Why stress makes you sweat and how to stop the stench

You feel dizzy and your face is flushed. You’re so nervous and sweaty you’re shaking like a dog in the rain.

You have a big case of stress sweats.

Sweating is your body’s way of cooling itself when it begins to overheat. This is why you may notice more sweating after a workout, running up stairs, or sitting in a hot room or in the sun.

But sometimes you start to sweat when you’re dealing with everyday stressors. The adrenaline your body produces when it senses danger (stress or anxiety) can also trigger your sweat glands to work overtime and keep you cool during a fight with a lion (or when you fuse during rush hour ).

The catch: Stress sweat is typically thicker — and can lead to a stronger odor — than regular sweatingaccording to Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist in New York.

“The evolutionary theory that explains why stress sweat smells so bad is that the smell is thought to trigger an alert response in our brains,” Hafeez said in an email to CNET. “When humans smell this type of sweat, we can say it is the physical response to a mental concern, such as fear or anxiety.”

“That stench alerts people in the area that there’s something scary going on that we wouldn’t want to be a part of,” she says.

Here’s what to know about stress sweating and how to deal with it.

Woman raising her right arm and sniffing her armpit

Stress sweat smells worse for a reason.

Katleho Seisa/Getty Images

Does stress sweat smell worse than normal sweat?

the the sweat you release to be hot or to overwork is mainly composed of potassium, salt and water. It is also mainly freed from eccri glands, which are relatively shallow and exist throughout your body. Stress sweat, on the other hand, is mainly produced by apocrine glands, which lie deeper under your skin and closer to hair follicles – places such as your armpits, groin and scalp.

The stress sweat produced by these glands is thicker or “milkier” because it’s made up of fatty acids, proteins and steroids, Hafeez says. It doesn’t initially smell, but its thickness means it takes longer to evaporate from your skin, giving it more time to mix with bacteria and produce that telltale body odor.

Can you treat stress sweating?

The most immediate, short-term solution to managing stress-related (or anxiety-related) sweating is to find a clinical-strength antiperspirant, says Hafeez. But finding a real solution may not be so easy.

“The most effective, but most complex, response is managing nervousness,” says Hafeez. Finding out what makes you nervous or stressed – and what makes you sweat – will be the first step to overcoming anxiety and finding a solution.

“That way, the next time you find yourself in a similar scenario, you’ll find that your body doesn’t react as strongly to the discomfort that you might feel,” she says.

Read more: 7 ways to relieve stress in a stressful world

Sweaty man holds his forehead and closes his eyes

Adam Jolie/Getty Images

When to see a doctor for stress sweat

Hafeez says making a doctor’s appointment can be a good idea if you’re having a lot of sweat at nightor if it starts happening more often or at unexpected times (cases that are not related to your stress or anxiety triggers).

Profuse sweating can also signal heart problems or even a heart attackso it’s important to listen to your body and get checked out if you have any concerns.

But often, sweating due to anxiety or stress causes more psychological problems than physical ones. According to the International Hyperhidrosis Society, between 25 and 32 percent of people with social anxiety suffer from hyperhidrosis, the medical term for excessive sweating.

If you’re sweating so much that it’s causing you emotional distress or causing you to withdraw socially, Hafeez says, consider making an appointment with a medical professional.

Read more: How to stop and prevent an anxiety attack

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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