Monday, January 11, 2010

Anxiety, Panic and Excessive Sweating - The Links Explored


My link to this topic comes from my experience of panic attacks. I had a speaking engagement at work where I was not feeling entirely confident about the subject matter. Once I began, I imagined I could actually feel my pores enlarge. My face, underarms and torso just started pouring sweat and my mind just started dissociating and checking out. I had no idea how I finished but I did. Guess who got a reputation as a person who could not handle speaking assignments? What a humiliating experience!

Like many men, I had caught the " Dancing with the Stars" craze and thought it would be a great self improvement project to learn some formal dancing moves. What do you think happened when the cute dance instructor started working with a social anxiety sufferer like me? Yes, massive sweating. You would think we were running a marathon not just dancing. Definitely not Cary Grant.

For many others, the experience of anxiety and excessive sweating is an everyday life altering experience. It dictates the clothes you wear, your thoughts and daily routine, and even prevents you from shaking hands, hugging and socializing with others.

The excessive sweating takes its place as part of the anxiety thought loop where you may fear situations that cause anxiety be they social or whatever but you also fear your reaction to the anxiety even more. In this case, that secondary reaction would be sweating. You then have a viscous, self perpetuating cycle that can take more and more of your life away over time. The energy and resources spent just to cope and adjust for the anxiety and sweating is so defeating and limiting.

Despite there being strong evidence to suggest a link between anxiety and excessive sweating, there is disagreement as to the exact nature of that link. Basically, it is a chicken and egg problem...

Which comes first- the anxiety or the sweating? Some experts believe that anxiety and panic attacks are not in themselves causes of excessive sweating. They believe that in most cases, the anxiety merely aggravates an existing medical condition.

Other experts though, give the anxiety component a much bigger role. They believe that anxiety induced Hyperhidrosis exists and manifests itself with generalized anxiety on an everyday basis or as a feature of panic attacks like it has for me.

Whatever the truth of that argument is, it seems clear that there is a link between anxiety, panic and excessive sweating. After a full physical, I recommend an approach that combines medical and emotional components. In other words, treat the anxiety and panic with meditation, relaxation, and cognitive behavioral techniques. By retraining your mind and sympathetic nervous system to respond differently to your environment, and changing the way you approach the world to a more mindful existence, you may find yourself sweating life a whole lot less.

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