The Link Between Hyperhidrosis and Mental Health

A condition that affects millions of people in the U.S. alone, hyperhidrosis causes the body to sweat excessively. The sweating is the result of overactive nerves that put the sweat glands into overdrive in areas of the body including the palms (palmar), feet (plantar) and underarms (axillary).

All of that sweat can result in problems such as damaged clothes and difficulty performing tactile tasks, but did you know that hyperhidrosis can go hand-in-hand with certain mental health issues, as well?

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2016 concluded that roughly 21 percent and 27 percent of people with hyperhidrosis screened positive for anxiety or depression. The study was based on a survey provided to 2,000 patients in two dermatology clinics—one in China and one in Canada—and showed that these conditions were more prominent among hyperhidrosis patients. Not only that, but it also suggested that the risk for the conditions was higher the more severe the sweating was.

While the study does not conclude that better control over hyperhidrosis would improve depression and anxiety, it does suggest that there is a link somewhere between the three, such as an underlying factor(s) that contributes to all three issues.

In fact, a smaller, more recent study published in the European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery even found that over half of the participants with primary focal hyperhidrosis (PFH) discontinued medication for their psychosocial disorders after undergoing endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy for PFH. Psychosocial disorders are mental illnesses that are influenced by life experiences as well as maladjusted behavioral and cognitive processes, which includes anxiety.

The bottom line is that more research needs to be done as this study does beg the question, what is the connection? Let’s take a look at some potential thoughts:

Hyperhidrosis and Anxiety

It seems as if hyperhidrosis and anxiety have a cyclical relationship: The more you sweat, the more nervous, self-conscious and stressed out you become and the more nervous you become, the more you sweat. This is especially true of certain types of anxiety, such as social anxiety disorder, in which hyperhidrosis is one of the primary symptoms along with:

  • Blushing
  • Clammy hands
  • Getting hot around the face
  • Headaches
  • Trembling

In theory, it would also be possible to potentially develop certain types of anxiety from having hyperhidrosis, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD doesn’t cause hyperhidrosis, but GAD can develop over time because of hyperhidrosis if you’re constantly concerned about your sweating.

Hyperhidrosis and Depression

Depression comes into play when hyperhidrosis results in withdrawal from social situations. Worrying about the sweating may leave you unwilling to ever leave your house for fear of what others may think. Over time, you may slowly start to lose interest in things you once enjoyed over time and even feel guilty for avoiding friends and loved ones you used to spend time with.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of what comes first, there seems to be a correlation between these issues and hyperhidrosis. First and foremost, it is always recommended that patients suffering from a condition such as anxiety or depression should consult a mental health specialist.  Additionally, you may want to consider treating your hyperhidrosis to further improve your quality of life.