Depression and Skin Disorders

Community Member

When I was a teen I suffered from acne like a lot of kids do. I remember the first time I was teased for my skin. I was called "pizza face" by my boyfriend who said he was just joking. It was no joke to me and I stormed out of the room in tears. It can be an extremely painful period in life to develop acne at a time when appearance can be so important. You are trying to fit in, find your identity and begin to date and here you are having to deal with waking up to a face filled with zits.   It almost feels like you are branded somehow.

In addition to my acne I also suffered from depression.   It was a lose-lose scenario. The more my mood plummeted or I became stressed and anxious, the more my skin would produce acne. And this, in turn, would increase my feelings of depression and lower my self esteem. It is a vicious cycle that I am sure many people can relate to but maybe feel that they have nowhere to share their feelings. It can be a very isolating experience.

Although many acne sufferers may feel alone, suffering from depression in addition to having to cope with a chronic skin condition is an experience shared by many. One statistic cited in a USA article entitled, "Acne leaves emotional marks," was that up to 50% of teens with acne experience psychological problems including increased body image dissatisfaction, social anxiety, low self-esteem and symptoms of depression Other skin diseases such as psoriasis, a chronic skin disorder characterized by inflamed flaking skin and eczema, another persistent inflammatory skin condition, are also associated with a number of mental health issues which include depression and even suicidal ideation.

Doctors Madhulika A. Gupta (a psychiatrist) and Dr. Aditya K. Gupta (a dermatologist) have led multiple studies looking at the affect that these types of skin conditions have upon one's mental health. In one study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, the doctors found those patients with mild to moderate acne or those suffering from psoriasis rated highest on the Carroll Rating Scale for Depression, both groups scoring within the range of clinical depression. They also found a greater prevalence for suicidal ideation among acne and psoriasis patients as compared with general medical patients.

Eczema sufferers also seem to be more susceptible to experience episodes of depression. The results of an international survey, in which 2,000 eczema patients were interviewed from around the world, revealed that more than half of the people surveyed described adverse psychological effects from having this skin disease including frequent bouts of depression.

Here are some of the possible emotional and social factors which may exacerbate or contribute to feelings of depression for skin disease patients:

  • Decreased self confidence

  • Social reclusion

  • Problems making friends or sustaining relationships

  • Missing days of school or work leading to poor academic or job performance

  • Feelings of anger and frustration when there is a flare up or worsening of the condition

  • Poor body image

  • Anxiety and stress over when the next flare up will occur

  • Being teased or bullied

One of the common complaints of patients who suffer from such life -long chronic skin conditions is that the psychological and emotional aspects of dealing with their skin disease are not usually addressed by the general medical community. This lack of information and support about the emotional impact of such skin conditions can lead many sufferers to withdraw from others and isolate. Support is essential so that you can prevent falling into the abyss of depression.

It may be difficult to open up about the sadness, anxiety, and frustration in dealing with skin conditions such as chronic acne, psoriasis, or eczema. We want to give you the opportunity for sharing your feelings here on My Skin Care Connection.

If you suffer from any of these skin conditions we would like to hear from you. In my next post we are going to discuss the signs and symptoms of depression related to skin disease and what you can do about it.

If you feel that you may be suffering from either anxiety or depression we would encourage you to seek mental health treatment. In addition you may find information and support on our mental health sites which include: