How Your Skin Can Impact Your Mental Health
Acne Eczema Rosacea Skin Microbiome

How Your Skin Can Impact Your Mental Health

Unlike other organs, the skin is visible to the outside world—and it can have a major impact on self-esteem and mental health. The relationship between the mind and the skin is complex. Stress can make our skin worse. Anxiety and itch can go hand-in-hand. Conditions like eczema, rosacea, acne and even sensitive skin can take a toll on mental and emotional well-being. Some psychological disorders like dermatillomania (compulsive skin picking) can affect skin health.

Caring for your mental health is just as important as caring for your skin. We’ve compiled a list of steps you can take to support your mental wellbeing as well as resources you can turn to for support.

Step 1: Understand the Connection Between Skin and Stress

Stress and anxiety are two common skin triggers. When you’re stressed or anxious, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode. This response increases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline in the body. Too much cortisol alters the immune system and creates an inflammatory response, which can cause your skin to flare. Stress can slow down skin healing and lead to premature skin aging. Some people may get hives when they’re stressed; others may notice that their skin produces more oil. Stress can make common skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, acne, and psoriasis worse.

Between work, school, finances, and family life, stress is hard to avoid. Finding the right tools to support your mind and body, such as meditation, exercise, spending time in nature, journaling, and getting enough sleep, can be helpful in managing stressful situations.

Step 2: Notice If You’re Struggling

Take stock of your mental wellbeing by paying close attention to your moods, thoughts, energy levels and behavior. It may be time to speak with your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Consistent anxiety
  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness
  • Prolonged sadness
  • Extreme irritability or mood swings
  • Difficulty performing everyday activities
  • Lost interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Insomnia or fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Persistent worrying or fear
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Unexplainable aches and pains
  • Withdrawal from friends or social settings
  • Decreased libido
  • Substance or alcohol abuse
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

If you have any thoughts of self-harm or suicide, call your country’s emergency services number immediately.

Step 3: Talk to a Therapist

Working with a licensed therapist can help you vocalize your feelings, address certain thought and behavior patterns, and cultivate helpful coping mechanisms, mindfulness practices, and stress reduction techniques. A therapist may practice certain types of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, that can help address rumination associated with itch or skin picking disorder. If appropriate, they may prescribe or connect you to a healthcare provider who can prescribe medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or mood stabilizers. Therapy can be conducted in-person or online, and online therapy services have made it easier to access a therapist from the comfort of your own home, no matter where you live.

Step 4: Seek Community Support

If your skin is impacting your mental health, know that you are not alone. Finding a supportive community can help. For some, that may mean opening up to friends, family and loved ones.
If you’re dealing with a chronic skin condition, connecting with a patient advocacy group online or a local support group in your area may be a helpful way to access resources and community support.

Living Well in Your Skin

When it comes to skin and mental health, check in with yourself about how you’re feeling emotionally. If you’ve been feeling anxious or depressed for over two weeks, it may be time to talk with your healthcare provider. Know that you are not alone and it does get easier, especially with the support of a therapist and an understanding community. Remember—you deserve to be well in mind and body and feel good in your skin.

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