Hyperhidrosis can put a damper on personal relationships. In addition to the daily struggles and challenges those affected face daily, it can be even more particularly challenging when meeting new people, building relationships, dating, and intimacy. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, it’s clear to see how it can be a dreaded and even more stressful holiday for those preoccupied with their sweating.
A 2017 study carried out on 71 hyperhidrosis patients aimed to qualitatively analyze the impact hyperhidrosis had on the daily life and overall quality of life of those surveyed. Respondents cited an impact on nearly every aspect of their daily life, from difficulty turning doorknobs with their sweaty hands, to difficulty demonstrating physical affection with loved ones.
Unsurprisingly, an overwhelming majority of participants reported struggles with physical contact, social life, and relationships and intimacy, which they said significantly impacted their quality of life and ability to function ‘normally’, especially in social situations.
Unless you’ve been in their (damp) shoes, it can be a little difficult to really grasp the impact that excessive sweating can have on daily life, and to what extent it affects all your choices and restricts you from doing certain things. Those who don’t suffer from hyperhidrosis may not realize the extent of the negative impact it can have on its sufferer, as it is seldom talked about, and generally, an “invisible” illness (except those dreaded sweat stains) that is largely misunderstood.
The Impact of Hyperhidrosis on Quality of Life
Below is a breakdown of the study results, by category.
- 75% of participants reported an impact on their lifestyle.
- 61% of people studied said it influenced their clothing choices (colour, material, and design).
13 % said it affected their food and drink choices, with many reporting to stay away from sweat-triggering foods such as spicy food, alcohol, and caffeine.
- 41% said it affected their hobbies (including both physical and non-physical activities),
- i.e. avoiding reading because they would ruin the book with their wet hands.
- 33% said it affected their ability to perform household chores, such as cleaning and cooking.
- Many reported things like difficulty turning doorknobs, opening jars, and working with tools, as well as driving and shopping.
- 20% said it affected the way they use touch technologies, particularly touch-screen phones and keyboards. For example, difficulty using fingerprint ID on the phone or ruining keyboards due to constant moisture.
69% said they experienced negative emotions as a result of hyperhidrosis, including embarrassment, anxiety, sadness, anger, and hopelessness.
- 64% said they feared other people’s reactions and were in a constant state of worry.
- Most individuals reported having low self-esteem, and low self-confidence as a result of hyperhidrosis. 15% of participants even said they felt less attractive because of their excessive sweating.
- 50% said they felt restricted by their hyperhidrosis. They reported feeling trapped and felt that hyperhidrosis was a constant preoccupation that had taken over their life.
- 75% said that being in public or attending a social event was challenging. Things like going to work, attending school or even using public transit were a challenge.
- 57% had trouble interacting with others, due to a heightened sense of self-consciousness and reduced self-confidence.
- 63% said hyperhidrosis interfered with their work and/or school performance and related tasks.
33% said they chose a career that would accommodate their sweating, even turning down lucrative job opportunities in favour of ones where sweat would not be an issue.
- 17% of individuals said they performed extra chores in order to stay clean, like taking more showers, carrying sweat-absorbent materials (like towels and tissues) and extra pairs of clothes.
- 40% of participants stated that they felt some physical discomfort attributed to their hyperhidrosis, such as walking around in wet clothes and shoes all day to having sweat drip down their faces and into their eyes.
17% said they attributed excessive sweating with the development of other skin conditions (such as eczema and fungal infections).
- Most participants stated that they were uncomfortable being in close proximity to others due to fears about their reactions. This leads them to avoid all social contact such as touching, holding or shaking hands, and sitting next to others.
- Some participants were even uncomfortable with hugging, cuddling, or any other forms of physical affection.
- One participant said that she was “unable to touch [her] husband, daughters, and grandchildren without first thinking about how to do it without them actually having contact with my skin”.
Personal Relationships & Intimacy
- Participants stated negative consequences of hyperhidrosis on their personal relationships. They said that their avoidance of going out and being in public meant that they were not able to nurture important relationships, and some said it completely barred them from pursuing new friendships and relationships.
