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Why do people sweat when they are nervous?

I thought sweating cools us down when we are hot. So, why do we sweat when we are nervous?

4034 day(s) ago

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We’ve all heard the old expression about sweating bullets. The expression came about because many people have a tendency to sweat when they are nervous, anxious, or excited. For some people, the sweating can be profuse, and the more nervous the person is, the more heavy the sweating. Different situations or different types of nervousness can cause sweating for different people. Some people only sweat when they are the focus of attention for large groups of people, such as when giving a speech or presentation. Other people only sweat in new situations that they have never experienced before. Still others sweat in the presence of someone they like romantically. People have even experienced sweating when undergoing medical procedures that stimulate the nervous system.

No matter the situation in which someone sweats, it is because sweating is controlled by the nervous system. The real reason for sweating is to cool us down when our body temperature rises. When our body is exposed to high outside temperatures, high humidity, or because we are expending energy in exercise, our sympathetic nervous system triggers our body to begin sweating. When the sweat on our exposed skin evaporates, it causes air to rush in and cool us down. When we get into situations that make us nervous, the same part of the sympathetic nervous system is activated. Adrenaline is also produced that further affects the parts of the nervous system that make us sweat.

When we are nervous our body responds with what is called the “fight or flight” response. This means our body prepares to either engage in some sort of physical combat or to run away, both as options for survival. Our fight or flight response causes our blood vessels to constrict, forcing blood into the heart and the brain. Our heart rate increases and our face may turn red and feel hot because of the excess blood. Because the sympathetic nervous system is so entwined, it causes other parts of our body to react also. Our eyes dilate and our sweat glands activate. Some say we sweat during a fight or flight response because it lubricates our skin, helping us to run, but this is not a generally accepted principle.

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