Our skin can often reflect other aspects of our wellbeing, from diet, to pollution and even stress. However, could yours be trying to tell you something about your emotional health?
That itchy rash or annoying breakout may be a sign that your skin is also fed up with whatever is stressing you out. Irritated skin usually sends people running to the chemist for quick relief, but a rising trend has some heading to dermatologists who specialise in psychodermatology.
Are the brain and skin really linked?
The field of psychodermatology examines this fascinating connection, and how by addressing mental barriers and issues, we can potentially help to improve our skin. In our hectic, modern world, our skin flaring up could be yet another reminder to slow down, breathe and appreciate life, principles encouraged in yoga and meditation, as well as mindfulness.
While the effect of emotions on our skin isn't perhaps a new discovery, it remains something that is a challenge for many to grasp as a concept.
"How amazing is it that a simple cognition can cause virtually every blood vessel in the skin to instantaneously open up, causing a blush or flush?" said Dr Rick Fried, a psychologist and dermatologist from Yardley Dermatology Associates. "That's pretty amazing evidence that the mind and body are linked."
As Dr Fried told the American Psychological Association (APA), skin problems can be the source of considerable distress, often due in part to their unpredictability and clear visibility to other people.
How are psychodermatologic conditions diagnosed?
To understand and manage a psychodermatologic condition, a specialist must take a two-pronged approach. Firstly, they will look at external factors such as social, environmental and occupational issues to help treat any underlying psychological concerns that could be triggering the skin reaction.
In addition, the skin concern itself must also be addressed. This is important not only to reduce the appearance of symptoms, but also to prevent further complications such as infection. Prescribing a product to treat the skin can be beneficial in that it can give a person peace of mind that steps are being taken to address their skin.
How can we treat psychodermatologic conditions?
Once a psychodermatologic condition has been diagnosed, a holistic approach is necessary to treat both the skin and the underlying psychological concerns.
- Treatment for psychodermatologic conditions will depend on the stressors in question. As such, a patient may be referred to a psychiatrist or recommended to undergo stress management courses. Alternatively, a family physician may also be able to provide support should a person be reluctant to see a psychiatrist
- A treatment plan can involve medications as well as anxiety management techniques such as yoga, music, exercise, counselling or even hypnosis
- Once the underlying psychological has been resolved, your skin technician can work to help lessen the effects on your skin.
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