The relationship between your skin and mental health is more than skin-deep. Experts say that treating psychological problems can also help with improving your skin. Emerging skin problems such as acne, itching, dryness or irritation could mean more than changing up your skincare products or hydrating more. Issues with your skin could mean psychological burden, or burnout and can be telling of changes in your lifestyle.
In a vicious circle, stress, depression and other kinds of psychological problems can accelerate the skin problems. The common dermatological issues that have been documented to be made worse by stress include acne, rosacea, psoriasis, itching, eczema, pain and hives, just to name a few.
Having a skin problem can prompt immense distress. In a 2014 a survey of 1,675 patients with rosacea — a condition that causes facial redness and related symptoms — 90% of respondents reported lowered self-esteem and self-confidence, 54% reported anxiety and helplessness, and 43 percent reported depression, for example. More than half said they avoided face-to-face contact.
How is skin related to your mental health?
An article quotes that research has shown that reminding people of tanning’s potentially fatal consequences can help curb people’s desire to tan, at least temporarily. But as thoughts of death slide into the unconsciousness, which happens very quickly, people’s desire to tan actually increases if being tan is relevant to self-esteem, as is often the case for women.
“What young people fear most is being judged negatively for their appearance,” says Williamson, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Appearance Research at King’s College London. And anticipating negative judgments can make young people anxious and self-conscious, which can mean that young people lose their social skills or fail to develop them in the first place.
Especially during adolescence, acne can lead to severe stress. Experts agree that adequate acne management entails far more than treatment of pimples. During this time, important physical, emotional and social development takes place. With its high prevalence particularly in the adolescent population, facial acne has a considerable psychosocial impact on teenagers by causing significant negative effects on self-image leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
A significantly lower self-attitude, uselessness feeling, sense of pride and self-worth, body satisfaction,and a higher percentage of patients harbouring suicidal ideation are known to happen in the affected population. If left untreated, acne lesions may persist into adulthood, which translates into higher unemployment rates for patients with severe acne compared to adults without acne, implying that acne affects patients’ work situations and their ability to obtain employment. Consistently, lower social status has been associated with greater acne severity.
What is psychodermatology?
While psychodermatology is a well-established field in Europe, it has been slower to catch on to other places. It is an emerging field that blends the practices of dermatology (the branch of medicine dealing with skin) and psychiatry (the branch of medicine dealing with mental, emotional, and behavioural health). Focusing on the link between the mind and skin, it’s specifically concerned with the overlap between mental health and skin conditions—like the impact of stress and anxiety on the skin.
The skin is the most noticeable part of our body that could be impacted by psychological factors, yet very few psychologists are studying it,” says Kristina G. Gorbatenko-Roth, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin–Stout.
“It’s classic health psychology, just in a different area. Psychologists have roles to play in treating all three types of psychodermatology disorders, says Gorbatenko-Roth. The three types are:
- 1. Skin problems affected by stress or other emotional states.
- 2. Psychological problems caused by disfiguring skin disorders.
- 3. Psychiatric disorders that manifest themselves via the skin, such as delusional parasitosis.
Paying attention to your skin, can be an early-detection of mental health concerns. It may prompt you to sleep more, watch your diet or working habits. While the connection between skin and mental health requires a lot more research, there are helpful indicators all around that you can start giving more care to. Establishing a healthy mind-body connection can go a long way.
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