Red Skin Anxiety Symptoms
Red skin; skin feels or looks like it is turning red; unusually hot, warm skin; skin looks or feels like it is sunburned even though you weren’t in the sun descriptions:
Your skin can also look red, inflamed, flushed, or blushed.
Some people experience episodes of this symptom in association with an increase or decrease in their anxiety and stress, whereas others experience this symptom persistently regardless of an increase or decrease in anxiety and stress.
This symptom can occur anywhere on the body, can migrate to a different location or locations, and can come and go randomly without any reason. This symptom can occur rarely, frequently, or persist indefinitely. All variations and combinations are common.
Because there are many medical conditions that can cause anxiety and anxiety-like sensations and symptoms, including this one, we recommend that all new, changing, persistent, and returning symptoms be discussed with your doctor. If your doctor concludes that your sensations and symptoms are solely stress related (including anxiety-caused stress), you can be confident that there isn't another medical reason for them. Generally, most doctors can easily tell the difference between stress- and anxiety-caused sensations and symptoms from those caused by other medical conditions.
If you are uncertain about your doctor’s diagnosis, however, you may want to seek a second and even third opinion. But if all three opinions concur, you can be assured that stress (including the stress that being overly anxious can cause) is the cause of your sensations and symptom, including this one, and not some other medical or biological problem.
What causes anxiety-related red skin?
The body releases stress hormones into the bloodstream whenever we become anxious (fretful, apprehensive, fearful). Stress hormones cause a number of physiological, psychological, and emotional changes in the body that prepare it for action when danger is perceived. These changes are commonly referred to as the Stress Response (also known as the Emergency Response or the “flight or fight” response).
Since the body contains a finite amount of blood, stress hormones cause the body to shunt blood around within itself so that the areas of the body vital for survival have more blood than those less important for survival. For example, blood is shunted away from the skin, hands, and feet and moved to the brain (so that the brain has more fuel to think), heart (so that the heart can pump suitable quantities of blood to the vital areas), and muscles (to make the body stronger and quicker).
The body moves its blood around by constricting blood vessels in certain areas of the body and by expanding blood vessels in other areas. Constricted blood vessels force blood away and expanded blood vessels allow blood to flow in. Because blood is normally regulated at 98.7 degrees Fahrenheit (37.056 degrees Celsius) and contains red blood cells, an increase in blood flow causes an increase in temperature and redness.
“Blushing” or “turning red” when nervous or embarrassed is an example of the physiological change that occurs when we’re anxious. So in this instance, the ‘red skin’ appearance is caused by an active stress response. Yes, the stress response can affect each part of the body differently, which is why we can have a red spot in one area and not others.
Since the stress response is a normal part of the body’s survival mechanism, stress-caused red skin isn’t a reason for concern.
Moreover, sustained stress can cause stress-related symptoms, as well. For example, if you’ve been under a lot of stress lately, your body can build up a ‘stress load’ and exhibit symptoms of stress even though you may not feel stressed in that moment.
We explain this in much more detail in the Recovery Support area of our website.
How to get rid of the anxiety- and stress-caused red skin symptoms?
When this symptom is caused by an active stress response (triggered by being anxious, nervous, apprehensive), calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response, which will bring an end to the stress response changes. As your body recovers from the stress response changes, this symptom should subside. Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
When this symptom is caused by persistently elevated stress, it may take a lot more time for the body to recover and to the point where this symptom subsides. We talk more about this scenario in the Recovery Support area of our website.
Nevertheless, when the body has fully recovered from being anxious and stressed, this symptom will completely disappear. Therefore, this symptom needn’t be a cause for concern.
You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about this symptom. Again, when your body has recovered from the stress response and/or sustained stress, this symptom will completely disappear.
For a more detailed explanation about this symptom (and all the other symptoms), 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 many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.
The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder coach, counselor, or 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.
For more information about our Anxiety Counseling option; our Available Anxiety Therapists; to Book An Appointment with one of our anxiety therapists; common Anxiety Signs and Symptoms; common Anxiety Attack Symptoms; the symptoms of panic attack disorder; anxiety Recovery Support area; information about Anxiety; and our Anxiety 101 section; or click on the appropriate link or graphic below:
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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated October 9, 2018.