Hives & Skin Symptoms Linked With Depression, Stress, and Anxiety

By Kayla (Chronic Hive Sufferer)

Can you imagine living with a debilitating disease that can strike at any moment for no reason, leaving you covered with a painful, itchy rash and swelling so serious that it forces you to go to the hospital?

This is what I have lived with every day of my life since the age of 6 – I live with CIU, also known as Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria. This disease has caused me emotional and physical pain, forced me to drop out of university, and causes me to always be fatigued and often in need of urgent medical treatment.

An arm with hives

A Life With Chronic Hives

Living with CIU, I always have to plan my life around my disease and I must always be prepared for the tingling or burning sensation, a stress rash, and other symptoms. It is difficult to live day to day with CIU because I cannot prevent the disfiguring reaction from occurring, as it is not an allergic reaction (like in contact dermatitis) which is usually what happens when a skin rash appears. I can only take steps to eliminate triggers that make my existing skin conditions worse.

Personally, I eat a very clean diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water, and try to keep as active as my hives will permit me. I try to avoid certain foods such as strawberries, large amounts of citrus, gluten, dairy, and nut products.

Stress and heat are large factors in my reactions as well, so I try to limit my exposure to the sun or at least take breaks in airconditioned rooms in between sun exposure, while of course wearing LOTS of sunscreens. Dealing with sunburn while having an outbreak is unbearable, very dangerous, and required me to be hospitalized in the past.

Emotional stress and anxiety are very hard to avoid, it is a vicious cycle in the life of a CIU patient. The anxiety hives cause me to miss work or school, make relationships difficult, and isolate me, causing MORE stress which makes the hives worse.

I try my best to take 5 minutes each day to do some deep breathing to calm my nerves and prevent the stress rash from appearing. I also find yoga really helpful because it is physical activity and it is great for the soul, body, and mind.

Stress rash


Related Post: 8 Ways to Relieve Stress in Children With Eczema and Other Health Conditions


CIU can really affect a patient emotionally and make them feel isolated, so if you are a patient, I encourage you to be proactive and get in touch with other patients, seek medical advice and psychological help, as it has helped me a significant amount.

It is crucial to keep in mind that finding a good mental health professional is equally important as finding a medical doctor – they can teach you stress management techniques that can be very helpful in fighting stress rashes.

Early-Stage Anxiety Stress Hives

I consider stress rashes to be the most surprising for others and most difficult to deal with in everyday life. I mean, it is not that hard to control what I eat or drink, or to protect myself from the sun, but it is really difficult to manage stress effectively, as the circumstances causing it are not always dependent on me – they are usually external. But how do stress hives appear in the first place?

All the common anxiety symptoms are caused by the same biological processes. It means that the exact same mechanisms in our body are responsible for rapid heart beating or fast breathing and for a stress rash.

Stress hives on a woman's back

It is all caused by adrenaline, the hormone that intensifies our heart rate and blood pressure, at the same time decreasing the blood flow to the skin. Apart from it, histamine is released, and it can be responsible for making our skin itchy and inflamed. Other mechanisms that can contribute to stress hives are also increased sweating and higher body temperature.

One good thing about hives caused by psychological stress is that even if they emerge quickly, they also disappear quickly as well. They should disappear after 30-60 minutes, and if you want to ease the itchiness or even pain they may cause, you can use a cold compress or an ice pack, for example.

Other techniques that can help in dealing with early-stage anxiety stress hives are:

  • using over-the-counter topical ointment against itchiness
  • trying to keep standard body temperature
  • wearing loose-fitting clothes
  • applying an over-the-counter oral antihistamine (as the name suggests, it limits the impact of histamine on our body)

However, if the stress hives dissipate, it is essential to search for medical treatment as in some cases, they can even progress into more severe rashes, like shingles if you’ve had chickenpox previously. They develop because of the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus which is also responsible for herpes simplex and chickenpox. It tends to appear as a result of increased stress and can stem from physical or emotional trauma (such as an illness, an accident, or losing a loved one, for instance).

