What Causes Stress Hives And Why?

Updated March 15, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

You’ve probably heard about the different ways anxiety relates to the body, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, difficulty breathing, and stroke. What you may not know is the connection between stress and skin symptoms, such as a rash. Continue reading if you're like to know more about anxiety-related rashes, like hives, which can come about as a result of stress.

Hives, Rosacea, And Other Skin Rashes May Be Related To Anxiety

Can Stress Cause Rashes?

If you’ve been experiencing frequent stress lately, and your skin is red and irritated, you may be asking, “How can stress cause itching and hives?” In some people, elevated anxiety hormones can trigger inflammation in the body, including triggering hives on the skin. Additionally, chronic anxiety can weaken the immune system, making a person more vulnerable to hives caused by environmental triggers.

Stress-induced hives may appear anywhere on the body, most commonly on the face, neck, back, or arms. They are a fairly common reaction that many people experience. Stress hives may range from mild to severe in intensity, depending on the amount of redness or itchiness involved, as well as the size of the area affected. They may appear in small clusters or larger formations, called whorls. Hives caused by stress or anxiety are not different in appearance from hives caused by allergies or other triggers. Itchiness may be worse at night for some people and interfere with their sleep.

Red Patches And Anxiety: When To Get Treatment

Anxiety can also cause red patches of skin without hives. This reaction occurs due to the dilation of blood vessels underneath the skin. Usually, this type of rash is not itchy or irritated on the skin’s exterior.

Hives can occur for many reasons other than anxiety or stress. Allergies are the most common cause of hives. Allergies to everything from insect bites to certain foods to medications can trigger an outbreak of hives. Hives may be the only symptom, occurring soon after contact with the offending substance. This is known as contact dermatitis. Hives can also be accompanied by other symptoms, like shortness of breath or lightheadedness. If you suspect that an allergy causes your stress hives or hives in general, but you haven’t yet been diagnosed with one, contact your primary care doctor.

How other underlying causes may appear similar to getting an anxiety skin rash:

  • Overheating

  • Sweating

  • Chafing

  • Having an infection

  • Taking certain antibiotics

  • Consuming alcohol

  • Living with thyroid disease

  • Having a diagnosis of lupus

The Impact Of Prolonged Stress And Anxiety

Ongoing, chronic anxiety can have a serious impact on many parts of the body. The body’s stress response is designed only to be active for short periods. In modern times, with chronic stress as the norm for many people, this reaction can get stuck in the “on” position, producing a domino effect of negative ramifications over time.

Left unchecked, frequent stress can hurt the cardiovascular, immune, and central nervous systems, among other bodily processes. Chronic anxiety can weaken your body’s ability to fight infections and put a strain on your organs. Frequent, severe anxiety is a strong indicator of developing physical ailments down the road, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and some types of cancer.

How To Treat Stress Hives

While usually harmless, stress hives can be frustrating and induce feelings of insecurity and self-consciousness. For most people, stress hives last for only a few days, and they almost always resolve on their own within four to six weeks. Reminding yourself that stress hives are a common, temporary problem can help you to manage stress about them or any other negative feelings that you may have.

If you want hives to clear up sooner, there are steps that you can take to reduce their appearance and severity. It’s important to narrow down the cause of your hives and rule out any underlying condition or potential other factors. Consider first whether you’ve recently changed any products you use, such as shampoo or body wash, or started a new medication. If you’re concerned about your hives, contact your physician or dermatologist. The following are a few suggestions for how to treat your stress rash that have proven effective.


Commercial antihistamine creams can be effective at treating anxiety-related hives and rashes, especially those that cause mild to moderate itchiness and irritation. These creams can be found in most drugstores and supermarkets. Be sure to follow the directions exactly. If your stress rash does not respond to over-the-counter antihistamines, your medical doctor may prescribe a prescription-strength cream, such as prescription-strength cortisone cream, to treat and relieve symptoms instead.

Avoidance Of Aggravating Products

Many lotions, body washes, and skincare products contain alcohol, fragrance, and other ingredients that may irritate sensitive skin. Some products can cause dryness, redness, and flakiness, especially when used to cover a rash. Switch to gentle products specifically made to treat sensitive skin or eczema.

Oatmeal Baths

Oatmeal has many well-known soothing properties that can help to treat anxiety-induced rashes. Colloidal oatmeal is finely ground and can be mixed into a warm bath. Soaking in a bath has the added advantage of relaxing your body, to lower your stress hormones. Baking soda can be used as an alternative, too.

Cold Compresses

Stress rashes not only itch but may also have a burning sensation that can be quite intense. A commercial or homemade cold compress can soothe the inflammation and provide relief.

