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Is your skin condition affecting your mental health?

When I was suffering with eczema, at it’s peak, I felt pretty fed up and was very self-conscious of it. I was a child then and I often wonder how I would feel now, as an adult, if I still felt I needed to hide my hands, ashamed of scratching, wearing plasters and in the gym exposing flaking, cracked skin. Would I worry what people thought and would it affect my self-confidence and ultimately my mental health?

So I decided to do a bit of research and see if there are any links between chronic skin condition sufferers such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis and mental health issues such as depression.

Well, my initial reading threw up an extremely disturbing quote from an article published by PubMed.gov for the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health as follows:

‘The occurrence of depression in association with dermatologic disease is common. Psychiatric disturbance is reported in approximately 30% of dermatology patients. Depression can have varied presentations and is more relevant clinically in dermatology patients during critical psychosocial periods of development. Early recognition and treatment of depression associated with skin disorders can lead to improved therapeutic outcomes and may avert disastrous outcomes, including suicide.’

Taken from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16112442
Yardley Dermatology Associates, 903 Floral Vale Boulevard, Yardley, PA 19067, USA. dermshrink@aol.com

I was quite shocked to think that something seemingly trivial to most, like a skin condition, could lead to the suicide of an individual. What also surprised me and which I read of almost daily, is the ongoing suffering of some, when there are many treatment options that have not been explored. Now whether that is because the sufferer has relied on one doctor to diagnose and treat, or is wary of trying more alternative treatments, what is of concern, is that the person may well have been able to avoid the onset of other illnesses, with far greater consequences had they investigated deeper and been open to alternative treatments to the ones they had tried.

I think Richard G Fried MD, PhDr makes a very good point…

Dermatologists aren’t expected to be psychotherapists, but they must be prepared to refer high-risk patients and to offer therapeutic support and understanding to others.’

Now if depression is described as a negative, emotional state, then I am sure that any sufferer can agree that we have felt negative at one time or another. However living with the demands and visible signs of common skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, acne, alopecia etc, can certainly be distressing and many people feel embarrassment, which if left unchecked, could develop. Many of us probably begin to wonder if the stress can then exacerbate the condition until you are left with the conundrum of debating if the condition is actually being caused by the stress of having the condition.

My conclusions are that any ailment, disability or visible blemish, can cause negative feelings and being aware that your condition could result in this, should be the trigger to work hard at finding relief and a way to manage it. Don’t give up at one doctors’ opinion; look at it this way, everyone is different and there is always something else to try, whether it is a solution which is directly applied to the skin or something to cleanse the mind and spirit, then I urge you to try it.

One other consideration in this somewhat alarming revelation is worth a mention. So you are fortunate enough to have great skin in which to face the world …. but what about someone you know and care about who might not be so lucky? A friend, sister, child …. spare a thought to how they might feel. Is there anything you can do to help?