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Burning, Itching, Itchy Skin Anxiety Symptoms

Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: October 22, 2019


burning itching skin anxiety symptoms image

Burning, itching, and having itchy skin can be a symptom of anxiety disorder, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and others.

To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your anxiety symptoms, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test or Anxiety Disorder Test. The higher the rating, the more likely it could be contributing to your anxiety symptoms, including burning and itchy skin.

This article explains the relationship between anxiety and how it can create burning and itching skin.

Burning, Itching, Itchy Skin with no rash anxiety symptom description:

Your skin (or parts thereof) feels like it is burning and/or itching even though there isn’t any visible reason for it to be burning and/or itching, such as burn marks or dry, cracked, flaky, or broken skin.

This burning itching skin sensation can be mildly noticeable, moderately bothersome, or severely problematic.

The skin can be burning so much that it feels like a major sunburn even though you haven’t been in the sun. And sometimes you can scratch and scratch, even to the point of injuring the skin, yet your skin is still itching and/or very itchy.

Generally, this burning and itching skin feeling doesn’t have any visible reason for it to feel that way. It appears the skin is itching and burning for no apparent reason.

This burning itching skin sensation can occur anywhere on the body, such as the hands, face, feet, back, neck, lips, and scalp, to name a few.

This burning itching skin sensation can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may have severe skin burning and itching once in a while and not that often, feel it off and on, or feel the burning and itching all the time.

This burning itching skin sensation may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

This burning itching skin sensation can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.

This burning itching skin sensation can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.

This burning itching skin sensation can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

What causes the burning itching skin anxiety symptom?

Medical Advisory

NOTE: Allergic reactions and adverse reactions to medications are also common causes of burning and itching skin sensations. Be sure to discuss this symptom with your doctor to rule out those potential causes.

If your burning and itching skin sensation has been attributed to anxiety and stress, behaving apprehensively (worrying, fretting, being anxious) causes the body to activate the stress response, which brings about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes in the body to enhance the body’s ability to deal with a threat—to either fight with or flee from it...which is the reason the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response.[1][2]

Due to the extent of changes the stress response brings about, stress responses stress the body, and especially the nervous system. The nervous system is responsible for sending and receiving sensory information to and from the brain, including sending and receiving sensory information from the nerve endings in the skin.

When the body isn’t overly stressed, the nervous system and sensory organs perform normally. When the body becomes chronically stressed (which we call stress-response hyperstimulation), however, from too frequent stress responses, the body, nervous system, and sensory organs can ‘misbehave’ and cause a wide range of nervous system and sensory symptoms,[3][4] such as exhibiting a burning and itching skin sensation.

Because anxiety- and stress-related burning and itching skin sensations are only caused by chronic stress and not some other medical condition, they aren’t harmful. Therefore, this burning and itching feeling isn’t a reason for concern.  

How to get rid of burning and itching skin sensations?

Since this symptom is caused by stress and how it affects the body, reducing your body’s stress is the best way to eliminate anxiety and stress caused burning and itching skin sensations. As your body’s stress diminishes, this symptom should diminish and eventually disappear.

Keep in mind, however, that it may take some time before your body’s overly stressed state is completely resolved. Reducing a body’s stress often takes much longer than most people think.

Nevertheless, when the body has fully recovered from stress-response hyperstimulation, this burning and itching skin sensation will completely subside.

You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about this feeling. Sure, a burning and itching skin sensation can be annoying. But again, when your body has fully recovered from its overly stressed state, this symptom will completely disappear.

For a more detailed explanation about anxiety symptoms including burning and itching skin sensation, why symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have a great deal of information about this in the Recovery Support area of our website.



The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.


Additional Resources:


Return to Anxiety Disorder Symptoms section.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/therapy for problematic anxiety and its symptoms, including the anxiety symptom burning itching skin.


REFERENCES:

1. Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. New York, NY, US: McGraw-Hill.

2. Folk, Jim and Folk, Marilyn. “The Stress Response And Anxiety Symptoms.” anxietycentre.com, August 2019.

3. Hannibal, Kara E., and Mark D. Bishop. “Chronic Stress, Cortisol Dysfunction, and Pain: A Psychoneuroendocrine Rationale for Stress Management in Pain Rehabilitation.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2014.

4. Justice, Nicholas J., et al. “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder-Like Induction Elevates β-Amyloid Levels, Which Directly Activates Corticotropin-Releasing Factor Neurons to Exacerbate Stress Responses.” Journal of Neuroscience, Society for Neuroscience, 11 Feb. 2015.