Monday, July 27, 2015

How hyperhidrosis affects your career: A moving first-person story

Has hyperhidrosis affected your career choices? It has certainly affected mine. I avoided careers with a lot of hand shaking such as sales and public relations, opting for jobs where I spend much of my time behind a computer. Though there are many enjoyable aspects of my work, I sometimes wonder what I might have become had I gotten treatment for hyperhidrosis at a younger age. For example, I might have tried out for sports teams had I not feared high-fiving others and shaking hands with opponents. I would have definitely done theater had I not feared lifting up my arms. And perhaps I would have tried student council and developed leadership skills at a young age.

I try not to dwell a lot on these lost opportunities, and I have grown a lot since my anxious days of high school. I write about them in hopes that younger people with hyperhidrosis might not inhibit their growth -- like a plant placed in too small of a pot, its tangled roots running out of room to grow.

I want to thank Steve Tribe for his moving first person essay, "I Can't Stop Sweating," recently published in The Guardian.  Mr. Tribe's ETS surgery stopped his palmar hyperhidrosis but triggered compensatory sweating in other parts of his body. He writes:
When I’m working in an office I always wear a jacket. People say things like “Aren’t you hot?” but it’s better than them asking me, “Why is your back so wet?” Now I work as a night controller in the construction industry, which means cooler weather and fewer people.
Mr. Tribe is involved in a British hyperhidrosis support group and set up a Facebook page about hyperhidrosis, now with over 2,000 members. I am grateful to him and others who have helped raise awareness of our condition.


Thursday, July 02, 2015

Iontophoresis Woes

Thanks to Caryn, author of the "Just a Little Sweat" blog, for sharing her experiences with iontophoresis. Though she had been using her iontophoresis machine regularly, the palmar and plantar sweating returned. She spoke with the head of the company, R.A. Fischer, that makes her hyperhidrosis machine (and mine too.) He offered some suggestions to help her use the device more effectively. For details, read her blog post: "Iontophoresis Trials." Thanks again, Caryn, for sharing such valuable information.


Radio Show About ETS for Blushing

"This American Life," the amazing radio show produced by WBEZ in Chicago, recently aired a segment about one woman's decision whether to get endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) surgery for excessive blushing. The surgery is also used as a last-resort treatment for hyperhidrosis, so I was thrilled that "This American Life" producer Sean Cole provided an in-depth look at its pros and cons in the show's episode #558, Game Face.  (To listen to the segment about ETS, scroll down to Act 4, "Frankly Miss Scarlet.")

ETS surgery, according the the International Hyperhidrosis Society, "frequently causes serious, irreversible compensatory sweating (excessive sweating on large areas of the body or all over) as well as other dibilitating effects such as extreme hypotension, arrhythmia, and heat intolerance." Thus, the surgery is not recommended by most physicians.

Elna Baker, an actor and professional storyteller, considered getting ETS surgery after a failed audition for a TV show. Network executives, noticing her red face and neck, said she looked too nervous on camera. She ultimately decided against getting the surgery. Her particular type of slower-onset excessive blushing could not be addressed by ETS because it is caused by her adrenal glands, not her sympathetic nerve.

Interestingly, it turns out that what helped Ms. Baker the most was simply telling people about her blushing. When she stopped trying to hide the blushing, she blushed less frequently. I wonder if this would help with hyperhidrosis. Sometimes my palms and feet sweat when I'm home and not at all anxious. But sometimes, when I've told friends about my condition, the sweating decreases.

Has anyone else experienced decreased sweating after telling others about their hyperhidrosis? Please share your experiences in the comments section.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

How to Enjoy Holiday Parties, Sweaty Palms And All

It is much more comfortable for me to stay home in my fuzzy clothes on my cozy sofa, reading my beloved books. But even introverts are social creatures, and we can expand our worlds by getting to know new people. That's what I told myself as I got dressed for a holiday party at a friend's house.

But what helped me even more was an article just published by Christine Carter of the Greater Good Science Center: Why Happiness Is The Wrong Pursuit. "The way to lead a joyful life is not to pursue happiness for ourselves, but to pursue it for others," said Dr. Carter. "The good life is not about getting what we want; it’s about having what it takes to give to others."

