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Psychological Approaches Can Help Some Skin Conditions

Skin CareNov 01, 06

If you’ve ever blushed, you know your skin can reflect your feelings. It makes sense, then, that emotional trouble might show up as skin trouble. Although cause and effect can be difficult to pin down, considerable data suggest that in some people, psychological factors can activate or worsen certain skin conditions. Recognizing and treating these psychological issues might help the skin, too, reports the November 2006 issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

Interest in the mind-skin connection has led to a field called psychodermatology. Its aim is not to substitute psychotherapy for medicine, but to recognize emotional issues that may affect the way skin problems respond to medical treatment.

Psychodermatologic disorders are skin problems that can be aggravated by stress and other emotional factors. These include acne, hair loss, eczema, rosacea, and warts, among others. Socially stigmatizing skin disorders such as severe acne, psoriasis, and herpes may also fall into this category.

Not everyone responds emotionally through the skin, but evidence suggests that in some people, psychological issues often intersect with skin physiology, and treating both may offer the best chance for improvement. When feelings of anxiety or depression intrude, antidepressants may be recommended. But many nonpharmacologic interventions, including mind-body techniques, have shown promise. They include hypnosis, relaxation and meditation, and psychotherapy.

While such psychological approaches are sometimes helpful, Harvard Women’s Health Watch notes that it’s important to have skin problems evaluated and treated first, before looking into the psychological aspects.

Also in this issue:
• Perimenopause and midlife health
• Fatty fish and kidney cancer
• Big toe woe: Hallux rigidus
• A doctor answers: Is spirulina good for you? Does post-herpetic neuralgia raise C-reactive protein?

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