One of the biggest problems with anxiety is the way it can cause symptoms that ultimately lead to further anxiety. It is very hard to control the extent of your anxiety when you are consistently dealing with issues that make your anxiety worse. That is what often occurs when a person has cold sweats - a feature of anxiety that is both stressful and surprisingly common.
Cold sweats - sometimes referred to as night sweats, when they occur in the evening - are an unusual and distressing anxiety symptom. Many start to feel as though something else might be wrong, and often allow those fears to create even greater levels of anxiousness.
Is Anxiety Causing Sweat?
If anxiety is causing you to sweat often, wake up in a cold sweat, and more, it may be a sign you have severe anxiety. Take our free 7 minute anxiety test to score your anxiety, compare it to others, and receive recommendations for treatment.
Cause of Cold Sweats
Cold sweats can be incredibly uncomfortable. It's also not uncommon for your mind to wander and for you to feel like your body is trying to tell you something terrible. First, take my free 7 minute anxiety test now to get a better idea of how these symptoms interact and what they mean about your anxiety.
Cold sweats are actually fairly easy to understand. They're caused by the activation of your fight or flight system. It's the biological system designed to help you respond to frightening situations:
- You encounter a predator in the wild.
- You need to react immediately.
- Your body receives a boost of adrenaline (energy)
- Your body starts to sweat in anticipation of body heat (fighting/running increases heat).
It's actually a perfectly logical and effective strategy. The problem is that those with anxiety have an overactive fight or flight system. In many ways, it's like their bodies think they're facing dangers that aren't there.
And so the body starts to sweat, which makes the body colder. Yet it keep sweating, waiting for you to fight or flee and move your body heat back up. You continue to sweat, and you continue to feel "gross" all because your body is reacting as though you've been faced with an extremely dangerous situation.
The problem is made even worse when these cold sweats happen at night. That's because most people with night sweats have a tendency to try as hard as they can to fight them. The harder they try, the more they cause themselves stress, and of course this can cause more anxiety.
Night cold sweats make it incredibly hard to sleep. The lack of sleep causes further anxiety as well. In some cases, enough cold sweats at night can cause you to fear going to sleep, which of course increases your anxiety even further. This type of reaction is very cyclical in nature, which is why it can be very hard to cure without outside help.
Mistakes That Increase the Likelihood of Cold Sweats
The biggest mistake people make with their cold sweats is trying to fight them away. It's simply not possible, and the stress that this sweat causes you isn't going to simply go away on its own.
To avoid this mistake, you simply need to react when you start experiencing cold sweats. Do something for a while that relaxes you and doesn't interfere with the sweating. At night, many people find that walking around for a while can be a big help. The air dries out the sweat and the act of walking helps get blood flowing.
Others find that showering can be a big help, while still others are simply change their clothes or watch TV, or do some other activity designed to help make them more comfortable.
Other Tools to Decrease the Frequency and Severity of Cold Sweats
Breaking the cycle is important, which is why distracting yourself from breaking out in a cold sweat is one of the most powerful ways to control the experience. You can't - and you don't want to - stop your body from sweating using anything other than natural meals. Your sweat glands play a crucial purpose in your body. Without them, your body could heat up so severely that you would become gravely sick.
But of course, this type of sweating is still extremely stressful. That's why the key is to make changes to your current environment that will reduce the severity of your anxiety. We already mentioned the idea of walking around, and that's certainly a big help. You can also try the following:
- Journal Writing- Attacking the thoughts or feelings that triggered cold sweats is important. For many, one of the most common reasons for sweating - especially at night - is a thought that you can't seem to get out of your head. When that happens, write out the thought in a journal, so that it doesn't weigh on your mind quite so badly.
- Jogging in Place Giving your body an explanation for its sweating can make it appear less stressful. If you jog in place you'll warm your body up, and that, in turn, will make the sweating feel more natural and hopefully less stressful.
- Panic Recovery- Many people get cold sweats during anxiety attacks. If you have panic attacks, you can reduce the severity of the attack by controlling your breathing. Take slow, measured breaths. Make sure you hold your breath at its peak to prevent hyperventilation. Slower breathing reduces some of the symptoms of panic attacks and should help you recover from the sweating faster.
- Be Productive- Generally, one of the most difficult issues for people is the idea that during cold sweats, they're losing sleep or comfort in a way that is essentially wasting their time. They now know they're going to be tired for work in the morning, or that they're distracted from their activities. Find something you can do to be productive while the sweating occurs so it's not as much of an enemy, and more of an inconvenience.
Despite all of these ideas, the reality is that sweating is a natural response to anxiety. So the longer you have anxiety, the more likely you are going to continue suffering from cold sweats. That's why it's in your best interests to find a way to control your anxiety. Only then will you improve your ability to get the sweating to stop.
I've helped thousands of people suffering from cold and night sweats learn to control their anxiety forever. Start with my free 7 minute anxiety test. It's a revealing test designed to teach you more about your anxiety and its symptoms, and ultimately learn to control them forever.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.