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Can Itching Be A Sign Of Anxiety

Bumps Around Your Nose Or Mouth

Can stress or anxiety cause itching?

If you’ve started noticing scaly, pink bumps that form around your mouth or nose, you might have perioral dermatitis, a rash which can be caused by anxiety, Dr. Ellen O. Turner, M.D., a dermatologist experienced in medical, cosmetic, surgical, laser, and superficial radiation procedures, tells Bustle. Your dermatologist might prescribe topical treatments or lifestyle changes, but they might also consider an approach that targets the anxiety itself. “In patients where traditional dermatology treatments are not effectively working, and patients are expressing stress or anxiety, I discuss four-point salivary cortisol testing, followed by treatment if there is, in fact, abnormality,” she says. This might include taking adaptogenic herbs, following stress-reduction techniques, and drinking calming herbs or herbal teas.

Psychological Aspects Of Pruritus

Pleasurable pain is an oxymoron that can used to describe the process of scratching an itch, and it illustrates the complexity of cerebral processing of pruritus and scratching. Many patients with chronic pruritus experience scratching as an automatic response to the sensation of itch. Often, their attention is focused on the itch, and this leads to increased perception of pruritus and intensification of suffering.19 Scratching provides immediate relief of discomfort and may perhaps serve to reduce inner tension, and this negative reinforcement leads to conditioned scratching. A vicious cycle of itch-and-scratch eventually results this situation can be perceived as a loss of control and helplessness, and it is often accompanied by a sense of despondency and guilt.19

To help understand why psychological conflicts may be translated into skin symptoms such as itch, the concepts of Ego-skin 20 and somatoform dissociation21 can be useful. Freud observed that ego was rooted in the body, especially the skin, during early development.22 The skin is an important organ of communication during early childhood, and bodily sensations and experiences form the core around which ego develops. Ego remains partly identified to the skin even as the person becomes an adult, and disruption of the normally integrated state of ego results in symptoms referred to the skin.

Signs Of Anxiety In Dogs

While every dog is different and deals with anxiety in their own way, there are usually some tell-tale signs present within a nervous pupper.

Anxiety symptoms in dogs are most commonly triggered by storms, loud noises, being away from their owners, and meeting strangers or other dogs. It can be a good idea to keep a close eye on your dog during these situations to see if they are becoming stressed out.

Below are some of the most common behaviors seen in anxious dogs take a look to see if you recognize any of them in your own pooch.

  • Howling and Barking Usually associated with separation anxiety, but this can occur with other types of anxiety as well.
  • Shivering and Whining One of the easier tells is frequent whining. They may also tremble and place more weight on their back legs, cowering.
  • Panting and Pacing Your dog may be panting and pacing from room to room without a discernable reason. They may seek out family members or continue to pace about.
  • Hiding A dog may react to stress by withdrawing from the situation entirely. They might hide behind you, or find a quiet out-of-the-way area to hole up in.
  • Urinating and Defecating in the Home An anxious pupper may pee and poop within the home, even if theyre fully housebroken.
  • Escape Attempts Some pups may try to escape from the situation. In extreme cases, they may try to break through doors or windows.
  • Destructive Behavior As a coping mechanism, dogs may chew furniture or dig holes in the yard.

Read Also: Why Do I Get Anxiety All The Time

Can Anxiety Cause An Itchy Scalp

Some people seem to get an itchy scalp when they have anxiety. Scientists arent exactly sure why this happens, but we do know that anxiety increases cortisol levels, which are directly linked to hair follicles.

Internal stressors may also be linked to the growth of bacteria and fungi on the scalp, which can cause it to get dry and flaky, leading to itchiness.

Insomnia & Trouble Sleeping

If you notice dry, itchy or painful patches on your skin, you may have ...

This is one I know personally so well. I struggle with what is know as terminal insomnia. I fall asleep no problem, but I wake up a few hours later and struggle to get back to sleep.

My son has the opposite problem when his anxiety is high. That quiet time we try and institute to help with sleep becomes a nightmare for him. All his anxiety from the day, all the experiences that triggered feelings he bottled up, all come to the surface. Sometimes even resulting in panic attacks or meltdowns.