If your anxiety rash is still present after six weeks, or you have rashes that reoccur frequently, contact your doctor for assistance. It’s also important to consult your doctor if you notice a fever, blisters, or pain accompanying your rash, or any stress bumps on fingers or hands as these may be signs of a more serious condition. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe steroids or antibiotics to treat the source of the rash.

The Effect Of Anxiety On Your Skin

The body and brain are connected in so many ways. The mental challenges that we experience, especially if prolonged, may manifest as physical symptoms like stress hives. Conversely, when we experience a physical symptom that troubles us and are unsure of the reasons why, that may cause us to become nervous or stressed about what might be going on. 

Acne Breakouts

Your body’s anxiety response causes an increase in the production of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Among changes like an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure, these hormones also cause the oil glands in your skin to increase the production of oils that can clog your pores and encourage bacterial growth. This can lead to reoccurring outbreaks of acne in areas such as the face, chest, shoulders, and back.

Psoriasis And Rosacea

Anxiety is a well-known trigger for psoriasis flares, especially in women. The same is true for rosacea. This connection is due to the immune system’s inflammatory response when the body undergoes chronic anxiety. Proper anxiety management is considered to be an important part of minimizing flare-ups of these and other skin conditions.

How To Reduce Anxiety

When you start to notice physical symptoms of chronic stress, it’s time to look for ways to lower that anxiety. While not every anxiety trigger can be eliminated, it’s essential to pinpoint and to reduce the ones that you can mitigate. While skin problems and other external symptoms of anxiety can be upsetting, internal problems can seriously compromise your health. Ways to decrease your anxiety level include:

  • Starting an exercise routine. Regular exercise is considered to be one of the best ways to manage and reduce anxiety. A minimum of 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day for three to four days a week is recommended for healthy individuals. Consult your physician before beginning any exercise routine.

  • Drinking green tea. L-Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, has been found to have a calming effect without sedating.  that drinking green tea suppresses the body’s anxiety response while encouraging a calm focus. Its antioxidant components can also act as anti-inflammatories, helping to reduce swelling.

  • Learning relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques are helpful tools that you can use when you feel your body going into fight-or-flight mode. Deep breathing is a popular relaxation technique that involves a mindful focus on the breath. In progressive muscle relaxation, you perform a mental scan for any tension or anxiety in the body and then intentionally relax each muscle group.

  • Practicing mindfulness meditation. Meditation is gaining a reputation for its ability to manage and to reduce anxiety. Meditation involves training the mind to focus on the present moment and allow thoughts and emotions without judgment, instead of reacting immediately. Studies support the conclusion that mindfulness meditation contributes to positive changes in the brain’s structure and function. In one study, meditation was able to reduce anxiety after eight weeks of regular practice significantly.

Therapy Can Help

Hives, Rosacea, And Other Skin Rashes May Be Related To Anxiety

Psychotherapy can also be a helpful addition to your toolbox to help you manage your anxiety levels. Reducing your anxiety can minimize the outbreak of anxiety rashes and other related issues. A therapist can help you identify which parts of your life are triggering your anxiety and help you come up with and implement effective solutions for reducing your anxiety and the impact it has on your mind and body.

BetterHelp offers affordable online therapy that can work around your schedule and help you figure out ways to cope. We’re here when you need support and guidance to help you improve your ability to handle life’s challenges. Connecting with a professional online counselor allows you to manage anxiety as it comes in a way that is flexible and convenient, no matter what your schedule may be. You can additionally attend therapy sessions from the comfort of your home, potentially eliminating the stress or anxiety that stems from having to leave work early, make a difficult commute, or shift other important priorities in order to attend a face-to-face session.

Many people have found relief from anxiety through online therapy. In a recent systematic literature review of 20 randomized controlled trials of internet-delivered interventions for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), researchers highlighted that such interventions were effective and strong in regard to potential for relieving existing gaps in treatment provision.


Realizing that hives have shown up on your body all of the sudden, or over time, can be distressed for any person. Engaging in the at-home suggestions discussed above can be extremely helpful, but if you find that they are not working in eliminating your hives, or you know that you need to address a deeper issue, online therapy via BetterHelp can be a wonderful outlet. Once you complete the initial questionnaire, you’ll be matched with a licensed online therapist who is qualified to assist you in the area where you’re seeking help. Take the first step today in identifying the source of your anxiety and learning healthy coping mechanisms for addressing it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do stress hives look like?

How do I get rid of stress hives?

Can emotional stress cause hives?

How long do stress hives last?

Where do stress hives usually appear?

Why am I getting hives all of a sudden?

When should I be worried about hives?

What are stress hives called?

Why am I getting hives at night?

Are stress hives contagious?

For hive anxiety-related articles, see some of the articles below:

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