Skin itching and anxiety – why are they linked?

Skin Itching and Anxiety

Ever noticed how persistent skin itching seems to get worse when you’re feeling stressed or anxious? You’re not alone – and it’s not all in your head. Chronic itchiness and anxiety often go hand in hand, creating a vicious cycle that can affect your behaviour and even your overall quality of life.

This scratch-anxiety loop doesn’t just affect those with certain skin conditions. Those who don’t have any pre-existing skin conditions can also experience this frustrating and perplexing behaviour. Thankfully, there are things you can do to stop that itch. Anxiety-calming and itch-relieving treatments have both shown promise in breaking the cycle.

Here, we’ll look at the connection between anxiety and itchy skin and what you can do to tackle it.

The skin itching-anxiety cycle

Think of your brain as a central command centre that springs into action when you’re under stress. This reaction leads to a domino effect that releases a mix of hormones and chemicals, sparking inflammation not just inside your body, but also on your skin.

When you’re feeling emotionally wound up, like when you’re experiencing anxiety, your body pumps out a stress hormone called cortisol, which is notorious for stirring up or worsening skin issues, including itchiness. So why does this happen?

Stress may mess up your skin’s natural defences, hinder the production of skin-protecting factors (like lipids), and even alter blood flow in your skin. These changes can lead to skin redness, dryness, and flaking – all of which could make you feel itchy.

While this response is entirely normal, remember, it doesn’t mean that everyone feeling stressed will get itchy. Both temporary and long-term psychological stress can influence how itchy we feel.

How can you prevent stress itching?

Preventing the itch begins with knowing what triggers it. For many people, the main causes are stress, anxiety, or existing skin conditions. To handle these triggers, it’s key to explore ways to control them effectively. If you’re dealing with a skin condition for example, a dermatologist can help treat the issue.

If you are suffering with anxiety related skin itching, treating the anxiety issue will help. Tackling both the emotional troubles and skin issues simultaneously is key to eliminating the issue. There are lots of ways to manage anxiety. Some people might find relief through talking therapies, while others might benefit from medications.

Let’s not forget about the role of stress management in breaking the itch-stress cycle too. It’s crucial to find a strategy that works for you, as there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Maybe you’ll discover that regular meditation calms your mind, or perhaps a good workout does the trick.

Treatment strategies to scratch out anxiety

If you’re frequently tormented by itchy skin, one of the best things you can do is schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. There’s a diverse range of strategies you can use to soothe chronic skin itching, and they often begin with simple changes to your everyday skincare routine.

When your skin is dry, consider applying emollients regularly. Try using ones containing skin-friendly ingredients like ceramides, glycerine, or hyaluronic acid. And if your skin is very dry, occlusive formulations, like those with paraffin, might help. Also, cooling your creams in the fridge or applying cool gel packs to the itchy areas can bring much relief.

Lifestyle changes can also make a significant difference in managing stress-induced skin itching. You might find relief through mind-calming practices like breathing exercises, muscle relaxation techniques, or your favourite form of meditation. Keeping yourself hydrated, eating a well-balanced diet, and getting a good night’s sleep are also vital for maintaining healthy skin. Also, remember, your scalp can itch too. Consider a targeted shampoo if you’re dealing with a dry, itchy scalp.

Remember, while these strategies may help, they’re not substitutes for seeking professional advice from a skin expert. If you’re dealing with persistent itchiness, schedule an appointment with Consultant Dermatologist Dr Juliet Williams today by calling 01483 555907.