The fact is that everyone perspires, but living with sweaty palms can make one self-conscious. In some, it may even affect their self-confidence. For instance, shaking people's hands as a form of greeting is normal for most of us. But for those whose hands are wet and clammy, something as simple as handshakes may bring on anxiety.
Constantly having wet palms can be frustrating, but there are ways to get it under control. So, we reached out to Purvi Gandhi, Occupational Therapist and Intervention Coach, and asked her to share some ways we can manage sweaty palms. Read on to know all that she shared.
Causes of Sweaty Palms
Sweaty palms can be caused by some serious medical conditions like menopause, hot flashes, overactive thyroid, heart attack, nervous system problems, infect, diabetes, etc. for which a doctor should be consulted. Outside of these reasons, it can be a reaction to anxiety.
Anxiety is a state of overwhelm where you may feel fearful, uneasy, worried or distressed. This may show as an increase in heart beat, sweating in response to fear, or stress as a physical symptom of anxiety. So, let's talk about anxiety and its relation to sweating.
When an individual faces a threat or is fearful (can be real or perceived), our sympathetic nervous system (system of protection) gets activated and directs our body to get ready for a fight, flight or freeze response. For example, if you find yourself standing in front of a tiger, what will your body do? It will either prepare the body to run, or fight for its own protection, or it may just freeze not knowing what to do. Here the tiger is the real threat, but in some cases it could be perceived as thinking about the worst circumstances. Which can put the body and mind into a feeling overwhelmed.
But, Why Do We Sweat?
Fighting or fleeing from a situation requires a lot of energy which can raise body temperature, and if not cooled down, it can be difficult to keep fighting. In order to cool down, the body starts sweating. Sweating can be all over the body but typically it is observed in palms, feet and armpits. For people who live with anxiety, the body is always in a state of being alert, and you may experience a range of physical and emotional symptoms. Here we talk about sweating, especially in palms and feet. Purvi says,
Let me present a case of a teenaged boy who came with complaints of sweaty palms and feet. Medically, he was absolutely fine. We started evaluating, and it turned out that he was experiencing a lot of stress due to the act of writing (due to the lack of motor planning, visual perception and shoulder stability), and inability to speak up for himself.
Work was done to build up his bodily skills which were lacking, thus making the writing piece a little easier for him. The sweating in his palms almost stopped soon after. He was also given some tools to access when he felt anxious again. Today, he is aware of his anxious state (though it has reduced drastically), and can flip to his calm state quickly.
Tools To Use When Feeling Anxious
- Being aware of your anxiety. Writing in a journal, observing when you start sweating, any stressors you can identify, body's response to your thoughts.
- Paying attention to the breath. Are you breathing through the feeling of being overwhelmed? If not, breathe. When you regularise your breathing, that is when you stop holding your breath, or stop breathing shallow, it helps to manage the state better.
- Give some deep pressure to the body in the form of tight hugs. Deep pressure can also be given to the self by using bean bags or pea pods to sit on.
- Sit on a rocking chair as it stimulates the sensory system which is sometimes required to help regulate yourself.
- Talk to a someone in a judgement-free space.
Along with these tools, continue regular follow ups. As mentioned earlier, while anxiety causes sweating, there can be underlying medical conditions which could be responsible for the same. So, it is better to take the doctor's advice and proceed further.