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What Are Stress Rashes? Causes & Treatment

If you’re like most people, at some point or another you’ve likely experienced anxiety and stress. It can be a harrowing and emotional experience. However, for some individuals, the discomfort of these emotions can manifest themselves physically.

Prolonged stress and anxiety can trigger a skin reaction known as an erythema. This term is used to describe reddening of the skin which is commonly seen in response to acute stress and anxiety. But what are stress rashes, exactly, and how do they form?

stressed woman

Also known as an anxious erytis, this condition is marked by red patches on the skin that can itch and are usually confined to one area of the body, though in some cases they can appear anywhere on the body. The exact causes of this reaction are not well understood but it seems as though a number of different factors are involved.


Some research suggests that being exposed repeatedly to unpleasant or threatening thoughts and stress may lead to chronic nervousness in a person, causing them to be continuously vigilant about potential threats.

Because of this, when the individual encounters something that triggers their emotional memories of past traumas or worries about future dangers, they may experience a physiological response in order to defend themselves against future attacks.

This physiological response may persist in symptoms like breaking out in hives or itching and inflammation at various parts of the body.

These findings suggest that emotional stress can trigger a rash as a result of heightened levels of anxiety and fear, as opposed to an allergic reaction or physical irritation from scratching or other external sources which can typically also trigger a common skin rash or welt.

Additionally, research suggests that this type of rash may be more common in people with conditions such as PTSD or OCD. Researchers believe that a combination of environmental triggers like pollution and lifestyle choices such as smoking and alcohol consumption can also contribute to this rash's development.

cigar and whiskey drink

Worryingly, these rashes are increasingly becoming more common in modern society where life can be filled with constant pressure and stressors. Fortunately, most people for whom a rash or hives is caused by anxiety will recover without any long-term consequences.

In most cases, stress hives usually go away on their own within a few days. For those who have severe symptoms, many types of home treatment options exist to relieve the itching and other skin symptoms.

Read on to learn more about some of the physical symptoms that can accompany the outbreak of a rash caused by stress or anxiety disorders, what can prevent them, and what can treat them.

Does anxiety or stress cause rashes?

Yes. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that some of the effects of anxiety and stress can lead to various skin conditions; from rosacea and hives to puffy, itchy skin and raised red bumps. Stress can also make existing skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis worse.

hives on arm skin

When you’re stressed, your body produces more of the hormone cortisol, which can trigger inflammation and make skin conditions like eczema flare-up.

So if you suffer from eczema or a similar skin condition, it’s especially important to manage anxiety and stress levels not only for your mental well-being, but to help keep your skin healthy as well.

Finding the right treatment for anxiety, whether it be with the help of a mental health professional or through a concerted effort to limit stress-inducing triggers, can mean the difference between a tendency to develop a rash or hives any time you experience stress, and not.

What is stress rash or anxiety rash?

As previously discussed, an anxiety rash is a stress-related skin condition that can result in an itchy rash or bumps called hives, or urticaria.

While they are most commonly seen in response to acute stress and anxiety as an exacerbation of preexisting skin issues, some stress can also trigger new hives to appear. These areas affected by new and smaller hives may make your skin quite uncomfortable.

stress rash on back

There are two types of anxiety or stress rashes: psychogenic and dermatological.

The first type, psychogenic rashes, are usually reported to be more common among children and teenagers, while dermatological stress rashes often appear more common among adults.

Psychogenic rashes

Psychogenic rashes are usually triggered by strong emotions like fear, anger and sadness which are followed by intense scratching or rubbing of the body in order to relieve this emotion.

They’re also more likely to occur when people experience prolonged stress through different triggers like work or school workloads or other situations that cause their mind to overwork.

Stressed exhausted woman sitting

Dermatological rashes

Dermatological rashes are caused by external irritants or allergies to chemicals or contact with the environment which constantly trigger the body’s defensive mechanisms against these irritants.

This triggers an inflammatory reaction which leads to reddening of the skin on one area of the body leading to small bumps on that area.

Woman suffering from a pollen allergy

It’s also possible for people with this type of rash to develop blisters while they’re scratching their rash which can lead to irritation from scratching if not treated properly.

This type of rash typically lasts for at least three weeks; but hives can also last longer depending on how often it occurs.

How to Tell the Difference Between a Rash Caused by Anxiety and Something Else?

The best way to tell the difference between a rash caused by anxiety and something else is by asking yourself questions like, “How long has this pressure been going on?” or “How often does this happen?”

If these rashes are persistent, ongoing, and cause a lot of distress for you, it may be time to get help from a professional or talk to a doctor.

Patient showing doctor an eczema rash

Though the thought to seek immediate medical attention might seem like a stressful idea in and of itself, once the doctors are able to determine what is causing the area affected by hives to swell, they can help you find the best way to manage your symptoms that appear on the skin.

For example, if you are allergic to a specific food or medication, you will need to avoid that allergen in order to keep the hives from returning.