It is advised to take action before stress hives turn into shingles as they may not only cause a lot of pain but also develop into postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) or Ramsay Hunt syndrome.


Relief for Chronic Hives

ILW Recommends: For chronic itchy skin and stress hives or other rashes, think about healing from within starting with an elimination diet to determine if food is triggering your skin symptoms.

For quick relief, try this aloe spray which will relieve symptoms – it will soothe the itch and the need to scratch.

You can also try at-home acupressure – there are some points on the body that can provide wonderful, fast stress rash relief!

The Bottom Line

As you can see, a chronic hive life can be very difficult – it demands watching out for what you eat and drink, how you dress, what your exposure to the sun is, and how you manage stress. It is always best to visit a doctor if you notice even mild symptoms so that they can guide you accurately and hopefully, prevent this syndrome from developing and getting much worse to handle. Stay healthy!


Burden of Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria (CIU) (CNW Group/Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc.)


  1. Amber on December 3, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    Hello I am trying to find a way to contact the person who wrote this. I am running into. The same situation and would love to talk to someone who is in the situation since I can never find someone

    • Jennifer Roberge on December 9, 2016 at 10:14 am

      Hi Amber – I’ll contact you via email with more information.

    • Daniela Vazquez on September 15, 2023 at 2:54 am

      Hi do you still have the same problem?? Currently going through it and i don’t know what to do.

      • HAZE on October 1, 2023 at 11:33 am

        I have exactly the same problem

  2. Sarah J. Stevenson (@aquafortis) on March 5, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    Always nice to know one is not alone. 🙂 I’ve had stress-induced (I’m fairly sure) CIU for about 13 years now, off and on. It makes you feel like you have a mystery disease, and the unpredictability is one of the worst parts. (Along with the self-consciousness and the itching and the seemingly inevitable course of Prednisone…)

    Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Colleen Corbett on July 7, 2019 at 12:50 am

      Have you tried Xolair??

    • Barbara on March 31, 2020 at 8:29 am

      I’m so happy I stumbled on your page. I have not been diagnosed with CIU but last year around this time I went to the Dr for a rash above my eye she told me it was allergies from rubbing them. Since it went away and then came back and more with it the last three months have been unbearable at times and I have them all over my face and neck when I’m really stressed there bright red and so itchy raised welts. I do have anxiety/panic attacks and depression and I’m being treated for this is but a whole new experience for me and with the corona virus I got rid of my internet and tv so I don’t see it it’s way to distressing for me.. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

      • Rosei on April 10, 2020 at 9:47 am

        I agree.. even I didn’t know till 1 week I am having CIU but for the news around me I started to get it worse trying to get away from stress any remedy ? And please can I get contact with author to get more help ?

  3. Deinne on June 14, 2017 at 10:21 am

    Thanks for this. I’ve been experiencing hives attack for almost a minth already. Please share additional remedies soon.

  4. Ceilidh on July 3, 2017 at 11:41 pm

    I was recently diagnosed with CIU and prior to the diagnosis had never heard of the affliction before. It makes me feel better to know that other people can relate to what I am going through. It is debilitating and frustrating, especially during the intense and unpredictable flare-ups.

  5. ps on July 31, 2017 at 9:21 am

    I have suddenly started erupting in hives. Antihistamines help but they keep returning. I have suffered from clinical depression for more than 15 years and, while it is being treated, I lost my wife of 23 years in December which has added considerably to the problem. I am beginning to suspect that the hives are stress and depression related. Any further information on this would be appreciated.

    • Jennifer Roberge on July 31, 2017 at 3:36 pm

      Hi PS – Thank you for sharing your story with us! I’m so sorry to hear about your wife. Yes, stress and depression can surely take it’s toll on the body and manifest in hives. Easier said than done, I know, but it would be beneficial for you to looking in reducing your stress. Some ideas are meditation, yoga, mindfulness. And definitely speak to a professional about your depression. Dietary modifications like cleaning up your diet and only eating whole foods and possibly eliminating diary and gluten have been show to help those battling depression. Please speak to your physician about these ideas.

