By Lynn Cadet

Did you know the way you view your skin can affect your mental health? Conversely, your mental health can also influence the outward appearance of your skin. It’s like a double-edged sword! It can be difficult to determine the true culprit of your skin and mental health battle. Whether you’re experiencing high levels of stress or eczema flares, these health issues can both trigger the onset of each other, leaving you with a question mark with what to do next. 

That’s why we must look to the land where the mind meets skin. Psychodermatology is the field where psychology and skincare overlap. Instead of focusing on quick fixes, practitioners suggest regimen and self-care tips for long-term personal growth, leading to a better visage and mental health for their patients. 

Let’s take a look underneath it all and dive into the fundamentals of psychodermatology. 

What Is Psychodermatology?

Skin conditions can cause serious psychological and emotional effects, like low self-esteem and depression. More than a third of dermatology patients have an emotional disorder. 

It can be infuriating dealing with skin woes, especially when it turns out to be a massive cycle. Stress is known to exacerbate skin conditions and cause flare-ups, but having a pre-existing skin disease like psoriasis can also bring anxiety and depression along for the ride. You feel like you’re on an endless merry-go-round skin problems causing stress and stress causing skin problems. 

According to the British Skin Foundation, nine out of ten dermatologists feel more urgency is needed in developing treatments relating to these effects. Psychodermatology —  that’s your cue! This blended practice was developed to tackle the link between mental health and dermatology. 

Dermatologists in this field give typical skin-based consultations with their patients. But they also go a step further by incorporating mental health discussions and therapeutic procedures into sessions. Although these problems can be solved separately, having a comprehensive session can save you time and money.

How Your Mind Affects Your Skin

When it comes to organs the mind controls, your skin is definitely one of them. The process begins when the brain sends the sensory nerves to the superficial surface of the skin. These nerves relay neuropeptides such as cortisol, adrenaline, and substance P, influencing the cutaneous physiology and your skin’s behaviour. 

For example, when stress rises and cortisol is released, you can experience a series of setbacks. Your skin barrier fails to function at full capacity, making you vulnerable to allergens. Inflammation and collagen breakdown can occur along with premature ageing, acne, eczema, and other conditions. 

Not only do these neuropeptides create maladies, but they can also further irritate current skin conditions. Stress hormones can raise the inflammatory mediators in your skin and worsen its appearance. Agghh!

There are four categories of psychodermatological disorders:

  • Psychophysiological disorders are true dermatologic diseases aggravated by emotional stressors. When under immense pressure or strain, a person may report a flare-up or breakout, like the spreading of acne or redness from eczema.
  • Primary psychiatric disorders are the opposite. People who exhibit this issue don’t have any real skin problems. Because of extreme psychopathy, they believe delusions of dermatitis artefacta or parasitosis.  
  • Secondary psychiatric disorders occur off the response patients have towards their skin condition. Patients with diseases like vitiligo or alopecia areata, which heavily alters the appearance of the skin, can become depressed and feel distressed because of the severity of their condition. 
  • Cutaneous sensory disorders are similar to chronic pain syndrome. It can create unpleasant sensations of itching, stinging, and burning without any apparent cause, triggering feelings of depression and anxiety. 

What To Expect From A Session

If you are experiencing distress because of your skin battles or your mental health is causing breakouts, you should probably consider visiting a psychodermatologist. If this niche practice is unavailable in your area, you might have to go to a therapist and dermatologist separately.

Personalised to you, your doctor will address the spectrum of your needs during these appointments, so your session may be longer than your typical visit to a derm. You will discuss your frustrations and mental struggles alongside your skin condition to discover a customised regimen perfect for you.

Treatments are enhanced with interpersonal therapies or regular topical or ingestible medications. Your physician may suggest cognitive behaviour therapy, hypnosis, tips for sleep hygiene, and mind-body practices like yoga and meditation to alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. If needed, you may also receive a prescription to help with more severe psychological distress, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors for depression.

As psychodermatology continues to gain momentum, more people will benefit from this blending of mental health practices with skincare. If you struggle with mental health issues connected to skin health, consider techniques to reduce stress and talk to a doctor to find solid solutions for your well-being. Don’t suffer; help is out there.