The skin, mirror of our mental health
Last October 10, like every year, World Mental Health Day was commemorated, with the aim of raising awareness about a set of problems that affect many people in our society.
Globally, 450 million people suffer from a mental health problem that seriously hinders their lives. In Spain, 1 in 4 has or will have depression or anxiety throughout their lives, but more than half of them do not receive the treatment they need. Fighting for all of them to receive help remains a challenge.
Although both depression and anxiety are problems that affect us emotionally and mentally, they can also have other types of implications.
If you continue reading this article, you will discover:
- What signs of our skin reveal a bad emotional state
- How mental health is related to our skin
Cutaneous signs of a poor emotional state
Although it is not something that many people talk about, and can sometimes go unnoticed, problems such as depression can have a direct impact on the health of our body, even through the skin.
Depression is a negative emotional state that affects the quality of life of those who suffer from it to a greater or lesser degree. The relationship between it and skin problems follows the dilemma of the chicken and the egg: are they the cause or the consequence of the emotional state in which we find ourselves?
It seems that there is a vicious circle in which the feeling of sadness and anxiety can worsen skin health and, this worsening, aggravate depression.
The largest group of related dermatological disorders found in psychological patients are psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, urticaria, hair loss, and acne.
It has been seen that patients with psoriasis tend to feel stigmatized in many social situations due to their pathology and there is a greater impact of depression among them.
The severity of itching, which can be one of the most bothersome features of psoriasis, directly correlates with the severity of depressive symptoms.
School-age children with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis are at increased risk of developing psychological difficulties, which can negatively affect their academic and social development.
On the other hand, adult patients suffering from the pathology often have chronic anxiety and feel ineffective in managing anger. However, psychiatric factors do not always correlate with the severity and chronicity of the disease.
A wide variety of personality characteristics have been studied in patients suffering from urticaria, the most frequent being difficulties related to the expression of anger and hostility in association with the need for approval. The severity of pruritus in urticaria increases with increasing severity of depressive symptoms.
Patients whose hair loss is increased by stress also have higher rates of depression, suggesting that the depression that accompanies hair loss may make the condition more reactive to stress.
Higher levels of anxiety in acne are associated with higher levels of catecholamines, such as adrenaline, in the blood, which decrease with acne treatment. This suggests that the psychosocial impact of acne may be associated with significant physiological stress for the patient, which may be disabling in some cases.
The impact of acne on quality of life does not necessarily correlate with the clinical severity of acne, as even some patients with mild acne have severe psychosocial disability.
The role of neurodermatology
All of these disorders are classified as psychophysiological disorders. They can be triggered and aggravated by psychological factors and, in turn, living with them is associated with a higher prevalence of emotional disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
In this context, neurodermatology comes into play. Stress, anxiety, and depression are conditions that affect the nervous system and their impact on the skin is one more example of the close nervous system-skin relationship and the need for neurodermatological approaches. With this approach, at Prospera we design our own formulations for skin care in:
- Sensitive skin with tendency to atopy.
- Sensitive skin of persons that have received chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.
- Sensitive skin in the intimate body parts.
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Keywords: mental health, skin, stress, depression, anxiety, neurodermatology
Wang X, Li Y, Wu L, Xiao S, Ji Y, Tan Y, Jiang C, Zhang G. Dysregulation of the gut-brain-skin axis and the key overlapping inflammatory and immune mechnisms of psoriasis and depression. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy 137, 2021.
Fried RG, Gupta MA, Gupta AK. Depression and Skin Disease. Dermatologic Clinics 2005; 23, 657-664.
Clarke EN, Thompson AR, Norman P. Depression in people with skin conditions: The effects of disgust and self-compassion. British Journal of Health Psychology 2020.
Confederación Salud Mental España. 2022