Hives may occur as a result of stress, anxiety, or other mental health conditions. Chronic hives can also impair self-esteem, which may also worsen mental health.

Chronic hives, or urticaria, is a type of skin rash. Hives may also occur because of temperature changes or allergic reactions.

This article explores the relationship between chronic hives and mental health.

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The discomfort of hives can negatively affect a person’s quality of life. People with chronic hives typically experience a rash that can be extremely itchy and may spread widely. This may contribute to or worsen mental health in certain cases.

Chronic hives can also worsen self-esteem or body image. In some cases, this can make it harder to enjoy social activities. These effects of chronic hives may also negatively affect mental health.

Some treatments for chronic hives can also affect mental health. For example, many people with chronic hives receive glucocorticoid therapy. Although glucocorticoids can help treat hives, they can also worsen mood. Glucocorticoids may also increase levels of depression and anxiety.

Researchers estimate that 16–96% of people with hives also have a mental health condition. Depression and anxiety are two of the most common conditions seen with chronic hives.

It is possible that certain mental health issues can cause or worsen hives. For example, chronic stress can increase levels of inflammation in the body. This may trigger chronic hives in some individuals.

Mental health issues can also impair sleeping patterns. Insomnia can increase the levels of stress hormones in the body. This may also trigger hives in certain cases.

Some researchers recommend stress reduction techniques for people with chronic hives. Reducing levels of stress and anxiety may help treat chronic hives.

Chronic hives may occur as a result of certain mental health conditions. It is also possible to develop a mental health condition as a result of chronic hives.

Future studies will help scientists fully understand the relationship between chronic hives and mental health.

Practicing regular self-care can help improve mental health. Self-care can also complement treatment for specific mental health conditions, such as depression.

Some self-care tips to support mental health may include:

  • getting enough quality sleep
  • getting enough regular physical activity or exercise
  • eating a balanced diet
  • drinking plenty of water
  • spending time with loved ones
  • avoiding or limiting alcohol
  • avoiding other substances
  • spending time outdoors
  • making time for a favorite hobby or pastime

Regular self-check-ins can also help support a person’s mental health. Many people benefit from writing in a journal. Journaling is an opportunity to explore what might be causing certain thoughts or feelings. Awareness is the first step to overcoming negative thought patterns.

Learn about treatments for hives.

In most cases, hives resolves on its own within a few weeks. Hives may even clear up after only a few days of at-home care.

In more severe cases, a person may need to contact a doctor.

A person with hives should contact a doctor if:

  • the rash does not improve on its own
  • the hives continues to come back repeatedly
  • swelling develops under the skin
  • hives spreads across the body
  • they develop a fever
  • they do not feel well

Hives may indicate an allergic reaction. If hives keeps coming back, it may be a sign of an allergy to a food or other substance. A doctor can help determine what is causing this allergic reaction and recommend treatment.

Anyone living with chronic hives should contact a doctor if their condition worsens. Only a medical professional can provide individualized guidance on managing chronic hives.

Anaphylaxis: Symptoms and what to do

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. The symptoms develop suddenly and include:

  • hives
  • swelling of the face or mouth
  • wheezing
  • fast, shallow breathing
  • a fast heart rate
  • clammy skin
  • anxiety or confusion
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • blue or white lips
  • fainting or loss of consciousness

If someone has these symptoms:

  1. Check whether they are carrying an epinephrine pen. If they are, follow the instructions on the side of the pen to use it.
  2. Dial 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department.
  3. Lay the person down from a standing position. If they have vomited, turn them onto their side.
  4. Stay with them until the emergency services arrive.

Some people may need more than one epinephrine injection. If the symptoms do not improve in 5–15 minutes, or they come back, use a second pen if the person has one.

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Here are some frequently asked questions about hives and mental health.

Is hives a symptom of PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can trigger inflammation within the body. This added inflammation may contribute to hives in some cases.

According to one 2019 study, emotion-focused coping strategies may worsen the severity of chronic hives in people with PTSD.

However, it remains unclear whether PTSD can actually cause hives.

What is the emotional cause of urticaria?

Up to 96% of people living with hives also have a mental health condition. Depression and anxiety are particularly common among people with chronic hives. The reasons behind these conditions may trigger chronic hives in some individuals.

Can stress and anxiety cause chronic urticaria?

Ongoing stress can lead to increased inflammation throughout the body. In certain cases, this added inflammation could lead to chronic hives.

Managing stress and anxiety through professional mental health care and practicing regular relaxation techniques may help manage this skin condition.

Chronic hives is a type of skin rash. It may occur in one area of the body or spread across multiple areas. Some people develop hives as a result of an allergic reaction. In some cases, mental health conditions can trigger or worsen chronic hives.

Many people with chronic hives also have a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety. The physical effects of these conditions may lead to chronic hives.

Living with chronic hives can also worsen self-esteem, which can in turn negatively affect mental health.

Chronic hives may resolve with at-home care. If hives does not resolve on its own, consider speaking with a doctor to explore treatment options.