Can Stress And Anxiety Cause Boils?

can stress and anxiety cause boils

When exam time is near lots of students seem to suffer from painful boils. If you’ve ever had a pimple that grew much bigger than a normal pimple and was very painful to touch and even caused pain in the surrounding skin and tissue, then you might have actually had a boil.

So why do boils become more common around exam time – can stress and anxiety cause boils?

Yes, stress and anxiety can cause boils, in fact sometimes boils are even known as ‘stress boils’. When your body is stressed its immune system is weakened making it more susceptible to infection and less competent at fighting it off. Stress will also cause hormonal changes in your body which can make boils more likely to occur.

So, now that you know that your stress may indeed be causing your boils, you might have a lot of other questions about these painful lumps too, like what they actually are and how to treat them. Let’s find out more.

What Are Stress Boils?

A stress boil is simply a boil that seems to have been brought about by extra stress in your life, but what exactly is a boil?

In the medical world a boil is known as a furuncle, which is simply a pus filled lump that forms under your skin when bacteria has managed to get into and infect one or more of your hair follicles. Simply put, it’s a bacterial infection in your skin that can look quite angry, like a volcano waiting to erupt, and can cause quite a bit of pain.

You might start out thinking you have a pimple coming up but the lump will progressively get bigger – up to the size of around 5 cm or 2 inches. As it fills with pus over a couple of days it will get more and more painful and can actually cause pain all around the area as the skin is stretched.

It will eventually develop a yellow or white tip which will rupture and allow the pus to leak out. Once this happens the pain will disappear as the pressure has been released.

what are stress boils

Why Does Stress Cause Boils?

There are a couple of reasons why stress can be the cause of boils. When you are stressed your immune system will not be functioning as well as it usually does. This means that the bacteria that normally lives on your skin can easily infect your hair follicles without your body fighting it off as well as it normally would.

The other reason your stress might be causing boils to pop up on your skin is because stress can cause hormonal changes within your body. These hormonal changes can make your skin more sensitive and therefore prone to rashes and irritation.

If you’ve got itchy skin, you’re more likely to scratch it, which makes it much easier for the bacteria which normally sits on the outside surface of your skin to penetrate the layers of your skin and cause an infection.

Where Do Stress Boils Appear On The Body?

The most common places for stress boils to appear on your body are your face, neck, armpits, buttocks and shoulders. But they can also appear on your thighs, and I’ve even had them on my chest and lower leg before. Really anywhere on your skin where there are hair follicles is a potential site for a boil. 

Why Do I Get Boils When I’m Stressed?

As explained previously, you are more likely to get boils when you are stressed because your immune system isn’t functioning as well as it should be and because your stress may have induced some hormonal changes making your skin irritable and susceptible to infections. 

why do i get boils when i’m stressed

How To Treat Stress Boils

The first thing to remember when treating boils is to not give into the temptation of squeezing or popping them. Popping a boil yourself can spread the infection and make it worse.

Apply a warm, moist compress (like a clean face washer or bandage) several times a day to help the boil to open and drain naturally. 

Once the boil starts draining naturally, keep applying a clean, moist compress to the area to keep it clean.

If the pain doesn’t ease as it drains, or if it appears as though the infection is spreading, see a doctor.

Also consult a doctor if you have a fever and/or your boil hasn’t healed within two weeks.

If boils continue to recur you should also consider consulting your doctor. 

One way to reduce the likelihood of continued reinfection is to address your stress. Reducing your stress levels will help your immune system to function more efficiently and make you less likely to suffer from the hormonal changes that may be accompanied by boils.

The Stressless Mind program is a great place to start if you’re looking to control the stress levels in your life.

Final Thoughts

Boils, or furuncles, are a painful infection of the skin that can be brought on by stress and anxiety. You can usually manage and treat stress boils at home but if they become a common problem for you, it would be a good idea to address the stress in your life.

We can’t always change our jobs, living arrangements or commitments, but the Stressless Mind program will take you through some simple ways to cope better with the stress and pressure you are feeling, and might just be the first step in getting rid of those pesky stress boils.


  1. Becky Matthews

    I went to Nigeria in March and I was there till May 7 2023 my step daughter gotten a boil on her inner thigh. Few days later I have received a boil on my lower belly then I gotten another one on my other side few days before I left Nigeria I received another boil under my breast what should I do about this

    1. Jillian McDonald

      Hi Becky,

      Boils are quite common when travelling due to the extra stress and unusual conditions we put our bodies in.

      A warm compress can sometimes help ease the pain, but if you’re worried, you should probably have a doctor check it out for you. Here is the recommended treatment for a boil by the Mayo Clinic:

      Good luck, I hope you’re feeling better soon.

      Kind Regards

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