So, what is Psychodermatology? It is a combining discipline between the mind and skin. It is an interaction between skin, immune system as well as nervous system also known as the neuro-immuno-cutaneous-system. These three ‘elements’ within the body share an “embryological origin” meaning they all communicate and affect one another ever since conception(embryo) and continues throughout a person’s life.
Psychodermatology comprises of three different areas:
This is caused by emotional stress that can lead to inflammation in the body causing some conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, and hives to flare up. Remedies to these kind of skin issues would be a combination of dermatological remedies and relaxation or stress management techniques. They help the body as well as the mind to calm down.
Primary Psychiatric Disorders
These skin conditions could be self-induced such as skin harm. For example when a patient is facing a mental health issue and goes through trichotillomania also know as the gesture of pulling out one’s hair, picking and or cutting own skin.
Secondary Psychiatric disordersThis would mean that the skin issues faced by someone causes a psychological problem in them of which can be stigmatised such as cystic acne, psoriasis, vitiligo, and others. Though the physical appearance cannot be cured, it can be helped by assisting to obtain a better mental health situation to control the skin disorder.
Emotional stress can cause different reactions in different people. For example, even when you’re nervous or angry, you will be flushed and sometimes even breakouts happen. There are three ways in which anxiety and depression can cause inflammatory response – one of which cause skin problems. Firstly, is the weakened barrier function, second, neglected skin care regime when depressed and last but not least, the perception when skin issues arise leading to discomfort and not wanting to socialise (due to compromised skin). Hence, management of skin conditions are vital in keeping issue at bay.
People with depression might be hard to be persuaded to take care of their skin, diet, and in turn, their overall health. Therefore, most psychodermatologists use a holistic approach comprising of therapy and self education education, medication, and dermatology. Through this way, not only doctors are able to treat the skin, they also are able to help with patients’ depression and anxiety issues.
As an example, Josie Howard who is an expert in psychiatry and psychodermatology and also a Diplomate in the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology shared in a healthline.com article that a study with a patient who had mild acne, severe depression and anxiety, as well as skin picking was treated by first acknowledging the latter and getting treatment for her acne. Thereafter, finding ways to switch the habit of skin-tweezing. When her skin started to get better, only then, she was able to delve deeper into her emotions.
In a nutshell, treating skin issues that are caused by emotional stress vary between different individuals and to resolve a condition does not only take a strong mind but also physical medication. The best way around this is to consult a psychodermatologist or at the very least, a dermatologist – it works too.