Dealing with Embarrassment & Isolation

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board

Symptoms of chronic hives are often very visible. People who are unaware of chronic hives may believe the condition is contagious. The visible redness and swelling caused by chronic hives can lead to embarrassment and shame.

This stigma can affect your social and professional lives. Many people with chronic hives avoid socializing in public situations. Many also avoid certain jobs or become isolated at work. And it can be hard to talk to friends and loved ones about the impact of chronic hives.

Reducing feelings of embarrassment and isolation is important to maintain a good quality of life. One way to overcome these difficulties is to talk openly with people you trust. Tell them how your condition affects your life. They can support you and advocate for you.

Dealing with the emotional impact of visible hives

Chronic hives impact your quality of life in many ways. This includes itchiness, sleep, eating, and other factors. But the strongest predictor of quality of life for people with chronic hives is embarrassment. Feeling more embarrassed about your hives leads to poor quality of life.1

Visible hives often make people feel embarrassed or self-conscious in public situations. These emotions are normal and valid. However, they can interfere with your daily life and relationships. They can also lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression.2

If your hives are causing embarrassment and other negative emotions, it can be helpful to talk about them. Good people to talk to include:

  • A professional counselor or therapist
  • Family, friends, and loved ones
  • Community members
  • Other people with chronic hives in support groups

Talking to trustworthy people can help you realize you are not alone. Professional therapists can help you develop strategies to cope with embarrassment.

Other people with chronic hives can offer strategies to manage embarrassment. For example, some people cover up hives with clothing or makeup. Others find it easier to leave symptoms visible and answer people’s questions.

Dealing with the social impact of visible hives

For people with chronic hives, embarrassment is usually the result of stigma. Stigma happens when someone views you in a negative way because they perceive a bad personal trait. Stigma affects people with chronic hives when others think visible hives are contagious.2,3

Stigma can cause people to treat you poorly in social situations. Dealing with other people’s judgments is painful. It may seem easier to avoid socializing altogether, which can cause isolation and loneliness. This is also true in the context of dating, especially when symptoms affect genitals.4,5

Usually, other people just need to learn that chronic hives are not contagious. But the burden of educating others about your condition can be exhausting. One way to overcome this is to start by talking openly with people you trust. Things to discuss with them include:

  • How your condition affects your emotional and social life
  • How they can help in social situations by supporting or advocating for you
  • How they can support you as a friend or partner
  • Other resources for them to learn about chronic hives on their own

This is a good way to increase your confidence and spread awareness without putting pressure on yourself. Other ways to handle the social impact of chronic hives are to:

  • Find support groups or social media groups to connect with other people who have similar experiences
  • Suggest resources for others to educate themselves
  • Plan ahead for answers to questions about your condition
  • Advocate for people with chronic hives by spreading awareness of the condition
  • Keep a symptom diary to help you identify and avoid your triggers

Dealing with visible hives in the workplace

Stigma can also affect your confidence in the workplace. When hives are visible, interacting with others at work can bring feelings of embarrassment. This can affect your productivity and emotional health at work.5

These issues may be so challenging that it can seem easier to avoid certain jobs. This can limit your job opportunities and cause emotional distress. However, there are laws that protect you from discrimination in any workplace. Steps you can take to prevent hives from affecting your work include:

  • Keep a diary of activities in your workplace to identify any workplace-related triggers
  • Ask for accommodations to reduce triggers in the workplace, such as clothing or sunlight
  • Have extra medicine on hand at work
  • Talk to trusted coworkers or supervisors about your condition and how they can support you
  • Ask your employer about stress-relieving activities at work, such as yoga or mindfulness programs

There will be ups and downs when living with chronic hives. Understanding how to navigate challenges in your personal and professional life can help you build emotional strength.

Educate yourself about chronic hives so you can teach friends and colleagues. This can help you emotionally and physically face the ups and downs of daily life.

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