too much sweat
May 8, 2011 9:35 PM   Subscribe

Sweating, heavily, from almost purely mental exertion?

This has plagued me all my life. I need to find some way to control this.

When I am doing an English lesson, I sweat like a pig. By the end of a one hour lesson the sweat is dripping profusely from beard and the tip of my nose, my shirt and pants look like I have just stepped fully clothed from a shower.

I am NOT doing anything physically strenuous. Maybe moving around just a little bit, but all of the effort and exertion is mental. I do not feel anxious, frightened, or anything like that when this is happening - I am focused and in the zone, and it feels from my point of view as though the thinking is overheating my brain.

This can also happen when doing physical tasks, but again the massive sweating seems to be more from the thinking. For example just getting tools ready, planning what I am going to do with a construction project gets me sweating, as though I have put in a full shift when I am just getting started.

I feel psychically drained in these cases, but I am not short of breath, don't have elevated heart rate, don't feel body tired. I am not heavily overweight.

This happens in a warm environment, but even in a cool air conditioned room I end up like this! It would happen in a walk-in cooler or the high arctic in winter.

1. Why does my brain and/or body do this?
2. What can I do to make it stop, or at least control the worst of it?
posted by Meatbomb to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have you ever mentioned this to a doctor?
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:43 PM on May 8, 2011

1. I have no idea, however;

2. I have something similar that happens to me. I find that when I totally cut out all caffeine, it gradually stops happening after about a week or so without caffeine. YMMV, of course.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:50 PM on May 8, 2011

Have you ever mentioned this to a doctor?

I don't use doctors - I get my medical advice from the Internet.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:51 PM on May 8, 2011 [25 favorites]

It happens to me when I'm concentrating really, really hard on sewing. But not when I'm concentrating really, really hard on other things. So I'm looking forward to seeing what you find out.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:55 PM on May 8, 2011

need more details...what is "doing and English lesson"? Are you teaching in front of a class? Studying on your own? Are you standing, seated, etc.? Excessive sweating is called "hyperhidrosis" and there are many kinds and many triggers.
posted by cosmicbandito at 10:18 PM on May 8, 2011

By "doing an English lesson", do you mean teaching or studying? Because if it's teaching, it might be more related to public speaking than you realise. I do not feel anxious in any way when I teach, yet I still sweat and get a dry mouth and various other physical symptoms that are usually associated with anxiety. I think my body and my brain believe two different things about whether I am scared of public speaking :)
posted by lollusc at 10:20 PM on May 8, 2011

Do you take any stimulants at all? Like caffeine?
posted by schroedinger at 10:54 PM on May 8, 2011

caffiene: yes frequently multiple cups in the morning
"doing a lesson": teaching - at front of class, coordinating games and activities, etc.

Not sure if the anxiety / public speaking angle works - see my counterexample about getting ready to do construction work for. Or right this moment, filling in attendance spreadsheets and multitasking on the phone, it is starting now in a comfortable aircon room and I am alone.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:02 PM on May 8, 2011

The human brain uses about 20% of blood sugar. Energy expenditure means waste energy, which means waste heat. Humans (oddly) sweat to get rid of extra heat.

Wear an ice-pack, see what happens.
posted by orthogonality at 11:07 PM on May 8, 2011

Is your blood sugar going too low? That can cause sweating but it is usually accompanied by weakness and mental confusion as well. Try sucking on some candy and see if that helps.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:11 PM on May 8, 2011

Caffeine does this to me if I hammer it too hard.
posted by flabdablet at 11:17 PM on May 8, 2011

"doing a lesson": teaching - at front of class, coordinating games and activities, etc.

I find teaching to be very intensive physically. Even if I'm not nervous and the class goes well, I am exhausted after teaching two hours. You might be putting more of an effort in it than you think.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 11:30 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh and to answer your second question: I found out that the sweating became a lot less when I drank less caffeine and made sure that I was in a good physical shape (fit, sleep, hardly any alcohol the night before - probably not the things you want to hear).
posted by swordfishtrombones at 11:33 PM on May 8, 2011

Get checked for diabetes, sweating can be a symptom.
posted by gallagho at 1:07 AM on May 9, 2011

Get checked for diabetes

I'm going to just rule this out - like I said this has been my condition since late teens, no other diabetes type symptoms.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:39 AM on May 9, 2011

Cut back the caffeine. Seriously, makes a world of difference.
posted by schroedinger at 1:57 AM on May 9, 2011

If you were skinny and the sweating wasn't so situationally dependent and independent of exertion, I'd think you were hyperthyroid.

In light of all that, I'd have to guess that you are one of those individuals who have retained significant amounts of brown fat into adulthood:

For more than 30 years, scientists have been intrigued by brown fat, a cell that acts like a furnace, consuming calories and generating heat. Rodents, unable to shiver effectively to keep warm, use brown fat instead. So do human infants, who do not shiver very well. But it was generally believed that humans lose brown fat after infancy, no longer needing it once the shivering response kicks in.

That belief, three groups of researchers report, is wrong.

But if your brown fat is producing the heat, something other than the usual stimulus of exposure to cold must be turning it on in your case.

Given the circumstances you describe, probably adrenaline:

Epinephrine, or adrenaline, and ephedra, an herbal supplement containing epinephrine, can stimulate brown fat, said Dr. Rudolph Leibel, co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at the Columbia University Medical Center. But the drugs have too many side effects to be used for weight loss, he said, adding that while caffeine can bolster ephedra’s effects, it is easy to eat your way out of a brown fat effect.

Note the interesting, in light of some of your other answers, reference to caffeine. If caffeine can enhance the effects of ephedra, maybe it can enhance the effects of epinephrine, as well.

It seems unusual for the things you describe to produce enough of an adrenaline rush to activate your brown fat as strongly as this explanation would seem to require, so perhaps your adrenals are a touch overactive.

Cushing's syndrome causes overactivity of the adrenal glands, and one of its symptoms is excessive sweating.
posted by jamjam at 3:04 AM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

You will likely find this to be of interest:
posted by Mr. Justice at 4:57 AM on May 9, 2011

I'd wear a heart rate monitor for a lesson and see what the results are.
posted by patrad at 5:57 AM on May 9, 2011

It seems unusual for the things you describe to produce enough of an adrenaline rush to activate your brown fat as strongly as this explanation would seem to require, so perhaps your adrenals are a touch overactive.

Huh, maybe there is something to this, as I definitely feel in a sort of rush when I am teaching - very focused, super alert... I don't know if this answer is true but it tells a good story for me so I'm going to go with that for now.

Thanks so much all of you.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:09 AM on May 9, 2011

And very interesting, never heard of brown fat before!
posted by Meatbomb at 6:14 AM on May 9, 2011

For what it's worth, in his talk at TED a few years back, Stanford professor of neurology Robert Sapolsky mentioned that when chess masters are in the middle of a tournament, they can burn 6000–7000 calories per day by thinking.
posted by Jeff Howard at 6:25 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

This has happened to me when I taught before, too (although not nearly as intense). I chalked it up to adrenaline. Also, getting a good night's sleep seemed to stop it.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:17 AM on February 15, 2012

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