Why Do We Sweat when we’re Nervous?
Human beings sweat because of physical exertion. It’s a natural result of activity many animals. Humans have millions of sweat glands under the surface of the skin. These glands use the energy from our activity to produce sweat as a way of using and releasing energy. But we also know that in times of stress – when we are angry, nervous or even embarrassed our bodies react with the classic fight-or-flight response. Our brains and bodies are telling us there is some level of danger that we need to face up to or flee from.
Sweating is a sign the body is working to cool itself. Sweat glands create moisture that moves to the surface of the skin. This moisture evaporates, cooling our bodies. During exercise and when we are in a fight-or-flight situation the feet, hands and arm pits sweat first and most. This is because there are higher numbers of sweat glands in these areas. Research shows that as many as half of our sweat glands are located in the hands, feet and arm pits. Some people may have high concentrations of sweat glands in the back or on other areas of the body.
Our palms sometimes sweat because of medical conditions such as psychiatric abnormalities and problems with the thyroid. Aside from these abnormal situations, the body can trigger sweating of the hands and feet as one of the symptoms showing the body switching gears. The heart may beat more quickly and we may start breathing faster. We will sweat from anxiety and nervousness even when the temperature around us is cold.
In such situations, we don’t have control over the nervous system that automatically triggers sweating, faster heart rate etc. This is commonly known as the sympathetic nervous system. In some cases, people indicate such fight-or-flight situations with more than sweaty palms. We might also indicate that we are nervous or anxious with specific movements of the body. This has become known as body language.
Some people don’t sweat much or sweat in such small amounts that they may feel they don’t sweat at all. If they have an unusually stable body temperature and their system remains “cool” during stressful moments, they may not notice sweat at all. What little sweat does make it to the skin’s surface evaporates very quickly, making it unnoticeable.
While sweating palms and other indications of stress are natural, excessive sweating in the hands and feet is not common. Some studies show that a small percentage of people experience noticeable palm sweating on a regular basis. This percentage may be as small as 1 percent or 2 percent. This means that most people will have to be in a very stressful, even life-threatening situation, for them to experience sweaty palms or excess sweat in the arm pits.
The bottom line is that we sweat when we are nervous because our sympathetic nervous system reacts to the perceived danger. We may find the sweat is concentrated in hands, feet, arm pits and a few other areas because that’s where most of our sweat glands are.