Anna Gragert
Updated March 30, 2016

We may not be able to see anxiety, but we can sure smell it!

Ya know the sweat that’s released from your pores when you’re exercising? The sweat that appears when temperatures rise? Well, these bodily forms of liquid are made up of more than 90% water and, for the most part, they don’t give off a stinky smell.

However, anxiety produces an entirely different type of sweat. The smelly kind.

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Exercise and temperature-based sweat comes from our bodies’ eccrine glands, whereas anxiety sweat takes an entirely different path. Stuff Mom Never Told You reveals that when we’re anxious, the fight-or-flight switch is turned on inside our systems. The brain’s hypothalamus soon gives our adrenal glands the heads-up and these hormones are produced: epinephrine, adrenaline, and cortisol.

Next up: our apocrine glands take the hint from our hormones, causing them to release a type of sweat that’s 80% water, plus 20% fats and proteins. The bacteria on our skin’s surface loves these fats/proteins, so it ends up eating them and, thus, anxiety’s iconic odor is produced as a result of this bacteria feast.

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“It’s different because it’s released from a different gland,” Dr. Pamela Dalton told the New York Daily News. “We have sweat glands all over our bodies that produce exercise sweat — that watery, profuse sweat we get when we work out — but stress sweat comes from the glands in the underarms and groin only.”

While this may not sound like an ideal situation, scientists believe that anxiety sweat can actually help us. When those around us catch a whiff of our sweat scent, it can alert them that something is wrong. This can go one of two ways: They feel empathy for us or… they judge us. But, either way, our anxiety sweat serves as a pretty cool signal.

Now we’re wondering: is there any way to prevent this?

“Sweating from anxiety is a natural physiologic response, and the best thing to do is to try to reduce the anxiety,” endocrinologist Dr. Tamara Wexler told YouBeauty. Unfortunately, reducing anxiety isn’t always an easy task. You could try to take some deep breaths and calm your body. Or, you could simply re-apply your deodorant and spritz yourself with your fave perfume.

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Nonetheless, we have to admit that anxiety having its own signature scent is a pretty interesting concept.