Can Stress Cause Hives and Other Skin Related Diseases?

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Can stress cause hives?

Twenty percent of us are affected by hives at some point in our lives. Even more people have psoriasis or other skin diseases. I have never had hives but I have one dog who frequently suffers from hives. I feel certain that they aren't stress induced in her, because her life is about as free from stress as it can be! In people however, doctors have long observed the connection between stress and hives. The field has been slow to accept the body mind connection but historically these relationships have been clearly documented.

Can Stress Cause Hives? Facts about Hives

Recently more and more evidence is evolving that helps us to understand this connection. It seems that in some people, the answer to this question Can stress cause hives is yes. But it doesn’t do so entirely on its own. It's more likely that stress can cause or exacerbate and outbreak of hives.

Hives are usually caused when the body responds to an allergen which prompts the release of histamine and thus the appearance of hives. In my dog this was caused by an insect sting. In people it can be cause by shellfish, nuts and plants, and antibiotics to name a few.

Stress hormones in the body dilate blood vessels making it easier for blood to flow to the skin.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, found that a protein called substance P which is s secreted during heightened anxiety, can cause the skin's blood vessels to be clogged resulting in inflammation. For some people it is not their skin that is affected. In these people stress can trigger inflammation in their digestive track or respiratory tract (Houck, C. 1996). This can cause a slew of other stress related illnesses.

It's important to remember that our skin frequently shows our emotions. When we are angry we flush or get red, when embarrassed we flush. Anyone who ever had a pimple as a teenager knows they always come at the most inappropriate times ( a dance, a picture, a date). The mind and body are intricately connected. It isn’t really a stretch to believe that The answer to can stress cause hives, or at least influence the outbreak of hives is yes.

Can Stress Cause Hives: Research

In 1978 Gloria Werth did a study that suggested that hives are related to emotional dilemmas that are unsolved. Five case studies demonstrated this, and suggested that resolving these dilemmas can help the hives (Werth, 1978).

Other studies have shown that outbreaks of hives clearly appear to be connected with stress and that people who have outbreaks of hives are more likely to have a stress and anxiety related disease such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(Chung MC, 2010).

If you have hives, a dermatological program paired with psychotherapy can be tremendously helpful at reducing your stress. Holistic dermatologists recognize that you must treat both the body and mind!

Can Stress Cause Hives? Tips on Reducing Stress

If stress is causing my hives how do I know and what can I do? Below are five tips for dealing with your hives and managing your stress.

Begin to pay attention to your current outbreaks of hives, or construct a history if you have had hive or skin outbreaks, note the life stressors that were occurring at the time. ( Grossbart 2009) If you have chronic hives it is likely that there is a relationship. Continue to chart your hives as you work on your stress and see how stress is effecting you!

  • Some simple steps to control your stress are to watch your sleep hygiene ( get on a schedule), eat a healthy diet, and add exercise into your daily routine.
  • Take stock of your life and how you may be adding to your stress by your life choices. How do you spend your time? Is this consistent with what is important to you?
  • Who are you spending time with? Are they people that add to your life in meaningful ways or people who deplete you? Think about getting out of relationships that are destructive and harmful for you.
  • Are you expressing your feelings on a regular basis in an assertive way? Some evidence suggests that people who do not express feelings such as anger are more likely to have hives ( Gossbart Ted 2009.
  • Learning how to communicate your feelings appropriately by using techniques of assertiveness is a good way to ensure that emotions don’t go unexpressed adding to your stress.
  • Rather than getting angry or keeping it inside, practice assertive communication by using respectful non blaming I statements.
  • For example if you are angry at your husband for not doing the dishes, do not yell or become aggressive, and do not keep your feelings inside.

    Work on stating “I feel angry when you do X. I feel sad because of X.” See if this doesn’t help your level of stress.

I hope some of these ideas were helpful for you in answering the question does stress cause hives? If you need further help seek a local therapist who can teach you new ways to think about your anxiety and stress.

Learn more about:

The definition of stress

Causes of Stress

A game to reduce stress

Holiday Stress

Corporate speedup

Workplace stress

Visit for more help with anxiety and stress!

Visit for more help with stress!

Can Stress cause Hives? Bibliography

Bibliography

CHung MC, S. C. (2010). The relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder, psychiatric comporbidity, and personlaity traits among patients with chornic idiopathic uricaria. Compr Psychiatry , 55-63.

Werth, Gloria (1978). The Hives Dilemma. Am Family Physician , 139-143.

Grossbart Ted, P. S. (2009 ( digital edition)). Skin Deep: A mind body program for healthy skin. Albequerqe New Mexico: Health Press NA Inc.

Houck, C. (1996). When stress gets under your skin. Good Housekeeping, 222(5), 52. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.

Malhotra SK, M. V. (2008). Role of stressful life events in induciton or exacerbation of psoriasis and chronic urticaria. Indian J or Dermatol Venereol Leprol. , 594-9.

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