Sunday, 23 December 2012

Is It Hot In Here, Or Is It Just Me?

It's ALWAYS just me.   Today I will be telling you about my struggles with anxiety and... sweating. Please accept my apologies for grossness in advance.

As you may be aware, one of the telltale signs of Social Anxiety Disorder, or any form of anxiety, is sweating.  There are others - such as blushing, trembling, palpitations, nausea, stammering, and rapid speech.  And I experience all of these too.  

Blushing, however, can be overlooked as nerves, or a sign of alcohol ingestion.  I've also had a person tell me they just assumed I put on too much blusher make-up!

Trembling and palpitations can be hidden.  Even when holding a drink, it's possible to steady your arm across your body.  And nausea is also invisible to the naked eye.

Stammering and rapid speech are noticeable, but often written off as behavioural or personality traits.  Ironically, it sometimes happens that people will assume you're so relaxed you aren't even bothering to speak too formally!

But sweating.  Ugh, sweating.  Sweating is the give away.  Sweating is obvious, awkward, and embarrassing.  

It can't be hidden.  It can't be stopped or slowed on cue.  And everyone knows what it means - you're embarrassed, you're very uncomfortable, or there's just something wrong with you.

Here are a list of things that make me sweat:
  • Being outside my house - this will often begin during the car journey
  • Entering or exiting a store, restaurant, cafe, pub, building, or other venue
  • Talking to anyone, be they friend or stranger
  • Doing anything whilst being watched, by friends or strangers
  • Meeting new people (this one's a killer)
  • The point of check out and payment when shopping (also a killer)
  • Lastly, the "normal" causes, such as hot weather or exertion
When I sweat, it's always concentrated on the eyebrows, forehead and upper lip.  If I'm trapped in the situation and can't leave, this will extend to the eye area, chin, and hairline.

The worse is when I sweat to the point of it being visible in my hair.  It's humiliating.

And that's just my face!  I don't have enough hours in the day to go through all the places one sweats on the body, but suffice to say that anxiety promotes sweat better than anything...

So, if you ever see me in public, I'll usually be dabbing away.  Eventually it will become too much sweat, and the panic about sweat causes more panic, and I have to leave.  My options are usually only the bathroom.

Alcohol makes it worse.  Nicotine makes it worse.  Caffeine makes it worse.  Even a hot meal exacerbates the situation.

Basically anything you do socially can make it worse, but even if I stood there with a glass of chilled water, I'd still be sweating away.

The only time the sweating stops is when I am sitting in a cooled area and not talking to more than one person.  Or when I go home.
To be honest, it's horrible.  It gets in the way of every single thing I do outside of my house - work, meetings, university, friends, family, dates, shopping, errands, doctors.  I sweat them all.

And it's not just the embarrassment of being sweaty.  It's also deeply upsetting that your body is misrepresenting who you are to the world.  

Excessive sweat makes it look like I'm a deeply nervous person, or a drug/alcohol addict,  or someone who dislikes being around others.  There is nothing wrong with any of these things - but they aren't accurate about me, and I just want to be myself!  

I don't want to be sweating, I don't need to be sweating, I'm not hot/nervous/drunk - why so much sweat?!  
It's because anxiety is your body letting you down.  Anxiety is the firing of a bunch of physiological responses to perceived dangers or threats that aren't actually there.

To try and stop the sweat, I've tried botox, aluminum based skin products, and altering my diet.  No good results.  I've also used more natural alternatives, such Aloe Vera and Witch-hazel based skin products, which have helped a little more. 

And I am working through Cognitive Behaviour Therapy with my Psychologist so I can use better skills in everyday life.

So, that's my sweaty story.  I am sorry to post about something less than palatable, and believe me, it was a difficult post to write.  But I did it because I think it's important to to be speaking openly about symptoms of mental illness, and because maybe one day another sweater will read this, and feel just a bit less like an alien.


  1. I can imagine this post was embarrassing to write, but it helped me understand social anxiety much better. I too am a sweater, so I get where you're coming from here; even though I don't suffer from severe anxiety. Example: I had to take a flight alone recently and only thinking about passing through security made me flush (from my neck to my chest), sweat profusely, talk rapidly, and stammer.

    As always, great and insightful post. And Merry Christmas!

    1. Thanks for reading and stopping by :) one day you will be able to give proper doctor's opinions on my ramblings! How exciting!

      And yes sweat certainly is embarrassing, but I think the more I am honest about my illness, the more I can take ownership of it and feel more in control. The magic of blogging?

      Hope you had a Merry Christmas too! And hope country X is exotic and relaxing for you :)

  2. Hi Jess,

    I enjoyed your post as it's definitely something I can relate to. I'm a little different in that I'm prone to sweating just for physical reasons (being unfit doesn't help). I've managed to overcome social anxiety (at one point I couldn't leave the house because of it) but because I sweat I look like I'm anxious when I'm not. I'm also prone to hot flushes and blotchy red marks on my skin which is due to sensitivity to temperature change and a mild alcohol allergy. People always ask me if I'm nervous because of it (a great way to make someone feel self-conscious).

    I'm really glad you wrote this post as it is almost a taboo topic and I feel better knowing someone else struggles with it!

    Clare xx

    1. It does feel a bit taboo, it's not something I've heard spoken about a great deal, so I thought it was due. I think I am also just physically predisposed to the sweats as well, but the brain just triggers itself off when anxiety is in the mix!

      You sound like you also have some extra sensitivities to manage, I can imagine that would only complicate things for you sometimes. But very cool that you have conquered social anxiety! I hope one day to be in a similar spot :) Love, Jess xox

  3. I can relate in a different sense -- I had a full hysterectomy in 2011 and was forced into surgical-indued menopause, which causes me hot flashes. I've never experienced it in relation to anxiety, but it sounds horrific. I'm sorry you have to deal with this, and good job writing about such a self-conscious topic!!

    ~ turt

    1. Apologies for my delay in writing back Turtley-Mel :( it was due to a small technical problem (read: I did not know how to use a blog function properly!) I wasn't getting the emails if someone commented. Fixed now!

      I am sorry to hear you had some medical stuff to go through in 2011, but knowing your excellent turtle self you would have conquered your way through it! And yes getting overheated is really ridiculously uncomfortable, as you would know from the past, but I will keep working on it :)