If the swelling is caused by an infection, you will need antibiotics and other medications to help clear up the infection.

If stress is causing your hives, you will need to learn how to manage your stress levels so that they do not cause your body to have a reaction. This might mean learning some relaxation techniques or finding ways to eliminate stressful situations from your life.

Some people find relief by finding ways to distract themselves from thoughts which trigger their rashes. Monitoring your thoughts in real time may provide a way to manage panic attacks.

The bottom line is that if you are dealing with hives on a regular basis, it is important for you to seek medical attention so that the underlying cause of your condition can be diagnosed and treated accordingly.

Ways to Relieve Stress and Stress Rashes

One way to reduce your anxious erythema is to avoid anything that may be causing the condition. If possible, you should try to learn how to identify and remove yourself from your trigger and spend a little more time in a relaxing environment, like at home or with a loved one.

This will allow you to relieve some of your anxiety.

Stress reduction and relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques can be helpful in managing stress and anxiety, both of which can worsen hives and other skin conditions. Stress reduction is a top stress rash treatment, and one of the best ways to prevent some of these common skin conditions.

Learn how to practice mindfulness meditation or meditate in general. Try yoga, tai chi, or exercise to help reduce anxiety and stress levels.

Try to get outside for some fresh air and sunshine every day. Spend time with friends or family members who make you feel good.

Woman doing Tai chi outdoors

Don’t drink alcohol or use drugs as a way to cope with your anxiety. These substances are known causes of stress and can actually make anxiety worse in the long run.



Over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines like Benadryl and Claritin may help to relieve the itchiness associated with hives and stress rashes.

These medications may cause drowsiness as a side effect, so you should avoid driving or operating heavy machinery while taking them.

Hydrocortisone creams or ointments

steroid cream Ointment

This is a topical medication that can help reduce inflammation in the skin. They are available over the counter or by prescription, and can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, and contact dermatitis.


Cortisone shot

If over-the-counter antihistamines are ineffective, your doctor may prescribe oral steroids such as prednisone or cortisone for short periods of time (usually no longer than two weeks). However, these medications can have serious side effects.

Some of the potential side effects of prednisone or cortisone include weight gain, mood swings, and trouble sleeping. Additional side effects of topical corticosteroids include skin irritation, dryness, and redness.

If used for an extended period of time, they can also cause thinning of the skin. If you experience any of these side effects while taking these medications, be sure to contact your healthcare provider.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

congitive beharioral therapy Book

You may also want to consider other treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy which has proven helpful for people with these types of rashes.

CBT can help people to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be contributing to their stress levels and trigger an outbreak.

Stop the itch-scratch cycle

One of the most important things to do when dealing with a stress rash is to avoid scratching the affected area. Further irritation may occur as a result, as well as infection.

Woman scratching an itch on her arm

Resisting the urge to scratch an itch is the very definition of 'easier said than done'. According to conventional wisdom, you should distract yourself with another activity or apply a cold compress to the area if you find yourself itching.

Another age-old piece of advice is to avoid tight clothing, opting instead to wear loose-fitting clothing made of soft fabrics to help prevent irritation.

Most reading this know that when you're in the middle of a flare-up, a cold compress just doesn't cut it. And trying to find the perfect loose-fitting, soft clothing can be a challenge when your skin is on fire.

Luckily, science has made some incredible progress in recent years and there are now skin care products that can stop the itch dead in its tracks - without the use of harmful steroids.

Dermatologists specifically developed Dermeleve® to treat itching more effectively and safely.

Dermeleve tube

The secret to Dermeleve’s® instant itch-stopping power is through the use of the SrX-38™ steroid-free formula. This unique, patented formula was developed specifically to outperform other itch-relief products without the use of steroids.

What’s more, this cream is formulated with the best quality skin healing ingredients available:

  • Ceramides: Lipid-rich molecules which retain moisture and promote skin cell regeneration.
  • Hyaluronic acid: Promotes cell proliferation and healing.
  • Vitamin C&E: Promotes skin health.
  • Shea butter: Helps retain moisture.

Dermeleve® is absorbed rapidly into the skin where it instantly and significantly reduces the sensation of itch.

Dermeleve being rubbed on skin to address stress rash

Though more powerful than most prescription-strength itch creams, Dermeleve® is FDA approved and completely safe for daily use- and is available as an OTC without a prescription.

Dermeleve® is available through a physician’s office, or via the Dermeleve® website at.


Talk to your doctor

stressed woman in bed

If anxiety or stress, with or without accompanying rashes, is taking a toll on your life or health, talk to your doctor about what are stress rashes, and treatments that might help. Additionally, it can also be helpful to speak with a psychologist who specializes in dealing with anxiety-related rashes.

They can advise on methods for coping with stress and anxiety as well as provide insight on how the individual might be able to take control of their life again in order to prevent future bouts of rash.

For more information on Dermeleve® or to place an order, visit the Dermeleve® site.