Can Anxiety Cause a Rash?

A woman's neck is shown with a red cluster of hives on it.
  • An anxiety rash, often categorized as a stress rash, is triggered by the hormonal changes in the body when a person feels anxious or stressed.

  • These rashes can include raised welts and may appear as a cluster or individual welts.

  • If you have a rash that is accompanied by difficulty breathing, you should seek medical attention immediately.

What is an Anxiety Rash?

Also known as a stress rash or hives, an anxiety rash is a type of skin condition that is triggered as a response to psychological stress.

An anxiety or stress-induced rash can either look like clustered or individual raised welts and may be itchy.

It can occur anywhere on the body, and in some cases, the rash can be accompanied by symptoms like swelling and difficulty breathing.

The rash may come and go, appearing and disappearing over a period of time.

Key Point: How Do Anxiety and Stress Affect the Body?

When people experience anxiety or stress, the body releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, triggering an immune response that can sometimes cause the skin to become itchy, inflamed, and swollen.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

If you suspect that you have this type of rash, it’s worth noting the common symptoms of anxiety so that you can identify if it is a possible cause. Anxiety symptoms include:

  • Physical symptoms: Sweating, shaking, racing heart rate, chest pain, trouble breathing, nausea, fatigue, and headaches

  • Emotional symptoms: Apprehension, restlessness, irritability, worry, negative thoughts, and panic

  • Cognitive symptoms: Racing thoughts and difficulty concentrating

  • Behavioral symptoms: Avoiding certain situations, seeking reassurance, and compulsive behaviors

What are anxiety disorders?

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, you may have an anxiety disorder. The most common anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

  • Panic disorder

  • Social anxiety disorder

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

A woman holds her head in her hands.

What makes anxiety worse?

Some things that can make anxiety- and anxiety rashes- worse include:

  • Stressful life events and big changes

  • Antidepressants and other medications with anxiety as a side-effect

  • Lack of sleep

  • An underlying condition that is considered chronic, like heart disease or asthma

  • Lack of social support or social isolation

  • Stimulants like caffeine and cigarettes

Anxiety and stress rashes often appear more frequently or become more uncomfortable due to the scenarios mentioned above.

What Else Can Cause a Body Rash?

It’s worth noting that anxiety and stress aren’t the only things that can cause a rash on the body. Here are some other causes that can lead to hives and rashes.

Allergic reactions

An itchy rash can often be caused by an allergic reaction. If you’re allergic to certain foods, for example, you may develop chronic hives and other physical effects.

Exposure to certain plants or chemicals as well as environmental triggers like high pollen counts or pollution can also create an allergic reactions.

A preexisting skin condition

Existing skin conditions like eczema, for example, may cause irritation, rashes, or itchy skin.

Interestingly, eczema can also be triggered by stress and anxiety, causing flare-ups that lead to itchy and irritated skin.

Other existing skin conditions that may cause rashes include:

  • Psoriasis

  • Rosacea

  • Contact dermatitis

  • Urticaria

  • Shingles

A woman holds a cold compress to the back of her neck.

How Can I Treat a Rash?

Here are some practical ways you can relieve symptoms of anxiety and stress rashes as well as other skin symptoms:

  • Stress management techniques: Reducing stress and anxiety in your life is important to prevent rashes. Deep breathing and mindfulness can help you manage stress more effectively

  • Over-the-counter antihistamines: If your rash results from an allergic reaction, an over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine medication may relieve skin irritation

  • Avoid tight clothing: Certain fabrics and tight garments can result in uncomfortable symptoms like a rash

  • Lifestyle changes: Making changes to your diet and your routine can help you better manage your mental health and avoid allergies

  • Regular exercise: Exercise has been proven to relieve anxiety symptoms

  • Cold compresses: A cold compress can be a good way to reduce the appearance of anxiety rashes or hives

  • Topical treatments: OTC topical treatments like creams can help relieve rashes and ease other skin-related symptoms

  • Improving your daily life: Enjoying your personal hobbies and spending time on things you find fulfilling can reduce feelings of stress

When Should I Seek Medical Treatment for a Rash?

If your symptoms get worse over time and you’re having difficulty breathing, you should seek immediate medical attention as you may be experiencing a severe allergic reaction.

If your rash is caused by stress and anxiety, a medical professional can help you develop a mental health treatment plan to better manage uncomfortable rashes and other symptoms.

A man grasps at his head and has a stressed-out look on his face.

Where Can I Get Medical Treatment for a Rash?

If you’re experiencing some of the symptoms we’ve covered in this article, or have any concerns about your health — make a telehealth appointment with LifeMD.

You can get relief from an anxiety and stress rash by consulting with one of our board-certified doctors from the comfort of your home.

Visit our website to book your telehealth appointment today.


Dr. Anthony Puopolo

Dr. Puopolo holds a B.A. in Biology from Tufts University, M.A. in Biology from Boston University, and Doctor of Medicine from the Boston University School of Medicine. He also completed a Family Medicine and Psychiatry residency program in the U.S. Army.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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