Time to Sweat the Small Stuff
'I've felt embarrassed and humiliated by this condition'
Three percent of Americans have a condition known as hyperhidrosis, or abnormal excessive sweating — and it’s not in response to temperature or exercise. Those who suffer from the condition must also realize they are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
The research found that 21 percent of those with hyperhidrosis report anxiety disorders and 27 percent report depression.
None of it is a surprise to Betsy Davenport, of Seattle, Washington.
"Sweating has caused me to avoid all kinds of social situations, and to leave early with some pretty weird excuses and my clothing drenched, even on a cold day," she told LifeZette. "From my late teens, I've felt embarrassed and humiliated by it. Anxiety causes it, or comes from dealing with it. It's depressing to live with."
Several studies have found the condition affects work performance, with patients self-reporting a 17-percent decrease in time management, a 25-percent decrease in the ability to perform physically demanding aspects of their jobs, a 20-percent impact on tasks that involve interpersonal skills, and a 10-percent decrease in overall work output.
The condition can have a profound impact on socialization, interpersonal skills, relationships, dating, sexuality, and confidence.
The condition is divided into two segments: Primary hyperhidrosis is caused by the autonomic nervous system, and secondary hyperhidrosis is triggered by anxiety, medication side effects, infectious disease such as tuberculosis, or other diseases like hyperthyroidism or alcoholism.
"Unfortunately, the harder people try to prevent the sweating, the more it preoccupies them, and therefore the more they sweat," said one clinical psychologist.
"Hyperhidrosis is most often caused by issues in the sympathetic nervous system — or the 'fight or flight' nervous system," Dr. Jason Nardi, a neuro-structural chiropractor in Raleigh, North Carolina, noted. "This is the part of the nervous system that works without our thinking about it. It mostly deals with regulating the body."
Treatments range from the non-invasive, such as strong antiperspirants and body wipes, to the somewhat invasive, such as Botox injections to impede underarm sweat glands, and electrical and laser stimulation to decrease sweat-gland activity or destroy the sweat glands. The highly invasive surgical treatment would be removing the nerves controlling the sweat glands in the armpit.
Chiropractic adjustments delivered to the upper and mid-back can lessen perspiration and show promise in arresting excessive sweating, according to Nardi. "By directly stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system — or the rest and digest nervous system — we are able to calm or down-regulate the sympathetic nervous system responsible for hyperhidrosis."
Clinical psychologist Dr. David Carbonell of Chicago specializes in the treatment of the fears, anxieties, and phobias associated with secondary hyperhidrosis and works with patients via behavior modification.
"This occurs only in situations where others can see you, and is based on the fear of looking unreasonably nervous," said Carbonell. "Patients experience dread and anticipatory shame about the sweating and change their daily lives in important ways, hoping to either prevent the sweating or to hide it from others. Unfortunately, the harder they try to prevent the sweating, the more it preoccupies them, and therefore the more they sweat."
Said Dr. Caleb Halulko, a chiropractor with River of Life Chiropractic and Wellness in Traverse City, Michigan, "Having the ability to handle difficult situations well and having the mental understanding of what is happening in the body — both are important components to healing."
Pat Barone, MCC, is a professional credentialed coach and author of the Own Every Bite! bodycentric re-education program for mindful and intuitive eating, who helps clients heal food addictions.