  6. Laura Auger on December 19, 2017 at 9:11 am

    I suffer with this and i cannot find anything that helps. it really brings me down.
    A lot of people recommend xolair but im a little reserved and not sure the doctor wants to refer me for them.

  7. Lalanie Francis on January 8, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    I’ve suffered from chronic hives for the last 8 years and I know with certainty that it was triggered by large amounts of stress in my life that presently continues to be a huge factor in my life. I’ve had moments over the years where my outbreaks were lessened and they were usually periods where I had relatively less stress. I take 10 mg of Cetrrizine every day and as long as I keep it in my system I do okay. Sometimes it becomes less effective and then I switch to Fexofenadine until I think I can retry the Ceterezine. Pressure points are where it is the worst and I try to avoid tighter fitting clothing. I have an overactive mind at night and don’t sleep well. The constant stress is always at the forefront. My mood worsens or lessens the symptoms. Stress is debilitating and depressing but I’ve never been one for meds so I try to only take an allergy pill and limit certain foods and drinks. I’m presently overweight and when I’ve lost weight in the past, my symptoms improve but never fully go away. All in all my symptoms improve when I have less stress which has seemed to be my largest trigger. I’d appreciate any advice. I’ve been told to see an allergist.

    • Jennifer Roberge on January 9, 2018 at 7:48 am

      Hi Lalanie – Stress is a tough one – we all experience it, but our bodies handle it in different ways. Have you looked into “Mindfulness?” Do you do any type of medication or yoga? How much sleep are you getting? Sometimes just getting a full 8-9 hours of sleep with zero interruptions can hugely reduce our stress levels. Factors that improve our sleep are not watching tv before bed or doing anything in front of a screen and not eating after 6pm. If it’s been recommended for you to see an allergist, you definitely should. It can’t hurt.

    • S on June 29, 2020 at 7:00 pm

      I have suffered with chronic hives since the age of 11. I am now 39, and going through another bout with them. It is horrible. Would it be possible to contact you privately?

  8. Severe Hives | Hives Stress on June 29, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    […] stress and depression can also trigger hives reaction which can bring great discomfort to the patient. Reaction of hives can also become […]

  9. Pam on March 4, 2020 at 10:45 am

    I’ve just started coming out in large hives when ever there is upset at home, I do also suffer with depression do you think they are related, this first started last week went away but happened again today. Thank Pam

  10. Ariel Endresen on June 3, 2020 at 11:10 am

    I recently have been breaking out in hives that cover me from head to toe starting last year. It started last year from May-August and again this year. I just had an allergy test done and it came back negative. Which makes me believe it could be stress related. I have tried a healthier diet, exercising, watching my heat and stress exposures but they still kept occuring. I started Xyzal yesterday and my hives are gone. I’m not sure if it’s due to the allergy appointment and knowing it isn’t an allergy that eased my stress or the actual antihistamine. Would love to know if others who have stress related hives if they occur year round?

  11. Joanne on May 20, 2023 at 5:51 pm

    I’ve searched the internet for decades looking for my symptoms and no doctor could ever identify the issue. I’m so glad I found this post. It’s not just in my head, this is a thing. A thing that I can heal or at least reduce the affects. In my 20’s it started as swelling on my face (Adema) around my upper eye lid and lips and now I’m in my 40’s and my stress usually presents itself as itchy, stinging hives on my face. Just today, I noticed an itchy rash on the top of both hands in exactly the same place. Ugh! I have a very stressful job and 6 kids, 3 in college so I know I need to figure out a way to de-stress. This article was very helpful. It’s a good first step for me. If you have any other resources, please send them my way. Thank you so very much!

  12. Cathy Carbone on July 13, 2023 at 1:03 pm

    Hello, I just read your article and I believe this is what I have. I am going for allergy tests soon, but what I have is reaccuring. Would you be so kind as to send me more information to show my doctor.

Leave a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This