Unraveling the Mystery Behind Stress Hives


Are you seeking answers to why your skin condition or rash may be stress or anxiety induced? Are you tired of feeling helpless and frustrated with not knowing what’s causing your chronic hives? If so, then you are not alone.

Stress-induced hives (also known as a stress rash), have remained mysterious for years, leaving countless individuals confused and searching for solutions. While the physical aspects of this perplexing health issue, such as skin rashes, are easy to identify, what may be less obvious is that the root cause can stem from a dysregulated nervous system.

Fortunately, there are ways to manage stress and ultimately restore balance to the nervous system to achieve lasting relief. From exploring symptoms and causes to solutions, this article will unravel the mystery behind stress-induced hives by providing facts, data, and expert insights.

What are Stress Hives?

Stress-induced hives, also known as stress rashes or emotional stress hives, is a common skin condition that can be triggered by emotional distress. It is characterized by raised, itchy skin rashes that can appear on different areas of the body. These rashes can be accompanied by a tingling or burning sensation and redness.

It is estimated that up to 85% of cases of chronic hives may be due to emotional stress and anxiety, leading experts to suggest that individuals with hives should seek to address their stress or anxiety in order to prevent future flare-ups. We will dive into prevention methods further below.

Symptoms of stress hives include:

Stress and anxiety hives, also known as stress-induced urticaria, are a type of skin condition that can be triggered by stress or anxiety. Here are some common symptoms of stress/anxiety hives:

  1. Red, raised bumps on the skin: The most common symptom of stress hives is red, raised skin spots. These bumps may be small or large, appearing anywhere on the body.
  2. Itching: The hives can be very itchy, and you may feel an intense urge to scratch them. Scratching can make the itching worse, and it can also lead to skin damage and infection.
  3. Swelling: The skin around the hives may become swollen, and the affected area may feel warm to the touch.
  4. Burning or stinging: In some cases, this type of stress may cause a burning or stinging sensation.
  5. Rapid onset: It can develop very quickly, often within minutes of exposure to a stressful or anxiety-inducing situation.
  6. Spreading: The hives may spread to other areas of the body, particularly if the stress or anxiety is ongoing.
  7. Flare-ups: It can come and go, with flare-ups occurring during times of stress or anxiety.

It’s important to note that a stress rash, or stress hives, can also be a symptom of other medical conditions, such as allergies or autoimmune disorders. In that case, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or dermatologist to rule out any underlying medical conditions and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

How does stress affect the skin?

Stress triggers an increase in cortisol which increases inflammation. This increased inflammation can have a profound and damaging effect on the skin, causing breakouts, dullness, excessive oil production, redness, wrinkles, and even discoloration.

Stress can exacerbate existing skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis due to the body’s weakened immune system when under pressure. Furthermore, it can also lead to accelerated skin aging by reducing its natural elasticity and ability to heal itself.

High-stress levels can lead to poor sleeping habits, which further contribute to the skin’s aging process due to the deprivation of sleep-induced hormones essential for maintaining healthy skin cells. All these combined make it extremely important for people under constant stress to address it effectively to keep clear and healthy skin.

What Causes Stress Hives?

Stress hives are a type of skin rash that can develop as a response to stress, anxiety and overwhelm. Stress can trigger your nervous system response, resulting in the release of hormones in the body like cortisol and adrenaline. These “stress hormones” can cause an inflammatory response, resulting in stress hives and often many other mental, emotional and physical symptoms.

Emotional stressors

It is no secret that chronic stress and anxiety can take a physical toll on our bodies. In modern society especially, it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid external stressors. However, what we do have control over is the health of our nervous system, and subsequently, how our body responds to stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. Some people spend years, or even decades, in fight-or-flight mode because their nervous system is dysregulated. Healing your nervous system means healing your body’s response to psychological stress and alleviating your chronic stress or anxiety from the root.

Physical stressors

Physical stressors that can cause hives include extreme temperatures, tight clothing, physical contact with certain materials, excessive sweating, and allergic reactions. Other physical activities such as vigorous exercise or overexertion may also trigger hives. Those with sensitive skin may experience more frequent outbreaks of hives due to their sensitivities. To prevent flare-ups, it is important to rule out these factors as potential causes for your stress hives.

Environmental triggers

It’s important to avoid environmental triggers that can cause stress hives, such as allergens, temperature changes, and harsh chemicals. If you know you’re allergic to a certain substance, such as pollen or animal dander, try to avoid it as much as possible.

Lifestyle factors

Poor sleep, an unhealthy diet, and lack of movement are all factors that can contribute to increased stress levels and the development of hives. Learning healthy habits such as getting adequate sleep and eating nutritious food can help prevent or decrease the severity of hives by reducing overall inflammation levels in the body.

How Can You Prevent Stress Hives?

If you’re prone to developing stress hives, it’s important to not only treat the hives when a flare-up occurs, but to also take steps toward prevention.

Most articles will tell you that the most effective way to prevent stress hives is to “manage stress levels” by using “relaxation techniques”, including deep breathing exercises, yoga, and mindfulness meditation. Sure, these techniques can help you reduce your overall stress levels and support your health and wellness, however, they cannot fully address the root cause of your chronic stress and anxiety – namely: a dysregulated nervous system.

We learned earlier that experiencing chronic stress can affect the health of our nervous system. The nervous system is designed to be flexible and adaptable; meaning when we experience stressors and our nervous system becomes activated (like going into fight-or-flight mode for example), we should be able to completely recover after the stressor has been removed. However, a dysregulated nervous system will remain stuck in that response even after the trigger is removed.

When our nervous system is chronically dysregulated, our bodies develop various symptoms and conditions. Skin conditions like rosacea and stress hives are signs of a dysregulated nervous system.

To prevent future flare-ups, nervous system regulation is key. When we build a thriving nervous system, one that has the ability to adapt to stressful circumstances and recover afterward, this can reverse and prevent all kinds of mental, emotional and physical symptoms like skin conditions, chronic pain and illness, and so on.


Stress hives can be a difficult condition to manage. While the symptoms may vary from person to person, identifying the signs and understanding what causes stress hives is key. Fortunately, there is a home treatment option that can relieve discomfort as well as prevent future breakouts of this chronic condition without the use of harsh medications: nervous system regulation.

Fortunately, building a regulated nervous system is something anyone can do – all you need is a little structure, guidance and support. This is exactly what we offer in The Nervous System Solution, our world-class program to regulate and heal the nervous system.

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Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler has dedicated 20+ years to serving patients, first to a small number of individuals as a successful surgeon and then to thousands of people worldwide as the CEO of a digital health startup. After overcoming her own struggles with a dysregulated nervous system, she created Heal Your Nervous System (HYNS) to empower others in their healing journey. Her combination of neuroscience and somatic work helps those struggling with overwhelm, trauma, burnout, and anxiety to heal their dysregulated nervous systems and thrive.