So what does this have to do with small talk at a holiday party?

Each person we encounter has his or her own sorrows, joys, anxieties, and dreams. We all want to feel that we are heard, seen, and appreciated.  Rather than focus on our own anxieties, we can focus on others, really seeing them and hearing them. We can be socially generous. We can think about what we can give to others rather than worrying about how others will perceive us. For me, this mental shift makes me feel less pressure and more at ease.

I've known this for a long time, but I find it hard to put it into practice. I used to be terrible at small talk. I used to awkwardly shift the conversation back to myself because I didn't want to appear as if I were interrogating others. I'm better now, but I am still looking for ways to improve. The past few years, I've been listening to others to get ideas.

There is an art to the follow-up question. You can ask someone who mentions they've been through a life change (such as a move or a new job): "How is it working out for you?" You can reply by revealing a little about yourself, but still following up with a question: "That's awesome...I've always wanted to go to Costa Rica. How did you like the food?" Or you can simply say: "Really?" Signal your interest and let the person open up more. If they are a good conversationalist, they will eventually ask about you. I'm sure these tips seem obvious, but after years of severe social anxiety, I'm still learning the basics.

Tonight I learned that an acquaintance will get to spend the holidays with her whole family for the first time in three years. I learned about another woman's plans to swim around Manhattan. I learned how to do a six-part karate move. I learned about and enjoyed OK Go's video "I Won't Let You Down." I learned that a woman whom I admire, a sports coach who always seems carefree and full of energy, is struggling with a back injury.  And I learned what it is like to be a nurse working at a hospital, low in the pecking order as a recent graduate. My world got a little bigger, and learning all of these things was more interesting than thinking about myself. Plus I believe I made people feel good by showing interest in what they had to say. Happiness comes from giving to others -- not just through volunteering but in social situations too.

While I was busy listening to others, I forgot about my hyperhidrosis. It wasn't until later that I realized my hands were not sweating.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Congratulations to 'Just a Little Sweat'!

While catching up on other hyperhidrosis blogs, I was happy that the author of "Just a Little Sweat" (who is a classical musician) got engaged. Her boyfriend proposed during a marathon that they were running together. Best wishes to the happy couple!


Medical Journal Articles About Hyperhidrosis & Iontophoresis

Hi everyone, It has been a very long time since have blogged. It was wonderful to come back and see all the comments. A few of you mentioned that you are in medical school, so I wanted to point out a resource of special interest: PubMed. You can search for recent journal articles about hyperhidrosis. It's a great website, though unfortunately, I don't have access to many of the journal articles.

Still, it helps to scan the titles and summaries. I found a few about iontophoresis, my treatment of choice.

Here's one for young people with hyperhidrosis:

"Tap water iontophoresis is an effective method of treatment for primary palmoplantar and axillary hyperhidrosis in paediatric patients. But there are still unanswered questions about the mechanism of action, ideal session intervals and protocols for maximum efficacy."
Here is one for me -- a not-so-compliant iontophoresis patient (-:
"Patients with palmoplantar hyperhidrosis are noncompliant with TWI, mainly due to a lack of time. They should be well informed before therapy and be encouraged to have a home device for maintenance."

And finally...a discouraging study about the use of hyperhidrosis for underarm sweat.

Hope that helped!


Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day special: A great catch!

The boyfriend of a hyperhidrosis blogger (Just A Little Sweat) wrote about what it's like to date someone with hyperhidrosis. Anyone who's frustrated with dating should read this post. If they're worth dating, they will be understanding of your hyperhidrosis. And chances are it won't be as big of a deal to them as it is to you.


Dripping and dancing

I took a break from the iontophoresis, and my hands have been sweating a lot. In fact, during a meeting for work last week, I noticed wet spots on my pants and the carpet. My hands were actually dripping so much that it caused these wet spots.

I need to get back to the iontophoresis.

I am thinking of taking a swing dancing class, but I don't know if I (or my partners) would enjoy it with my dripping wet palms. Hopefully I can get the iontophoresis going quickly. In the meantime, is it acceptable to wear gloves while dancing? Any suggestions would be much appreciated.


Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Resolutions: Think Small and Steady

Do you have a New Year's resolution? If you're like me, and like most people, chances are that you will break your resolution. In fact, four out of five people break their New Year’s resolutions—and a third of people break them by February

I finally found a technique that helped me create a positive new habit without too much difficulty. I hope this blog post will equip you to make small but steady positive changes that can help you overcome the negative effects of hyperhidrosis.

The technique I mentioned comes from Dr. B.J. Fogg, a Stanford researcher specializing in behavior change. He sponsors an ongoing experiment called 3 Tiny Habits.  

3 Tiny Habits promises behavior change without relying on willpower or motivation. His goal is to help people learn how habits work. He believes that people can create new habits by changing their environment (your surroundings) and taking baby steps.
The behavior should be

  • ·      Easy
  • ·      Quick
  • ·      Specific
  • ·      Scheduled at a certain time each day or prompted by a trigger
      Once you accomplish a small change, you can build on it to accomplish slightly larger changes. For example, instead of setting the resolution to "lose weight," you could set the more attainable goal of "brushing your teeth every night immediately after dinner" to prevent evening snacking. This action is easy, quick, specific, and prompted by a trigger (finishing dinner.)

What would be a small change to help with the social anxiety that results from hyperhidrosis? The change, to be successful, needs to come from inside you rather than from someone else. But I can suggest the kinds of behavior changes that have worked for me in hopes of inspiring you to come up with your own.

One of the negative effects of hyperhidrosis is hyper-focus on oneself. This impedes one's ability to socialize and build relationships and rapport with other. One tiny habit that might help would be when you meet someone new to notice their eye color. This would help you focus on them rather than your own anxiety. Another tiny habit that could help would be when you meet someone to say "Nice to meet you (repeat their name)." This would help you focus on and remember their name. 

One of the most successful changes I have been able to make is, as my head touches my pillow at bedtime, to say three things I'm grateful for. This helps me focus on what is most important in life and to better appreciate the people around me. It doesn't cure hyperhidrosis, but it is an attitude shift that helps one live better with the condition.

What tiny changes will you make in 2014? Whatever they are and whoever you are, I hope you have a great year.


Friday, July 12, 2013

What if they saw you sweat?

A recent blog post by writer Donald Miller, What if the Temptation to Be Impressive Keeps Us From Connecting? got me thinking. Mr. Miller, author of the Storyline Blog, writes about how he is bored by people who portray themselves as perfect. I believe there's an important lesson here for people with hyperhidrosis and social anxiety. Often when we're so busy trying to hide our sweat, we are unable to connect with others. We may also lose the ability to discern who is a true friend who is worthy of your time and love. (And when I say "worthy," I'm talking about someone's integrity, morals, and originality--not their social standing or wealth.)

In high school, I lived in fear of classmates discovering my hyperhidrosis. I avoided activities where I might need to hold or shake others' hands. At religious services, I would leave for the bathroom in the middle of each service to avoid exchanging the sign of peace. When I won an award for excellence in my sport (surprise, was swimming!), I refused to attend the ceremony to accept the trophy because I would need to shake hands. All of this kept me apart from others, alone in a crowd. And it was all because I was afraid I would be made fun of because of my sweat.

My fear of being teased was valid--I had been teased because of my sweat--but I was not able to think this through at the time. If someone is making fun of me because of my sweat, what does it say about them? Now I know that mean people are often hurting on the inside. Ostracizing others is a way to boost yourself at others' expense. Ultimately, the cruelty hurts all involved. People who are at peace with themselves naturally feel compassionate towards others. They are the people you want to know. They are the people who are capable of healthy friendships. They are the people who will accept you for who you are, even if you sweat like a football player eating jalapeno peppers in a sweat lodge. When I think about my high school classmates, I believe there were some who would have been excellent friends who I did not connect with because I was too busy hiding.

Therefore, being honest about your hyperhidrosis will weed out people who lack the compassion and self-love to be a true friend. I'm not saying that you need to tell everyone all the time. But there are some times and places where it's better to be honest. If someone rejects you, yes, of course, it will hurt. But ultimately, the loss is theirs.