Psychogenic Fever: What Is it, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Updated in November 2023

A psychogenic fever is a condition characterized by an increase in body temperature that emerges after an emotional or high-stress situation. Many patients report intense heat, excessive sweating and a headache with this type of fever.

This type of fever can be triggered by anxiety, mental disorders, and physical conditions like fibromyalgia. Children may also experience psychogenic fevers with changes to their routine, for example. 

Psychogenic fevers are not easily diagnosed. The doctor may order testing to rule out other conditions. Treatment usually involves the management of any underlying triggers, like anxiolytics for panic attacks, for instance.

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Main symptoms

A psychogenic fever is usually caused by a stressful situation that causes an increase in body temperature over 37°C (or 98.6ºF). The most common symptoms of a psychogenic fever include: 

  • Feeling intense heat
  • Red face
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Insomnia 

These symptoms may not all appear at once, however if they emerge and last for over 48 hours, you should seek urgent medical attention. The doctor will assess for the possible causes, which are often associated with other illnesses, like infections or inflammations. 

Possible causes

Psychogenic fevers occur when brain cells react to stressful situations that trigger the body to increase its temperature. This stress also causes vasoconstriction of the blood vessels, leading to redness in the face and an increased heart rate. 

Some situations that can trigger emotional fever are:

  • Public speaking
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Psychological changes, such as post-traumatic stress, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder
  • Children starting daycare and being separated from their parents for a period of time.

The rapid and exaggerated rise in body temperature can also be triggered by illnesses such as fibromyalgia and myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome.

Treatment options 

A psychogenic fever causes an increase in temperature that is usually temporary and resolves on its own. It can last for months, however, if it is triggered by continuous stress. In these cases, the fever can be treated with anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen.

After this condition is diagnosed, the doctor can initiate the most appropriate treatment. It may involves the use anxiolytic medication to relieve stress and anxiety, and antidepressants to treat depression. Psychological therapy may also be recommended to help the patient understand why they feel so stressed and anxious. 

Engaging in relaxation and breathing activities, like yoga and meditation, can also help to treat a psychogenic fever.