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Stress Rash: Causes, Symptoms, Pictures, & Treatment

Updated on November 4, 2015

What is stress rash?

Although doctors don't know exactly why it occurs, some people get skin reactions to anxiety. The theory is that negative emotions effect the immune system, releasing histamine. It all comes down to how we handle pressure, because emotions have a powerful effect on the body and can cause hormonal imbalances which can affect (among other things) your hair, nails, and skin. You may get hives, itchy bumps, or other rashes. If you already have skin problems, such as rosacea or eczema, then you may find that they are worsened and take longer to heal.

The bottom line is that, like it or not, your skin sometimes acts as a billboard for your emotions and anxiety.

What are the exact causes of stress rash?

When you suffer from anxiety, the body reacts by secreting cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream. This sometimes causes the skin to develop a rash or become more sensitive in general and reactive to substances like lotions and creams. In other words, your skin's natural ability to protect you is depleted, and other conditions which have been dormant can flare up. This is the reason why stress tends to make psoriasis, eczema, herpes, and other skin disease to reoccur.

After running some tests to eliminate the alternatives, your doctor may help you determine that your rash is caused by stress, although it is difficult for a doctor to tell the exact cause of any rash. A stress rash does not have definitive characteristics. The best way to deal with it is to pinpoint its trigger and change your lifestyle.

This photo (along with the others in this article) are examples of what your stress rash might look like.
This photo (along with the others in this article) are examples of what your stress rash might look like.

How do you control stress rash?

Unfortunately, the development of a rash may only make stress worse, thereby exacerbating the condition. If you can learn to control your emotions and anxiety, then the rash will disappear. The more you relax, the less cortisone and adrenaline will be produced. It may take a week or more, so you should be patient.

You can get prescription medication. Over-the-counter antihistamines can be quite effective. Cool baths and compresses and loose-fitting clothes made of natural fibers might help, as may avoiding sweating, direct sunlight, and hot baths. However, you should combine treatment with stress reduction for faster and long-lasting results.

Pinpointing the Cause

The first thing to do is identify the source of stress in your life. Sometimes the exact source is not that easy to discover. Your own thoughts could be the trigger.

Where does it come from?

  • Is it caused by a specific place, activity, or person?
  • Does it seem related to professional or personal problems?
  • Or is it triggered by something internal like procrastination, negative thoughts, doubts, low self-esteem, fear, or worry?

Identification of the source requires some serious introspection on your part. Identify the trigger and then you can find the control mechanisms that work for you.

Stress-Reduction Techniques

Stress will always creep back into your life, but if you know how to deal with it, it won't be so overwhelming.

  • Some people control outbreaks by going out for a walk, while others hit the gym. Others eat healthy foods as a coping mechanism. These are all positive ways of dealing.
  • Drinking alcohol and taking drugs to avoid feeling may offer some temporary distraction but may also make the problem worse.
  • Find people who can help when it becomes too much. They might be friends, family, or trained professionals. Keep positive people around you when you are feeling anxious; talking to certain people may exacerbate your condition.
  • Some people find relief and distraction from listening to motivational tapes, reading good books, watching interesting movies, or simply unwinding with music.

The Four As of Dealing with Stress

This is a simple mantra but one that requires discipline:

Avoid the triggers
Alter your response
Adapt your mind
Accept that there is stress but try to resolve it in a proactive manner.

Remembering this will help you to learn how to say no, become more assertive, avoid stressful people and situations, become more organized, and take the lead in letting people know your true feelings rather than bottling them up. The four As cover most of what you need to get balance in your life.

Treatment and Lifestyle Changes

Stress management is crucial if you want to keep your symptoms at bay. No more stress means no more rash; it is as simple as that.

Your doctor may prescribe oral antihistamine levels to keep histamine levels in the blood in check. Cold compresses can also give relief if you feel that your skin is getting itchy. Establishing regular sleeping patterns can help. Having a balanced diet can reduce the problem. Regular exercises and yoga can help with emotional balance and help flush out toxins from the body, boosting overall health and fitness.

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    • profile image

      wirralme 3 months ago

      So the anti-social neighbours with there Dogs barking for 18 months and Magenta doing f-all about it and non english neighbours above with a liking to walk around with brick shoes on 20 hours a day with a screaming child that wakes up at 1 - 2 - 4 am when it feels like and screams for 30 minutes without its selfish parents giving a s@it mabe has caused a rash I cannot yet get a medical reason for!!!!! now I know but how do I get a doctor to prove its stress and take these basstard anti social scum to cour for there disrespet

    • profile image

      Tanya 4 months ago

      Wonderful information, this article made me realize that I have been bottling up issues inside to avoid conflict, but it has only created conflict within myself, therefore, manifesting thus horrible stress rash... No more... It's going to be about my feelings first from now on

    • Ray Crowe profile image

      Ray Crowe 7 months ago

      Very helpful and insightful article. I'd also like to point out regular meditation (or simple focused belly breathing} as a way of reducing or eliminating the triggers of stress themselves. It makes us less likely to respond to triggers with stress or anxiety in the first place.

    • profile image

      Milk 2 years ago

      Well given so many young people who have eihter attempted or were successful suicide isn't a new problem. I just want teens of today to realize teens of yesterday, or yester- decade+ endured the same thing. Fortunately my friend lived to regret her attempt find true love and have a beautiful daughter, but so many others as you know don't. Just doing my little part to get the word out. Thanks Katie, enjoy your Sunday.