Hyperhidrosis: The Silent Handicap

Excessive sweating frequently interferes with daily activities and impacts heavily on an individual’s quality of life. Because of the enormous psychosocial effects and limitations it places on a person’s personal, professional and social life, hyperhidrosis is often dubbed as ‘The Silent Handicap’.

Unfortunately, hyperhidrosis makes numerous routine tasks impossible to manage, which places incredible emotional and mental stress to affected individuals. Modifications to living habits and lifestyles are common strategies to overcome the physical, mental and emotional distress. Having to constantly adapt to avoid embarrassing situations can be rather disabling and many go to considerable lengths to hide their condition.

Palmar hyperhidrosis, for instance, makes the simple handshake a stressful event. While others would not think twice to extend their hand, people with excessive sweaty palms experience feelings of humiliation and embarrassment. Hands tend to hide in pockets or under arms. The fear of being perceived as anxious or nervous, or becoming less attractive, due to sweaty hands inhibits this form of socialisation.

Holding or grasping objects firmly also becomes impossible for individuals with excessive sweaty palms. Gloves are necessary when carrying out day to day tasks such as holding a pen, which would otherwise be too slippery to grip.  Unfavourably, the workplace often demands use of office stationary, keyboards, handling of paper and books or specific tools and equipment. Palmar hyperhidrosis cripples a person, limiting their productivity while increasing their risk of injury at the same time.

Recreational activities that involve equipment such as rackets, bats or playing musical instruments, all become awkward (and hazardous) situations as well. Sweating impairs the manual dexterity required to carry out these activities appropriately. Hyperhidrosis in general makes it socially embarrassing to participate in recreational activities due to constant profuse sweating.

Constantly aware of the condition they have to live with, most people with hyperhidrosis tend to avoid social contact with others. The limiting abilities to interact (for instance, hand shaking, as pointed out earlier), and perform simple tasks (such as turning a page without staining the paper), impacts the person’s social functioning, hence, influencing their confidence.

As a result, hyperhidrosis causes frustration and, in due course, social isolation. What is most disconcerting is the fact that many choose to suffer in silence and not seek any treatment. Despite the impetus of seeking treatment for hyperhidrosis, there is still ignorance on how to treat it and what methods are effective.  This lack of awareness and clinical attention can cause serious psychological effects, including depression.

For all the above reasons, hyperhidrosis is commonly referred to as the ‘The Silent Handicap’, a disease that emotionally and mentally drains  the affected individual, as it literally does physiologically.