Scratching Skin Anxiety

Anxiety is a complex condition that affects millions of people worldwide. One lesser-known symptom of scratching skin is anxiety, which can hurt physical and mental health. In this blog, we’ll explore the link between anxiety and skin scratching and provide tips on managing this symptom to improve your overall well-being.

Understanding Skin Scratching and Anxiety

Skin scratching, or dermatillomania or excoriation disorder, is characterized by compulsive skin picking and scratching. This behavior is often associated with anxiety, as people with anxiety may use skin scratching to cope with stress or distract themselves from anxious thoughts. Skin scratching can lead to skin damage, scarring, and infections and hurt self-esteem and quality of life, according to Psychology Today.

The Physiology of Skin Scratching

Skin scratching triggers the release of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that produce feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Endorphins can temporarily relieve anxiety symptoms, but over time, the behavior can become compulsive, leading to further anxiety and physical harm. Additionally, skin scratching can disrupt the skin’s natural barrier function, making it more susceptible to infection and other skin conditions, according to Healthline.

Itching and Anxiety

In addition to skin scratching, anxiety can also be associated with itching, which is the sensation of needing to scratch or rub the skin. Various factors, including allergies, skin conditions, and medication side effects, can cause itching. In some cases, anxiety and stress can also contribute to itching.

One possible explanation for the link between anxiety and itching is the release of histamine, a chemical that is involved in the body’s immune response. Histamine is released in response to stress and anxiety and can cause itching and other symptoms, such as hives and swelling.

Additionally, anxiety can also contribute to skin dryness, which can lead to itching. When the body is in a state of stress or anxiety, the sympathetic nervous system is activated, which can cause blood vessels to constrict and reduce blood flow to the skin. This reduction in blood flow can lead to dryness and itching.

Does Stress Rash Often Affect People With Underlying Skin Conditions?

Yes, stress rash can often affect people with underlying skin conditions. This is because stress can weaken the immune system, causing various physical and mental health problems, including skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and anxiety-induced skin rashes.

When the body is under stress, the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is activated, releasing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can suppress the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections and other health problems, including skin conditions.

Furthermore, stress can also cause inflammation throughout the body, including the skin. This can worsen existing skin conditions or trigger the onset of new ones. Inflammation can cause itching, redness, and swelling, leading to further damage and skin irritation.

Stress can also impact the skin’s natural barrier function, making it more vulnerable to environmental factors like heat, cold, and pollution. This can also exacerbate existing skin conditions and lead to stress rashes.

What is Psychogenic Itch, and How Does it Differ from Compulsive Scratching Anxiety?

Psychogenic itch, also known as functional itch disorder, is a condition characterized by persistent itching that is not caused by a skin or other medical condition. Psychogenic itch is thought to be caused by psychological factors, such as stress, anxiety, or depression, and can be a symptom of an underlying mental health condition.

Compulsive-scratching anxiety, on the other hand, is a behavior characterized by the compulsive scratching of the skin, often as a coping mechanism for stress or anxiety. While psychogenic itch may be a symptom of an underlying mental health condition, compulsive-scratching anxiety is a behavior that may be a symptom of a broader mental health condition, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or anxiety disorder.

While both conditions can involve persistent itching and scratching, the psychogenic itch is typically a sensation experienced by the individual, while compulsive scratching anxiety involves a behavior often visible to others. In addition, psychogenic itch is typically not relieved by scratching, while compulsive-scratching anxiety may temporarily relieve anxiety symptoms.

Can Anxiety Cause Itching at Night?

Yes, anxiety can cause itching at night. One possible explanation for this is that anxiety and stress can disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to changes in body temperature and blood flow that can contribute to skin dryness and itching.

Additionally, anxiety can trigger the release of histamine, a chemical that is involved in the body’s immune response and can cause itching and other symptoms, such as hives and swelling. Histamine levels tend to be highest at night, which may explain why some people with anxiety experience itching at this time.

