Hyperhidrosis is excessive perspiration of the underarms, palms, and soles of feet. It is a common disorder which causes a person to be unhappy and lose self-confidence.
A study revealed that an estimated 3 percent of Americans are affected by this disorder. Excessive sweating of the armpit often starts in adolescence and hyperhidrosis of the hands and soles of feet begins roughly at around 13 years of age. If this condition is left untreated, it may continue throughout life.
“For people who don’t have hyperhidrosis, it’s easy to think, ‘Oh, it’s just sweating,'” Glaser noted. “The impact it can have on quality of life has always been underestimated.” Dr. Dee Glaser, a professor of dermatology.
Lowers A Person’s Self-esteem
It is embarrassing when you sweat excessively. When sweat stains your clothes and leave noticeable sweat rings, it can be a minus point for not looking personable. It can be degrading when you’re attending a business meeting or seeing a client. Social interactions can become awkward, like doing a handshake, when your palms are profusely sweating. Romance can also be ruined with too much sweating.
“When you’re worried about excessive sweating, this can manifest into anxiety. You might have some of the symptoms of social anxiety too. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is more likely to develop as a secondary symptom of hyperhidrosis,” said Elaine K. Luo, MD.
Possible Causes Of Hyperhidrosis
Sweating is a natural occurrence in our body. It allows our body to cool off during intense activity or during a hot summer day. Sometimes, women experience excessive sweating (night sweats) because of body changes in pregnancy and menopause.
But in the case of hyperhidrosis, it can be due to neurologic, infectious, endocrine and some systemic diseases. There are also rare incidents where some individuals who are healthy also suffer from this disorder. Excessive heat and emotions can also cause hyperhidrosis in others.
Anxiety, Depression, And Hyperhidrosis
Frank, my friend in high school, always had a handkerchief in his hands because of his profused sweating. He did not make many friends back then and was often anxious not to be called during recitation and would refrain from raising his hands. He hated attending PE class. High school life was not kind to him because of severe sweating in his hands and underarms.
I felt pity for him. He was so conscious about his condition and did not even find the confidence to ask his crush to be his date during our prom night.
Hyperhidrosis took a toll on his life and turned him into a shy man, never wanting to go out, and even caused him not to get promoted in his work.
He did try using antiperspirants but to no avail. He even saw a doctor because of his condition, but no form of treatment seemed to help him. He felt that hyperhidrosis was ruining his life. His doctor sensed that it was not a simple case of hyperhidrosis, so he advised him to see a psychiatrist.
He was against the idea knowing that there was nothing wrong with his mind. The doctor explained to him why he had to see a psychiatrist. He was already hopeless, so he scheduled an appointment. Indeed, it was no ordinary hyperhidrosis, for if it was, then the medications would have worked as well as the other treatments his doctor recommended.
The psychiatrist told him that his prolonged suffering from hyperhidrosis caused him to develop social anxiety and depression, which might have started since our high school days. His psychiatrist prescribed him antidepressants in addition to attending therapy sessions and his regular hyperhidrosis treatment. With continuous medication and therapy (see a relevant article here: What To Expect), the hyperhidrosis slowly lessened until it completely disappeared.
Aside from some several studies done, there is still not enough evidence to prove that a psychiatric illness can cause a person to have hyperhidrosis, but prolonged suffering and the shame brought by hyperhidrosis can cause an individual to develop social anxiety, depression, and fear. Seeing a psychiatrist does not guarantee a cure for hyperhidrosis, but it can help in some ways like in the case of my friend, Frank.
If you have been suffering from hyperhidrosis for quite a while now and had tried every single treatment without improvement, maybe it’s about time that you see a psychiatrist. It could be possible that the medicine is not working because of an underlying anxiety disorder or depression, which in some cases could be a contributing factor to the severity of your excessive sweating.
“What we’ve found is that as soon as you get that effective therapy, whatever is personalized for that patient … when it works, then that’s when you see a tremendous mitigation in this whole social phobia,” said Dr. Malcolm Brock, a surgeon and medical director of the Center for Sweat Disorders at Johns Hopkins Medicine.