How Stress Affects Your Skin

Young woman scratching her arm while sitting on the stool in the home kitchen.

Dermapsychology: The Relationship between Your Skin and Mind

As we move throughout our days, our mind and body are constantly communicating and interacting with one another. Feelings and emotions trigger outward physical displays from our bodies such as blushing when we’re embarrassed, crying when we’re sad, and sweating when we’re anxious. Conversely, our bodies also influence our mind by triggering feelings and emotions. This occurs through activities such as exercise when the release of endorphins increases our mood and energy or while taking deep breaths that reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. 

The Link Between Mental Health and Skin Health

These same kinds of interactions exist between our mind and the body’s largest organ – the skin. Skin conditions and diseases can cause social anxiety, relationship conflict, stress, insecurity, low self-esteem, and depression. At the same time, anxiety, stressors, and negative mental and emotional states can cause skin conditions to be worsened. This leaves individuals in a vicious cycle of distress caused by their relationship with their skin. 

With society placing high value on aesthetic appearance and your skin being one of the most noticeable parts of your body, the impact of these interactions can be far-reaching. You have probably experienced this to some extent. Maybe you have had a breakout that made you feel insecure and uncomfortable all week at work. Or maybe you struggled with your skin in highschool and the thought of being around your peers without make up on led you to skip out on pool days in the summer. Either way, you are probably familiar with the ways in which your outward physical appearance affects how you feel on the inside. So it is really no surprise that individuals struggling with skin conditions and diseases often experience feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. In fact, the connection between our skin and mind is so profound, that there is an entire area of work dedicated to it called psychodermatology, or dermapsychology. 

What is Dermapsychology?

Dermapsychology is the treatment of psychological issues that arise from skin diseases and disorders by focusing on addressing and alleviating emotional stressors. Whether you struggle with eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, acne, insecurity from burn marks, or any other skin condition, working with a dermapsychologist can help improve your condition by treating mental health symptoms and finding ways to manage stress on a daily basis. By studying the ways in which skin conditions and mental health affect each other, dermapsychologists see the mind and body as one entity, rather than two separate parts. Take a skin condition like psoriasis for example. A number of stressful factors such as a hectic work life, demanding family needs, or even self-esteem concerns can cause a flare up. A dermapsychologist will work with the patient to get to the root of the stressor in order to address both the mental and physical aspects of what they are experiencing. 

Building a New Relationship with Your Skin

If your natural reaction to interacting with your skin is to cover up, you are not alone. Whether that is by conservative clothing or applying heavy amounts of makeup, the natural coping mechanism for many is to hide their skin away. Over time this can interfere with an individual’s positive perception of themselves as they begin to internalize their lack of confidence as a shortcoming of their own being. They may tell themselves things like “My skin doesn’t look the way it should,”  “I would look so much better if this wasn’t on my skin,” “I don’t like the way my skin looks.”  When these habits and behaviors become a routine way of how you interact with yourself and with your body, it is easy to get into plays of anxiety or depression. There is a lot to be said about how we think and speak to ourselves and the ways in which we manage stress and handle the situations going on around us. 

Treatment for Skin Conditions in Orange County

It’s normal to feel out of control when living with a skin condition. Flare ups can happen unexpectedly, unforeseen life events can cause symptoms to get worse, and it can feel impossible to know when things will calm down again. Dermapsychologists help patients regain a sense of control over their condition as well as the feelings and reactions they produce. Utilizing coping strategies like mindfulness and breathing techniques can help get to the root of your condition and show dermapsychologists how best to approach treatment.  If your skin condition is causing stress or anxiety, or keeping you from doing the things you want, please reach out for additional support. 

At Orange County Health Psychologists, we provide various methods of treatment including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help patients address and manage mental health symptoms in order to feel more comfortable and at peace in their own skin. As our dermapsychologist, Dr. Jenny Morey, states it:

“How you feel about yourself matters. You have every right and are deserving to feel good and special in your own skin, and you deserve to have a life that makes you feel fulfilled and happy.

For more information on Dermapsychology Treatment, or to schedule an appointment, contact Orange County Health Psychologists by calling 949.528.6300 or emailing info@OCHealthPsych.com.

 —Written by Kiyono McDaniel and Cassie Cipolla for Orange County Health Psychologists