Tips for Managing Skin Scratching

If you are struggling with skin scratching as a symptom of anxiety, several strategies may help manage this behavior:

  1. Identify triggers: Identify the situations or emotions that lead to skin scratching. Once you have identified your triggers, you can develop strategies to avoid or manage them.
  2. Distract yourself: When you feel the urge to scratch your skin, try to distract yourself with an activity you enjoy. This could be as simple as reading a book or listening to music.
  3. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, can help you stay present in the moment and reduce anxiety and stress.
  4. Seek professional help: If skin scratching interferes with your daily life, seeking help from a mental health professional, such as a therapist or psychiatrist, may be helpful.

Skin Care Tips for People with Dermatillomania

If you are struggling with skin scratching, taking care of your skin is important to prevent further damage and infection. Here are some tips for skin care:

  1. Keep your hands clean: Wash your hands frequently to prevent the spread of bacteria and infection.
  2. Use gentle products: Avoid harsh soaps and products that further irritate your skin.
  3. Keep your skin moisturized: Dry skin can be more prone to scratching, so make sure to keep your skin moisturized with a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer.
  4. Wear comfortable clothing: Choose comfortable clothing that doesn’t irritate your skin.

When to See a Doctor for Scratching Skin Anxiety

If you are experiencing scratching skin anxiety, it’s important to seek help from a healthcare professional if the symptom interferes with your daily life or causes significant distress. Here are some signs that you may need to see a doctor:

  1. Skin damage: If your skin scratching is causing skin damage, scarring, or infection, it’s important to seek medical attention to prevent further harm and promote healing.
  2. Obsessive behavior: If you feel like you cannot control your skin scratching and it is interfering with your daily life, it may be a sign of an underlying mental health condition, such as OCD or anxiety disorder, and you should seek professional help.
  3. Persistent symptoms: If your skin scratching persists despite attempts to manage it with self-care techniques, such as distraction or mindfulness, it may be a sign that you need additional support from a mental health professional.
  4. Impact on quality of life: If skin scratching impacts your relationships, work, or social life, it’s important to seek help to improve your overall well-being.
  5. Other symptoms: If you are experiencing other symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, or sleep disturbances, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional to determine if there is an underlying condition that needs to be addressed.

Generally, it’s always better to seek help sooner rather than later. A healthcare professional can help you understand the underlying causes of your skin scratching and guide you on managing the symptom and improving your overall well-being.

Itchy Scalp: How Is It Related to Skin Scratching Anxiety?

What causes itching on the scalp? There are several possible causes of itching scalp, including:

  1. Dry skin: The scalp can become dry and itchy if it lacks moisture.
  2. Allergic reactions: Allergies to certain hair products, such as shampoos, conditioners, or hair dyes, can cause itching and other symptoms.
  3. Skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, or seborrheic dermatitis can cause scalp itching and irritation.
  4. Parasites: Parasitic infestations, such as head lice or scabies, can cause itching and scalp irritation.

Skin scratching can contribute to itching the scalp, as scratching can damage the skin and lead to inflammation, further exacerbating the itching sensation.

How to Stop Stress Itching Scalp?

To stop stress from itching the scalp, it’s important to identify the underlying cause and take steps to address it. Here are some strategies that may be helpful:

  1. Use gentle hair products: Use gentle, fragrance-free hair products and avoid products that contain harsh chemicals that can irritate the scalp.
  2. Keep the scalp clean: Wash the hair regularly to remove dirt and oil contributing to itching.
  3. Avoid scratching: Avoid scratching the scalp, as this can damage the skin and lead to further itching and irritation.
  4. Use topical treatments: Over-the-counter creams, shampoos, and lotions containing ingredients like coal tar, salicylic acid, or corticosteroids may help reduce scalp itching and inflammation.
  5. Manage stress: Stress can worsen symptoms of scalp itching, so managing stress through relaxation techniques, exercise, or therapy may help reduce symptoms.

If the itching scalp persists despite these measures, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and develop an effective treatment plan.


In conclusion, skin scratching is a common symptom of anxiety that can hurt physical and mental health. However, with the right strategies and care, managing this symptom and improving your overall well-being is possible. If you are struggling with skin scratching, remember that you are not alone and that help is available. Don’t hesitate to seek support from a mental health professional or other resources in your community.

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