One participant stated: “I have not been in a relationship, as I feel too embarrassed to explain my excessive sweating, I lost touch with most of my friends after school, because by this time, the sweating had got worse and they were wanting to go out, I would feel too anxious about it and would make an excuse”.
- Many also reported troubles with intimacy with their partners because of their uncontrollable, spontaneous excessive sweating.
Dealing With Hyperhidrosis
A lack of information, combined with a fear of rejection and embarrassment can lead people to not opening up or discussing their condition with others. It’s important to realize that hyperhidrosis doesn’t define you, and that opening up to people on your own terms and building a support system could help you ease the mental toll hyperhidrosis takes.
Before opening up to anyone, we suggest you try to become more comfortable with yourself first. Working on self-love and acceptance, and practicing self-care rituals can improve your mental health and quality of life. There are many tips and tricks that can be of use to you!
We’ve broken down some steps you can take to when deciding if, when, and how you should talk to a loved one about hyperhidrosis.
Tips on Attending Social Functions and Meeting New People
Relax: Put yourself at ease by practicing some relaxation techniques, such as meditation or focusing on breathing properly. This can help ease stress!
Be Comfortable: Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable. If you suffer from underarm hyperhidrosis, you may want to consider darker colours or layering as a temporary fix. Thinking about sweat stains will just make you more nervous, so wear clothing and footwear that will put you at ease, and take your mind off of sweating.
Be Upfront: about it when you’re introducing yourself. This can be especially helpful to those with palmar hyperhidrosis, which can be hard to ignore once people reach in for a handshake or a hug. You can take a comical or lighthearted approach, because if you show that you’re not bothered by it, then others won’t be either!
Plan Accordingly: Depending on where you’re going, it can be a good idea to bring a towel to soak up any extra sweat, or a change of clothes, socks, and/or shoes. If you know you have a special event or date, plan ahead and layer on the antiperspirant, bring absorbent tissues or employ whatever tips and tricks you use to keep sweat at bay.
Take a Moment: If you’re feeling uncomfortable, just excuse yourself, head to the bathroom and take a moment to relax, take a deep breath, and freshen up. Take the moment to soak up any excess sweat, change, or reapply cosmetics, perfumes, or antiperspirants. No one will give it a second thought, and this can help you keep you cool.
Take Preventative Measures: Find a treatment that works for you and follow the application procedures or treatment schedule. If you’re looking for a sweat-free first date or meeting, consider trying iontophoresis treatment, which is done in the comfort of your home, and can keep you dry for up to 6 weeks at a time. It’s a treatment that fits your schedule and can be done anytime, so if there’s an unforeseen event you’re still covered and sweat-free! One less thing to worry about!
Telling a Loved One About Hyperhidrosis
Are you ready to tell a close one about hyperhidrosis? Remember, it’s up to you. Most people say they feel liberated after being open about it, some just don’t think it’s a big deal and never directly open up about it and, and for some, just the thought about opening up is mortifying and sweat-inducing. To be honest, everyone’s dealing with their own things and most won’t really be bothered by it, and probably won’t give it too much thought. If they are, then no need to pursue things any further with that person, or, if you’re so inclined you can educate that person!
If you’re not ready to tell someone in person, we do think it’s important to talk about it, especially if you’re feeling negative emotions regarding the condition. A good choice for those would be to find an online community of fellow non-judgemental hyperhidrosis sufferers. There are communities all over the web, and this could be a great start. There are people sharing their HH story on YouTube, there are Facebook groups, a subreddit, forums, and blogs, and, of course, the International Hyperhidrosis Society. It’s easier than ever to connect with other people who understand you and can relate to your experiences. You’re not alone!
Finally, It’s important to accept hyperhidrosis but remember that it’s not your sole defining feature, even though it may seem like it during particularly bad days. It’s a condition that affects over 365 million people worldwide (and probably even more due to the lack of awareness and diagnosis), so you’re not alone. Find what works for you!