How Anxiety Affects Your Skin

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Do you show redness on your face after an anxiety attack? Do pimples seem to appear more often than before? Is there unusual dryness or oiliness on your skin? If yes, you may be experiencing some or all of the symptoms that anxiety can cause on your skin.


Unfortunately, despite how easy it is to find out what causes acne and pimples, it’s considerably harder to figure out the things that are happening to your skin while you’re under stress. Many people think that their skin flareups are caused by increased oil production, but this isn’t always the case.

There are a few reasons why stress can affect your skin: inflammatory responses, hormonal imbalances, and changes in immunity, to name a few. Here are some critical aspects of how anxiety affects skin conditions, such as acne and dry skin:

What’s Anxiety?

Anxiety can refer to a ‘state of apprehension, uncertainty, and fear.’ It’s a mental illness related to other mental conditions, such as depression. Although everyone experiences anxiety occasionally, an anxiety disorder occurs when a person continues to feel anxious without any logical reason.

Stress inevitably takes part in every person’s daily life, and it’s often hard to keep anxiety under control. Nowadays, more and more mental health institutions, like Alvarado Parkway Institute, offer a variety of treatment options for anxiety, stress, and related conditions. They discuss the signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders on their website to help people understand what they’re suffering from.

What Causes Anxiety?

Stressful situations are the leading cause of anxiety disorders. Other factors include genetics and emotional instability.

Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Muscle tension
  • Increased heart rate or palpitations
  • Sweating or tremors
  • Pre-occupied thoughts (ruminating about past events)
  • Irritability and sleep problems
  • With more severe cases, sufferers may also experience panic, helplessness, and the need to avoid certain situations.

Anxiety And Its Effects On Your Skin

Several anxiety disorders affect the skin, including:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): excessive, uncontrolled worry about areas of one’s life, which can include work or school commitments, finances, family problems, etc.
  • Panic disorder: feelings of terror that last for at least 10 minutes and are unexpected. These panic attacks often cause physical symptoms, such as sweating, trembling or shaking, heart palpitations, nausea, or hot flushes.
  • Social anxiety disorder (SAD): intense fear of judgment by people around them, which results in feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): intrusive thoughts or feeling an urge to do something repeatedly. These urges make the person feel like they need to complete a task, even when they’re unlikely to accomplish it.
  • Specific phobias: intense fear of particular situations or objects. These fears can cause an individual to avoid situations or objects altogether.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): persistent, disturbing memories of a traumatic event that occurred in one’s life

Symptoms of anxiety disorders can cause a significant impact on a person’s life, including their relationships with other people, and performance at work or school. In addition to this, many sufferers also experience physical symptoms, such as fatigue, muscle tension, or digestive problems that affect how they look and feel.

Some of the most common skin conditions that affect sufferers of anxiety disorders include:

  • Mild acne to severe cystic acne
  • Dry skin 
  • Other types of dermatitis (e.g., atopic dermatitis and psoriasis)
  • Cracking, flaking, and redness

Anxiety and depression can sometimes cause a person not to look after their skin properly because of low motivation levels.

Some additional conditions that your skin may be experiencing include:

  • Excessive oiliness: causes pores to become clogged and might lead to blackheads and whiteheads
  • Slow healing: causing cuts and scrapes to heal more slowly because your body isn’t able to mend itself as well when suffering from anxiety
  • Sensitivity: this can lead to irritation and inflammation of the skin, which may make acne worse.

Anxiety disorders also affect how people eat and what food they eat when under stress or feeling incredibly anxious about something in their lives. Some of the most common foods and beverages consumed by those suffering from anxiety include:

  • Caffeine-rich drinks: can lead to an imbalanced intake of nutrients and minerals due to their diuretic effects. Drink these often can affect your skin by depleting it with vital vitamins that help your body build new cells. Those who suffer from anxiety disorders are also more likely to rely on caffeine to increase their focus levels or boost their energy levels. It can have a negative effect on sufferers because too much caffeine reduces the amount of dopamine in the brain, which is the neurochemical linked to motivation.
  • Sugar-rich foods: can damage your skin by causing inflammation, redness, and acne. Sugar also makes it harder for the body to absorb vital nutrients that help rebuild cells that have died naturally.
  • Alcohol: another diuretic that depletes your body of water and other essential minerals. Alcohol also reduces a person’s inhibitions and decreases their ability to fight off infections, exacerbating acne and other skin-related problems.

Also, if you suffer from anxiety and are constantly feeling stressed or anxious about your day-to-day activities, chances are you don’t get enough sleep. On average, a person needs around six to eight hours of sleep per night for their body to function correctly and produce hormones that help keep their mind and body healthy.

Not getting enough sleep can also affect how quickly your skin heals from injuries, leading to acne scars. In addition to this, it can also cause you to produce too much oil because of changes in hormone levels if you’re feeling stressed for an extended period of time.

What Causes Skin Conditions When You’re Anxious?

Although there’s no direct link between your skin condition and your anxiety, you’ll notice that when your stress levels are high, it’s also more likely for your skin to react in some way. The main reason is that the stress hormone cortisol affects how your immune system works.

Anxiety

  • Cortisol and immunity

Stress affects the human body in lots of ways, but one of its primary effects is that it stimulates the release of cortisol. This hormone makes your immune system stronger, which prevents you from catching diseases and infections as quickly as other people. However, cortisol can also make some skin conditions, such as eczema worse.

