disabling medical condition. This stress exceeds to such a level that the body is not able to handle it resulting in a variety of symptoms and complications. [1]

A body under severe stress releases hormones like glucocorticoids and epinephrine which is what causes the symptoms and behavioral changes that are seen in individual under severe stress as these hormones work in trying to get the body adapted to stressors. If the stress response of the body is insufficient with regard to the pressure that the individual is in or if it is in excess then certain adverse events may occur. [1]

Excessive stress can cause deterioration of cardiovascular conditions. They can trigger off a migraine attack. Some people may have seizures as a result of severe stress. Skin is also one of the organs that get affected by stress according to research. Skin has a major role to play in the immune function and protects the body from external contaminants from entering the body. How exactly does stress affect the skin is what has been discussed below in the article. [1]

Adverse Effects of Stress on the Skin

Adverse Effects of Stress on the Skin

Research suggests that if the stress is mild and the body can easily adapt to the stress then the skin may not be affected. Excessive stress however has significant adverse effects on the entire body including the skin. Some of the adverse effects that stress on the skin include stress rash or hives. Studies suggest that excessive stress can trigger an episode of hives in an individual. Hives cause development of raised erythematous welts on the skin surface. [2]

Their size is variable and can develop in any part of the body. There will also be severe itching around the affected region. Burning and tingling is also quite common around the affected area during an episode of hives. Generally, hives are caused due to an infection, allergies, or exposure to extreme weather condition either very hot or very cold. However, very few people know that emotional stressors also can cause an outbreak of hives. [2]

This is because stress causes hormonal changes within the body as a result of which the blood vessels expand and start leaking. This results in the development of red patches of skin which is characteristic of hives. The outbreak can be worsened by consumption of alcohol and caffeine. There are many cases where an overly stressed individual starts consuming excess of alcohol as a way to get rid of the stress.[2]

Research also suggests that stress also tends to worsen an existing skin disease. This is because the chemical and hormonal changes caused due to stress do not allow adequate healing of skin disorders. Studies suggest that stress can in fact worsen conditions like psoriasis or eczema. Generally rashes caused due to stress clear away in a week but if they persist for any time longer they are considered to be chronic. In such cases treatment needs to be done to clear the rash away.[2]

It is always better to seek treatment when the rashes are mild and more manageable so that the overall impact of the hives may be controlled. Studies also suggest that rashes over the body affect the mood of the affected individual which further increases the stress and worsen the symptoms. At times, hives are accompanied by blisters, fever, and pain. If this becomes the case, then a consultation with a physician is recommended to identify any other medical conditions causing the symptoms.[2]

Coming to the treatment of stress rash, certain home remedies and over the counter antihistamines are effective enough to calm down the symptoms and relieve itching and redness. Additionally, applying cold compresses to the affected area is also quite effective in relieving the symptoms of stress rash or hives.[2]

If the rashes become chronic and do not alleviate with standard measures then stronger antihistamines may be required for treatment. The physician may also prescribe steroids or antibiotics to treat any infection if present. The patient may be referred to a dermatologist if even stronger medications are found to be ineffective in treating the symptoms.[2]

Sometimes, in addition to stress there are other factors which may also cause certain skin conditions. An individual can develop a heat rash if exposed to extremely hot weather conditions. Exposure to certain allergens can result in the development of rashes. This is called as contact dermatitis.[2]

It is an extremely contagious condition and can spread just by a handshake or kissing. Rosacea is an untreatable condition in which the affected individual develops rashes on the face. The rashes wax and wane and can reoccur even with treatment[2]

In conclusion, stress is quite common in everyday lives of people. Studies have recently discovered that stress can adversely affect the skin. It also has the potential to worsen any existing skin condition that an individual may have. Hives is the most common complication of stress. It can be acute or chronic. Acute hives generally resolves within a week and the chronic forms takes much longer to fade away.[2]

Decreasing stress is the best way to prevent skin disorders, although this may not be always possible. A difficult marriage or a relationship or severe pressures at work are stressors which are unavoidable. However, there are certain steps which an individual can take to decrease the stress caused by these situations.[2]

These steps include maintaining a healthy lifestyle and doing diligent exercise. This will help in the production of endorphins which decreases the stress and lightens the mood. There are also certain relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation which can be practiced to decrease stress.[2]

All these techniques may work in decreasing the stress to some degree but this does not take all the stress away and in such cases having a stress rash may not always be unavoidable. In case of an individual develops skin rash due to stress then consultation with a physician is recommended for medications to calm down the symptoms and prevent it from worsening.[2]


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 8, 2022

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