Bedtime and quiet times in the evening can be extremely hard on kids struggling with anxiety.

Recommended Reading: Why Does Anxiety Wake Me Up

Cognitive Modulation Of Itch And Scratching Behavior

It is well-established that cognition can have profound, bidirectional impacts on itch perception. For example, attentional focus to bodily sensations can heighten itch perception, while distraction reduces itch in humans and mice. Faulty cognition may also increase subjective feelings of itch through the nocebo effect when subjects have the expectation that itch will be severe, they may perceive higher levels of itch. Anxiety and stress have been implicated in the nocebo effect for pain hyperalgesia and may also play a role in nocebo itch. In one study of healthy subjects, both nocebo and placebo effects for itch were strongly correlated with worrying and negative affect .

Everything You Need To Know About Stress Rashes

According to the American Psychological Association, this past year has been the most stressful in many Americans lifetimes, with about 78% of surveyed Americans saying the pandemic is a significant source of stress in their lives.

Stress manifests in different ways on an individual, but for many, it can appear on the skin.

The skin is the largest organ on the human body.

It protects your inner organs from the external environment, but sometimes it can become irritated resulting in a skin rash.

Rashes may be caused by a number of things, including allergies, fungus, viral or bacterial infections, as well as heat.

Stress is also a contributor to rashes and other skin conditions.

While most common rashes are not considered dangerous, a stress rash may be uncomfortable.

The good news is, a rash may be managed and contained if you understand its cause and symptoms.

Read Also: How To Reduce Anxiety To Sleep

How To Treat Anxiety Itch

Only a doctor can diagnose the source of itching in order to rule out any infectious or chronic causes of itching.

Reducing anxiety itch is exactly the same as reducing any type of itch. Despite the itch or rash being triggered by anxiety, the body must still find a way to overcome these symptoms. Contrary to popular belief, there is no rapid way to eliminate itch.

However, there are ways to reduce the itch in general, which are the same things you would do to reduce the discomfort of any itching. These include:

  • Cortisone
  • Oatmeal Home Remedies
  • Baking Soda
  • Aloe Vera

Avoid scratching the itch as much as possible. Scratching can cause bumps that can become irritated and inflamed, which actually makes them itch worse and last longer. Also, keep the area of the skin dry as much as possible, and avoid tight fitting clothes that may irritate the skin.

Itch And Anxiety In The Brain

Itchy Skin – Can Anxiety Make Us Itchy? Explained!

The itch-anxiety cycle appears to exist for itch of all types: dermatological or systemic origin, histaminergic or nonhistaminergic transmission, and in chronic itch patients or healthy individuals with no pruritic disease. Therefore, it is likely that a key component of the itch-anxiety cycle is the final common pathway for itch of all types: the brain. The brainâs role in the affective components of pain has been explored previously . Now, brain imaging and animal studies are providing evidence for the involvement of several anxiety-related structures in the processing of itch. Of course, a major caveat is that these brain areas are activated by many different types of stimulation. Further studies will need to assess whether activations are specifically correlated to anxiety or stress during itch.

Currently, most itch brain imaging studies are in healthy controls, and itch-related brain activity has not yet been studied in several major pruritic diseases, like psoriasis. Furthermore, there are few animal studies of brain activation during itch. Further studies could elucidate the pathways and neurotransmitters involved in this cycle.

Also Check: Can Cats Help With Anxiety

Stress Symptom: Itchy Skin

A Japanese study of more than 2,000 people found that those with chronic itch were twice as likely to be stressed out as those without the condition. Although an annoying itch problem can certainly cause stress, experts say it’s likely that feeling anxious or tense also aggravates underlying conditions like dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis. “The stress response activates nerve fibers, causing an itchy sensation,” explains Yosipovitch.

Can Stress Or Anxiety Cause Itching

January 8, 2015 by Jenny

Hi. Its Jenny at Our question today is from Daniel in Seattle. Can stress or anxiety cause itching?

Itchy skin or pruritus is an inflammatory reaction of the skin and can affect the entire body depending on its cause. Being itchy can indicate mild or severe conditions such as severe allergic reactions or infection. Its the bodys defense mechanism that alerts your body to something which is harmful to it.Can stress or anxiety cause itching? Yes. A common cause of itching is psychological brought on by stress or other emotional problems. The skin is the largest organ on your body and anxiety attacks this organ with an irritating itch. Not only that, but stress can aggravate other skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis.