When you’re under stress, your immune system responds by sending out natural killer cells (white blood cells) to fight infection. It means that when you’re stressed, your skin is more sensitive to any irritant it may come into contact with. 

On the other hand, eczema is a skin condition that makes it itchy, dry, and red. Stress can make eczema worse by way of its effects on cortisol levels. One of cortisol’s primary functions is to suppress your immune system to prevent inflammation from occurring. However, stress also stimulates your immune system to become stronger, which can cause an increase in inflammation in the skin.

  • Cortisol and the skin

When cortisol levels are high, your skin is more sensitive to irritants, such as bacteria, increasing the risk of an infection, such as cellulitis (a bacterial skin infection). That’s how stress can cause acne or pimples. Stress can also increase oil production in your skin, making the skin more prone to acne and blackheads.

The stress hormone cortisol is indirectly linked to acne breakouts by its effect on the immune system. Stress can increase inflammation in your body, leading to hormonal changes that can cause acne.

Oil production in your skin can lead to blocked hair follicles, leading to acne breakouts. If you have dry skin, stress can worsen since cortisol increases oil production in some people. It means that if you already have oily skin, stress can make it even oilier.

  • Hormonal imbalances and psoriasis

When stressed, the body produces more hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol, which increases inflammation. This inflammatory response stimulates the release of cytokines, proteins that cause skin cells to grow faster. These are also referred to as stress hormones. The main effect is that they increase blood flow throughout your body to prepare you for emergencies. That’s why stress can cause skin conditions, such as psoriasis.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack healthy skin cells. It means that stress can cause psoriasis by its effect on the immune system.

  • Stress and your skin’s pH

Cortisol also causes your skin to produce more oil, which increases its pH levels. The breakdown of fatty acids in this extra oil can cause your skin to become dry, irritated, and inflamed. That’s why stress can lead to an eczema outbreak. Stress can also increase the pH levels of your skin, which can make it more sensitive and prone to irritation.

  • Stress and your skin’s hydration

When your body is under stress, you’ll start to sweat more due to its effect on your nervous system. Sweating causes the natural oils in your skin to emulsify (dissolve), leading to the skin becoming dry, irritated, and inflamed. 

  • Stress and your diet

When you’re under stress or emotionally distressed, eating junk food can exacerbate pre-existing skin conditions, such as acne, psoriasis, or cellulite. Stress increases the production of cortisol, speeding up the rate at which fatty acids are broken down in your body. It can affect your immune system and lead to a weakened ability to fight off infections.

Ways To Deal With Stress And Anxiety

There’s no way around stressing yourself out from time to time, but if you find yourself regularly stressed out, here are some steps you can take to help improve your skin:

1. Get plenty of vitamin C

Healthy cortisol levels can be achieved naturally by ensuring you get enough vitamins and minerals in your diet. Your body needs vitamin B5, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin C to produce cortisol. It also helps ensure that your diet includes protein-rich foods, and your body can naturally produce this nutrient.

2. Eat plenty of omega-3 fatty acids

The body also needs to be supplied with essential fatty acids to produce cortisol. These can be found in oily fish, such as salmon, trout, sardines, and mackerel, or you can take omega-3 supplements. Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids can also help improve the health of your skin and improve any pre-existing skin condition, such as psoriasis or acne.

3. Keep Your Skin Hydrated

Keeping your skin hydrated can help reduce any condition caused by stress, including eczema and psoriasis. When you sweat, your skin becomes dehydrated due to losing natural oils in the process. It’s, therefore, essential to drink lots of water throughout the day. Furthermore, body lotion or oil can help prevent your skin from becoming dry and irritated.

4. Get Plenty Of Rest

The effects of stress can often be reduced by getting plenty of rest at night, allowing the body to recharge and reduce the cortisol levels raised during the day. Sleep deprivation can result in a weaker immune system and poor skin health.  

5. Be Physically Active

Exercise is an effective stress management tool because it releases endorphins in the body, neurotransmitters that reduce depressive symptoms. Furthermore, exercise helps improve blood circulation and prevent skin conditions, such as acne or psoriasis.

6. Practice Meditation And Yoga

Meditation helps control stress by releasing endorphins in the brain, which work as a natural painkiller and reduce depressive symptoms. Yoga is another healthy way of reducing stress through breathing techniques and meditation, promoting relaxation and concentration.

7. Keep Your Skin Clean And Moisturized

Keeping your skin clean and moisturized can help reduce the effects of stress on your skin. Stress causes dryness and irritation, but using a soap-free cleanser, and mild or non-perfumed lotion will prevent these issues from developing.

Final Thoughts

Anxiety and stress can cause multiple skin conditions, such as psoriasis, acne, and eczema. However, by making sure that you keep your stress and anxiety under control, you can help improve your skin’s appearance and avoid negative effects. 

Gain more control and power over your emotions, thoughts, and actions by understanding the effects of stress on your body and your skin. The more you know, the better you can help take care of your body and reduce stress levels throughout the day. Keep in mind that everybody deals with anxiety and stress in different ways; therefore, it’s essential to find practices that work well for you to help reduce anxiety levels.

Furthermore, this article is only meant to provide background information and isn’t medical advice. It’s highly recommended that you speak to a doctor or seek professional advice if you wish to address anxiety or stress issues.

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