A student who dubs herself the ‘Sweat Bender’ has revealed how she dreads cold winters as a rare condition causing her to perspire profusely means her damp, sweaty clothes freeze while she is wearing them.
Sophie Dwyer, 20, suffers from a severe form of hyperhidrosis, a disorder with no known cause affecting one in every 200 people, that makes her sweat roughly 10 times as much as the average person—drenching her skin and clothes in just a few hours.
Speaking candidly about the embarrassing ailment, Sophie, of Houston, Texas, USA, admitted it also made nights out and dating a nightmare, saying:
“If I’m out with friends, I make frequent trips to the bathroom to dry my armpits using a hand-dryer.”
“I sweat so much that I’m pretty much always uncomfortable, but winter is by far the worst time. It’s really horrible at the moment, because I’m sweating just as much but the sweat runs cold.”
“I have to dress up warmly, but I know that the sweat will start to soak through the layers, which then starts to freeze making me even colder. There’s no way I can win and it can make me really depressed sometimes.”
A communication studies student at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, Sophie, who has to drink an average of 1.5 gallons of water each day to replace her moisture loss and stay hydrated—far more than the daily recommendation of 12 to 15 cups—has even turned her perpetual perspiring into a party trick, making her hands sweat on cue.
Sophie is a student at Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas (PA Real Life/Collect)
“I call myself the ‘Sweat Bender’, after Uri Geller the ‘Spoon Bender’ because I have this ability to make my hands sweat really fast just by thinking about sweating.”
“It’s like a kind of superpower, although possibly the worst superpower in the world. My friends enjoy watching it though.”
But Sophie has not always found it easy to make light of her condition, which mainly affects her hands, armpits and feet and causes her no end of problems when it comes to handling objects in her sweaty grasp.
Sophie has to regularly visit the bathroom when out to dry her armpits using the hand-dryer (PA Real Life/Collect)
“I have broken my computer and my phone because of water damage, and I also really struggle to drive because the wheel slips around in my hands.”
Said Sophie, who is single:
“I had also considered a career in medicine, but I know that’s something that probably isn’t an option for me—because who wants to be examined by someone with clammy hands, let alone hands dripping with sweat?”
Diagnosed with hyperhidrosis aged eight, Sophie’s parents, William, 51, who works for the space agency NASA, and stay-at-home mum Heidi, 51, realized she was stickier than her playmates as a two year old, when her cousin, Emily, then aged four, refused to hold her hand, saying it was “too gross”.
Sophie will be covered in sweat within just a few hours of being dry (PA Real Life/Collect)
But, as William was also prone to sweating, they were not overly concerned, assuming she was like her dad until she reached school age, when they realized her problem was causing her embarrassment and discomfort.
“I was constantly having to dry my hands on my clothes at school, to the extent where they’d always be wet.”
“I’d leave puddles on my work and kids wouldn’t want to get anywhere near me.”
Sophie suffers from severe hyperhidrosis (PA Real Life/Collect)
Things came to a head when Sophie was humiliated in front of her classmates by a teacher who asked if she had had “an accident,” on her hands as she was so wet.
“Obviously, at that age, all the kids laughed and it was very upsetting for me, as an eight year old, to be made fun of in front of so many people.”
As a result, her parents took her to see a doctor and she was diagnosed with primary hyperhidrosis, an inherited disorder that begins in childhood and normally affects only certain areas—in Sophie’s case, her hands, feet and armpits.
As a child Sophie tried iontophoresis treatment, by placing her hands in water through which an electrical current is passed (PA Real Life/Collect)
Various treatments were prescribed, including iontophoresis where the hands are placed in water that is connected to an electrical current, but sadly none were effective.
Unable to find a cure for her condition, Sophie—who cannot afford Botox treatment, which can be very effective, but costs $1,500 for each six-monthly session—found ways of adapting.
“I began carrying sweat rags around with me all the time and would only wear very particular kind of clothes.”
Sophie only wears certain colors that will not show up her sweat patches too much (PA Real Life/Collect)
“You’ll never see me wearing a grey t-shirt and I only ever really wear white and black, which make sweat marks less obvious.”
“I’m careful to feel all of my clothes before I buy them, too. I need something that I can dry my hands on throughout the day that won’t show up the moisture marks.”
An introverted youngster, because of her condition, she felt isolated from her peers until she joined secondary school and met a group of friends who were far more understanding and accepting of her unusual complaint.
Sophie’s sweat rags that she takes with her everywhere (PA Real Life/Collect)
“When you have a disorder like mine that you can’t control or stop, you can either let it make you miserable or start to own it.”
Sophie, who has other medical problems because of it, including eczema on her feet, said:
“So I started to own it, openly telling people about hyperhidrosis and how it affects me. I think people respected that.”
Sometimes though, her openness about her hyperhidrosis has caused her problems.
Sophie, aged 10, and her father William (PA Real Life/Collect)
“I once told someone I was on a date with about it—as I always do whenever I meet someone—and he took it fine, but then kept on referencing it and making jokes about it throughout the date.”
“I was thinking: ‘Can we just move on?’”
“I don’t like the fact that people often define me by it.”
Sophie says that her friends are all accepting and understanding of her condition (PA Real Life/Collect)
Nevertheless, her hyperhidrosis is not something Sophie wants to hide from and she has created an account on the picture-sharing site Instagram to discuss openly her condition.
“I feel like I have to embrace this, not to shy away from it and pretend like everything is fine.”
“I’m going to spend my life living with this—so I have to face up to it.”