Stress also causes the body to produce hormones such as cortisol which cause the sebaceous glands to produce more oil making the skin more prone to problems. Stress hormones also stimulate the production of a blood protein which causes allergic reactions.

Having itchy skin which is red and inflamed causes emotional disturbances like social withdrawal and embarrassment. Some people even resort to staying off from work and they keep to themselves. This just adds more stress and a fresh outbreak of itchy skin.

Recommended Reading: How To Keep Anxiety Under Control

When To Take Action


If you have ever read up on anxiety, you realize that anxiety is a natural and instinctual coping mechanism. It helps us survive in unsafe situations. Its when your body thinks a kitten is a lion, and it does that consistently, that we need to seek help.

However, when it comes to kids, I think any child struggling with anxiety should have a competent, calm adult help coach them through the situation. Children are still learning coping skills, often they are experiencing these big feelings for the first time. It is no wonder many become overwhelmed. Having a trusted adult be there with them, and support them, while teaching them skills they can use throughout their lives to cope with anxiety is important.

Sometimes just sitting and breathing with an anxious child can have a profound impact.

But when the anxiety becomes constant, when you see it affecting their ability to participate in regular activities, that is when I believe you should seek out professional help. Seeing your doctor is a great first step.

Holistic Methods That Help Reduce Anxiety

Stress And Skin: Can Stress Cause Itching And Other Skin Problems ...

We have so far covered the classic ways to treat the itching symptom of anxiety. Because the itching is a physical symptom of a psychological trigger, it is also good to look at holistic methods. Here are some helpful ways to enhance the other treatments:

  • Deep breathing. Deep breathing techniques can quickly reduce stress. Doing deep breathing can slow the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and reduce body tension.
  • Mindfulness. This is the practice of focusing on the present moment, versus letting our thoughts keep us stressed out. Paying attention to the breathing process while also observing the sights and smells around us, we can achieve a calm state.
  • Exercise. Being active, such as walking, cycling, swimming, running, or spin classes, can help us de-stress. This happens when the body makes chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine, when active.
  • Diet. There is a real link between diet and mental health. To help maintain emotional health, eat a diet rich in foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, nuts and seeds. Also, eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy.
  • Yoga. Yoga offers a wide range of health benefits, including stress reduction. Yoga uses poses and stances that involve stretching, balance, and core work, calming the central nervous system along the way.
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    Other Causes Of Itching In Children

    Itching is one of the most common skin complaints in young children. In addition to the above, the following are some rarer causes of all-over itching in children.


    Viral infections like chickenpox, fungal skin infections, or bacterial skin infections can cause itching. With chickenpox, children may have a fever, feel unwell, and have an extremely itchy rash.

    Fungal infections are treated with an antifungal cream. If the infection doesn’t improve with a cream, an oral antifungal medication may be needed. Bacterial skin infections may also be treated with antibiotics applied to the skin or with oral antibiotics if needed.

    Systemic disease

    More rarely, an itchy rash without any signs of skin problems can be caused by an underlying disease like:


    Chronic itching can also be associated with stress, anxiety, and other types of mood disorders.

    Itching from other causes may even cause stress and anxiety, which can make itching even worse. The sensation is processed in the central nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord. This may play a role in the relationship between itching and anxiety.

    There are medicines that can treat the itching-anxiety cycle, but they may have side effects. Some other ways to treat it include habit retraining, relaxation techniques, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

    How To Treat A Stress Rash

    The brain has powerful effects on the body, and prolonged stress, anxiety, and other factors can manifest in an unpleasant stress reaction. Add to that preexisting skin conditions, and you have the recipe for a potentially severe and uncomfortable skin flare-up.

    Everyone is different, so the impact, level of irritation, and treatment routines can vary depending on life and personal circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, has put the entire world on edge. Some of that stress is undoubtedly making its way into your daily life in some unpleasant ways.

    While stress-related skin disorders may seem severe, there are multiple ways to deal with them. Let’s learn more about stress rashes, then see which is the best treatment for them.

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