Hyperhidrosis and Hand Holding

couple holding hands

Holding hands when you have hyperhidrosis can be horribly embarrassing.
(Image Credit: Aaron Blanco Tejedor)

I went to a writing seminar yesterday. The goal was to learn how to become unstuck and stay on course when writing. I’ve been in a blogging rut lately, but I’m sure you’ve already noticed I haven’t been posting for awhile. While I had the best of intentions to complete each post in the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge, it just didn’t happen. For me, it became more about quantity than quality of posts, something I never wish to do with my writing. I know you appreciate a frequency of posts, I really do. But let’s be honest. Sometimes life gets in the way. Life already has enough could’ves, should’ves, and would’ves, so I’m not going to feel bad and apologize for another something that I should’ve done. But I digress.

The Dreaded ‘Let’s Join Hands’

This writing workshop was helpful, but the way it started out was horrible for me personally. The leader brought another attendee up to the front to explain the first exercise. They were standing and facing each other, so I immediately started thinking,

Dear God, if they join hands and start talking I am going to freak out.

So what did they do? Joined hands! The leader asked us all to get up and as a meet and greet join hands with others and say, “I am _____. I recognize the writer in you, and I recognize the writer in me.” Really? Couldn’t we just skip that part, stay seated in our personal space, and tell people about ourselves? I couldn’t even remember what we were supposed to say after she explained it. I had to do this exchange with probably 8 people or so, and they had to repeat it back to me, so it was at least 20 seconds of having to extend my dripping hands into theirs. Oh, the agony.

I thought briefly about trying to excuse myself from this meet and greet, or using the excuse that I have a cold and shouldn’t make hand contact. But if I were just to excuse myself, what if it looked like I was trying to be above the interaction? Would the other workshop attendees think, Who does she think she is, refusing to participate?

But if they only knew what it’s like to be inside my body.

Social Triggers for Hyperhidrosis

By the time we were done, I was sweating basically all over because the exchange was such a trigger. I’m really trying to work on my inner monologue in situations like these, but it’s damn near impossible to calm myself down once I know I’m being put on the spot like I was.

It’s situations exactly like this that make me want to NOT attend events because I don’t know what will happen.

Yes, life is unpredictable, but when you put yourself out there in the first place as a sweater, it’s even more unpredictable and nerve-wracking. I could have done completely without this interaction. I really could have. After I sat back down, I was trying to do some deep breathing to calm down. Does anyone else have the problem after a trigger situation of becoming absolutely freezing afterward? As my sweat was evaporating, it was making me cold. It’s like I have two different thermostats in my body.

Wiping Away The Sweat

After the introductions were over, the leader asked what kind of writing we all did. I used this an opportunity to talk about my blog and how I was raising awareness about hyperhidrosis, a condition that is under-recognized and under-treated. This helped me feel better after my mortifying hand-holding encounters. A friend who came with me to the workshop said he noticed at least two people wipe off their hands after they let go of mine. I’m glad I didn’t see that. That would have put me over the edge and probably made me cry.

I can’t help that I sweat, but you can help from being so obvious about drying yourself off after you touch me.

Welcome to my world. I deal with this every single day of my life. It’s hard work.

It was mortifying yesterday. Today, I feel more angry about it.

Do I have to over-analyze every situation to make sure I can go to it beforehand? Or should I email the instructors ahead of time and ask if there will be any hand holding involved, and if so, exactly what time will that occur so that I can show up after it’s over? Oh, wait. If I show up after it’s over, then that would make me late to the event. And being late makes me sweat, so I guess that won’t work, either. Super.

Copyright © 2012 My Life as a Puddle


  1. Hi wow, I thought it was just me that had these types of irrational reactions. I was in a recent similar situation, I attended an event and we prayed before the start of it. All held hands. I held hands with an older lady and an 8 year old blind child. I personally saw the child wipe his hand off, which makes you feel pretty crummy that even a child doesn’t want to hold your hand. I told the older lady about it and she was pleasant about it. But it really does trigger and all over body sweat.what is that??? I hate it.

  2. I broke into a sweat just reading your post! Yikes! I hate those on-the-spot moments. I am VERY sensitive to people wiping their hands after they’ve touched mine so I completely understand how you feel. I guess it’s part of our charm! I just keep hoping that these uncomfortable experiences will help build up more courage (and dry hands!) for the next time.

  3. Maria, I just want to let you know that I completely and totally understand!! I have had horrible experiences like that too. When something like that happens to me, it puts me at such a loss. I honestly feel about an inch tall and I feel like I have to work even harder to regain respect from people. I feel so judged in situations like that. It’s also really hard for me to relax and learn and take in information during those experiences. When your mind is racing and freaking out about holding hands and what people will think, it’s really hard to focus on what is being said. And that really sucks when you are trying to learn something important. And yes, I know what you mean about breaking out into a full on marathon sweat and feeling cold. It’s beyond uncomfortable. Usually after something like that, I also feel very tired at the end of the day. My energy is depleted from stress, worry, etc. I hate it. And I hate to admit it and it makes me so sad, but I often tailor my life around avoiding things like that for those very reasons. I feel like I’m missing out on so many great experiences, but I can’t put myself through that sort of thing too much. Maybe someday I”ll be able to get a better handle on it and be above it, but not today sadly. It’s a sad place to be. It breaks my heart that we have to deal with this. I’m so sorry you had a hard time. You should feel good about that the fact that you challenged yourself and you stuck it out. I don’t know if I could’ve done that. I may have gone for the door. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right? But it sure is tough sometimes. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to sit in a room like that and do that exercise and NOT even worry a bit about wet hands and judgement, embarrassment and shame. And feel dry and comfortable and focused. Heaven, for me, I think. Heaven. Thank you for sharing this experience. Please know that you are not alone. Take Care.

  4. I feel your pain . . . I wish our culture would get rid of hand shakes. I don’t go to church anymore because I know I will have to hold hands and/or shake hands. It feels good to know I’m not alone in this world. Thank you for blogging 😉

  5. Oh my goodness I feel like giving you a hug right now! I completely understand your pain! Right now as I’m typing this my hands are slightly wet (as opposed to full on dripping) because it’s warm in here. But I think reading your post added to the stress and caused further dampness. I cannot tell you how much I dread going to meetings or gatherings or any situation where hand holding or hand shaking will be involved. It’s such a nightmare! Recently I had to attend my nephew’s communion. Well the part I always dreaded was when the priest says “now let us offer each other a sign of peace” because that meant we had to shake hands. I tell you just hearing that speech (nearly 20 years after graduation from Catholic school) nearly sent me into a nervous breakdown. Luckily for me the church was air conditioned and quite cool so I managed to keep my hands dry enough to shake a few hands. But I would feel my pores opening up on my skin and the sweat just itching to come out and embarrass me for millionth time in my life! I thought to myself, my god I am thirty-six years old and I’m STILL dealing with this problem! It just never gets any easier. I am so sorry you had to deal with this situation and I’m even more angry at the people who wiped their hands after touching you. As if you are not aware of the sweaty palms they have to make it more obvious! And yes of of course as soon as the moment of tension passes my body cools down and is dry as a bone. Unbelievable!!

  6. Hi Maria (and other followers),

    Firstly, thank you for sharing your story, you are a very brave woman.

    I stumbled across your website in one of my searches on HH (Hoping to find some amazing new cure! :-)) and I was very impressed with your efforts and I was also moved by your experiences. I teared up when I first started reading some of your blogs as I can totally relate to your experiences and understand the intense anxiety this condition causes.

    I did continue to read your blogs from time to time as I found them to be inspiring and I think they also brought me a sense of comfort, knowing that someone else truly understands and feels the same pain and suffering I do, dealing with this annoying condition.

    Your site is different from other sites I’ve come across (i.e. Social Phobia) and I somehow felt comfortable and thought you sounded like a good person who is putting themselves out there in a positive way to help others. This feels like a protected little environment.

    Thank you for listening and for taking the time out of your life to make a difference. I believe that is what life is about 🙂

  7. Hey Maria,
    I love this post, and I love all the responses you are getting! I too started sweating when I read this. I have been there. School was like this all the time. I couldn’t focus or learn because I was too scared about causing attention to myself because of my sweating. I hate hand holding exercises and I wish we would get rid of them. Be proud that you stuck it out, and that you had a great opportunity to speak about your blog and cause. Similar to your other readers, I had a lot of problem in church. Not only did we have to shake hands, but our church held hands during the “Our Father” prayer. When I was a kid, I would position myself between my mom and dad so I didn’t have to hold stranger’s hands. As I grew older, I chose churches that didn’t have this custom. I remember as a child being so nervous about holding someone’s hand that I had created a puddle on the cover of the song book I had on my lap. Thank you for everything you are doing. 🙂

  8. Maria,

    I am so happy you bring this up. I work for a lot of political campaigns and in politics there is constant handshaking, it is terrible! I am happy to hear I am not the only one who has to deal with this!

    I always look forward to reading your blog, it’s marked as a favorite!

  9. Thank you so much for bringing awareness to this. I came across your blog because I was looking for info on how sweaty fingers affect touch screens. This problem has been the bane of my 62 years! From holding hands, to stained shoes it has been such a pain. Oh, I know there are worse problems, but this affected my self-esteem in ways other people could never understand. I can’t wait to read more of your posts!

  10. Oh wow, so familair! Especially our very creative thoughts that make you feel even more uncomfortable – the more I get to push myself to be relaxed the more I start sweating. Isnt it funny..
    The worst things are like those unanounced training sessions to prevent RSI when you are wearing the wrong shirt and you have to stand in a circle and reach out high and a bunch of colleagues are faced with your wet armpit stains.
    Or, when visiting someone you are not very close with, and they ask to take your shoes off at the door. Really, I’d fake a sudden flu at those moments..
    Thanks so much for sharing, we arent alone 🙂

  11. feel for ya! at least they didn’t say Ew! that straight gets me in the gut

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