Stress Rashes and Spots: When Your Skin Reacts to Your Emotions

Have you ever had red spots on your face, neck, chest, or abdomen?Stress is linked to the skin. Thus, these types of unpleasant manifestations are very common. Do you want to know why this happens? We'll explain stress rashes in this article.
Stress Rashes and Spots: When Your Skin Reacts to Your Emotions

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria213 in 15 November, 2021.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Can we get rashes, spots, blemishes, or hives because of stress? Many extreme psychological conditions can manifest themselves organically and also physically. Moreover, within dermatology, this is a very common relationship. In fact, it’s an increasingly common phenomenon, both in adults and children. Learn all about stress rashes in today’s article.

The intricate link between skin and stress has been studied for several decades. The “brain-skin” connection has lead psychology, endocrinology, neurobiology, and dermatology to collaborate in order to better understand this phenomenon.

Of course, these manifestations can be very bothersome and even disabling. Sometimes, intense facial inflammation and redness can limit a person’s social life considerably.

In addition to this, these rashes and blemishes are usually accompanied by intense itching and pain that can limit a person’s normal day to day life.

A stressed man.

Stress rashes: what they are, why they appear, and how to treat them

Many people who suffer from stress end up having skin disorders. The most common are, undoubtedly, typical acne outbreaks. However, one aspect should be clarified: these manifestations can be due to typical adolescent conditions and can only be considered stress spots when this psychological state is experienced intensely over time.

We can’t overlook the fact that the skin is the largest organ in the body. It’s also very sensitive to our moods. Rosacea, dermatitis, psoriasis, or vitiligo are quite common alterations and are the subject of most dermatology consultations.

How to know if the spots or rashes are due to stress

These stress rashes or spots can appear from one day to the next. They appear as an outbreak, and the first thing we usually think is that it’s due to some kind of allergy. It’s also very easy to differentiate them from blemishes due to the sun, as they have a browner tone and form over time, little by little.

These stress rashes or spots usually have the following appearance:

  • They have a reddish tone.
  • They’re irregular and arise in nuclei.
  • They usually appear on the neck, chest, and abdomen but also on the arms and legs.
  • You’ll notice them because they itch, sting, and bother you when your clothes rub against them.

Why do they appear?

States of stress maintained over time take their toll in the long run. They do so in many ways, it’s true, but sudden spots or rashes appearing on the skin is a fairly common phenomenon. Let’s analyze the causes of their appearance:

Psychological stress generates an inflammatory response on the skin, causing the appearance of spots, rashes, and hives and even preventing the healing of wounds. This is what a study conducted at the Free University of Berlin by doctors Robert Maioff and Yingh Shen revealed.

  • Moreover, we know that these states of stress raise blood adrenaline levels, which causes cortisol levels to rise.
  • This hormone unbalances the skin and causes the appearance of seborrhea and bacteria.
  • We suffer hormonal alterations, an accumulation of toxins, and inflammatory processes start to appear. The skin is our body’s largest organ and also the most sensitive to these hormonal alterations.
  • For example, we know that vitiligo, even though it’s an autoimmune disease, can also be aggravated by stress. This happens when the immune system itself attacks the skin cells that produce melanin. Hence, the classic white spots appear.
  • Rosacea is another skin disorder that can also arise as a result of stress and as a reaction to the inflammation caused by excess cortisol.
A happy woman.

Stress spots can appear at any time. Whenever you’re going through times of prolonged stress, you run the risk of suffering some form of skin alteration. What can you do in these circumstances?

  • The first thing you should do is go to the doctor and rule out other pathologies.
  • In general, and to reduce both inflammation and itching, antihistamines are usually prescribed.
  • Obviously, if you don’t manage stress, then the nervousness will continue to be present, as well as the itching, discomfort, and risk of more stress spots.
  • You must break the cycle. In order to do this, cognitive-behavioral therapy is very useful. With this therapy, you can work on the dysfunctional thoughts and ideas that are intensifying the discomfort.
  • Establishing routines to include times of rest, leisure, and physical and mental disconnection is also very important.
  • Practicing some type of moderate exercise is always very helpful.
  • On the other hand, it’s important to look after your diet. Reduce your consumption of saturated fats, ready meals, refined flour, alcohol, or stimulating drinks such as coffee.

To conclude, you mustn’t neglect the impact of emotions, worries, and psychological states on your skin health. When the body speaks, it’s your obligation to understand the message it’s sending you and to try to look for a solution.

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  • Chen Y., Maidof R., Lyga J. (2017) Brain-Skin Connection: Impact of Psychological Stress on Skin. In: Farage M., Miller K., Maibach H. (eds) Textbook of Aging Skin. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.