While anxiety is best known for its mental symptoms, such as nervous thoughts and worries, it's the physical symptoms that often cause people the most distress. The nausea, the muscle tension, the rapid heartbeat - these symptoms can be both frightening and distressing, with some symptoms genuinely causing a great deal of fear or discomfort that drastically hurts your quality of life.
One of the symptoms that can be incredibly distressing is feeling hot from anxiety. Anxiety has the potential to drastically raise your body heat, almost as though you're sick, and - depending on where you are - that rise in body heat can be significantly uncomfortable and cause a lot of frustration and misery.
Are You Feeling Hot From Anxiety?
When you start to feel hot, you might be getting sick or suffering through a hormonal imbalance. Yet in many cases, the issue may just be anxiety.
While only a doctor can diagnose the cause of your extra body heat, you can learn more about whether your hotness is caused by anxiety by taking my free 7 minute anxiety test.
The Rise in Body Heat
Your body heat rises as a result of your fight or flight system. The system itself is actually very useful. When you confront danger, you need your body to be ready to start fighting or to run away, and body heat changes can actually help you with that reaction.
But when your fight/flight system is misfiring, that leads to persistent anxiety, and persistent anxiety is a real problem. Hot flashes are rarely the only symptom, however, so if you haven't yet, take my free 7 minute anxiety test to find out more about how to reduce your body heat.
You May Have a Malfunctioning Fight/Flight System
A rise in body temperature, also known as a "hot flash," is often a sign that you have an anxiety disorder. Normally your body heat should only rise when you're in a dangerous or stressful situation, and not simply out of the blue when nothing appears to be happening.
But when you suffer from anxiety, it indicates that you have a problem controlling this response. It may be caused by your body, it may be caused by your stresses, it may be caused by anxiety attacks - there are countless reasons that your fight or flight response is misfiring, but any time you experience hot flashes it's a sign that your anxiety is out of control.
Why Do We Feel Hot?
Body heat rises as a result of what's known as vasoconstriction. With a functioning fight/flight system, your body needs to be able to prioritize blood flow during times of danger. Your blood may rush to your heart, to gut, or to anywhere that needs it in order to help you feel or fight quickly.
When your blood vessels are constricted, your body heats up. So when you suffer from anxiety and your body is naturally on edge as though you're facing danger, and ultimately you experience the same body temperature increase as you would if you were experiencing a dangerous situation.
It's not uncommon for this body heat increase to then be followed by sweating, which may eventually cause you to feel colder as well. All of these are a natural part of living with anxiety, especially intense anxiety.
How to Stop Feeling Hot
That hot feeling can be very disruptive to your life. Those that experience hot flashes at night often report significant problems sleeping, as their sheets start to feel drenched in sweat and their body feels too warm to get any rest. Those that experience it during the day may find that they are uncomfortable everywhere they go. They may even worry that others are judging them, increasing their anxiety and the length of their hot flash.
Hot flashes are not something that you can stop once they've started. They'll eventually stop on their own when your anxiety trigger goes away. But you can control how much the symptoms affect you by integrating the following:
- Sleep in Cooler Rooms A cooled down room with several thinner blankets/sheets will allow you to easily adjust your own temperature as needed when you are trying to sleep at night. You may feel hot or cold throughout the night, but you'll be able to easily remove or add layers as needed so that the hot flashes affect you less.
- Can't Sleep, Get Up Those that often lose sleep from hot flashes should take a moment when a hot flash is coming to simply cool down. Hot flashes can fuel themselves, in a way, because when you have a hot flash you start to worry that you won't get sleep, which increases anxiety and causes your hot flash to continue for longer. Get up and walk around if a hot flash is coming so that you give yourself a break from the hot flash stress.
- Write it Out When your hot flashes are caused by thoughts and worries that you can't seem to shake, write out those thoughts on a piece of paper or in some type of diary. When your brain knows that your worries and thoughts are in a permanent place that you can refer to later, it tends to focus on them less, allowing you to rest your brain and hopefully cool your hot flashes.
Once the hot flash begins, waiting until it decreases is really your only option. There are a few ways to cool down, and distracting yourself can be valuable, but a hot flash is a natural body response and one that you can't turn off. If anxiety is causing your hot flashes, you'll need to find a way to reduce the anxiety itself.
You have a lot to consider, because while there are many anxiety treatments, they will not work for everyone. Some examples of treatment options include:
- Regular Exercise Regular exercise is designed for more than fitness. Your body needs exercise in order to effectively burn off stress and improve hormone and neurotransmitter production, both of which improve anxiety symptoms. Exercise can be a bit stressful for someone that finds hot flashes to cause anxiety, but it's absolutely necessary for fighting off anxiety symptoms.
- Therapy Cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as other forms of therapy, has proven itself to be effective at reducing anxiety. While therapy is not for everyone and some people may find the costs to be too expensive, those that have the time and energy to enroll in therapy are likely to benefit from its outcomes.
- Medications Medications should be a last resort for all mental health issues, especially anxiety, but if nothing else works they can be helpful. Several antidepressant and anxiolytic drugs have reduce anxiety symptoms for those with hot flashes, but be warned - it's also possible for these same drugs to cause hot flashes as a result of the way they affect the CNS.
Everyone reacts to anxiety treatments differently, because everyone has different anxiety causes, biochemistry, symptoms, and more. So the above list is nowhere near extensive, and there are several very effective anxiety treatments that have been developed for specific symptoms and types of anxiety.
I've helped thousands of people that suffer from hot flashes from their anxiety reduce their anxiety symptoms. I start all of them off with my 7 minute anxiety symptoms test. This free test will examine your anxiety and provide recommendations for treatment.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.