The Relationship Between Skin Disorders and Mental Health

We’re told not to judge a book by its cover but if you’ve got no other context, what else are you left with to judge? It’s natural for us to make assumptions about things and people based upon their appearance. Of course, these assumptions are often wrong but we’re using what’s in front of us to make our initial assessments. If this wasn’t true then why even bother to get a haircut and put on a suit for a job interview? If the cover isn’t being judged then why not just wear your track pants and a baggy t-shirt to be comfortable? Impressions matter and first impressions are particularly important. There is nothing shameful in taking pride in your appearance and presenting your best self. With our main cover that can be judged being our skin though, it’s not surprising that skin disorders can have a major impact on our emotional and mental state, significantly impacting upon our sense of wellbeing. Furthermore, these issues can also be a byproduct of poor mental health, with many skin disorders being closely attributed to mental health disorders. A case of what’s happening on the inside becoming present on the outside. It’s a harsh reality that those with skin conditions are not afforded the luxury of keeping their health struggle private. This, sadly, results in major psychological and social impacts for people dealing with skin diseases. Dermatologists are becoming increasingly aware of the link between psychology and skin health, with a lot of skin care treatment now taking into account the potential social anxiety, depression and raft of other psychological disorders that can be exacerbated by skin conditions. Similarly, far more research is being poured into exploring the role things like stress and other psychological issues can have on generating skin disorders. 

Some of the skin disorders frequently linked to poor mental health include; acne, psoriasis and eczema. 


Whilst people of any age can suffer from acne, it does tend to strike at the most cruel of times, right when we are most susceptible to self-doubt and establishing our identity during adolescence. However, despite expectations, the impact of acne on mental health can actually be worse as an adult. This has a lot to do with the fact that sociocultural beliefs tend to lead us to believe that acne only impacts teenagers, leaving adults with acne to feel strange and an outsider amongst their acne-free peers. This can intensify the feelings of distress and contribute to mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. 

As acne, particularly severe acne, has these strong links to poor mental health, it is incredibly important to seek treatment early. It’s not only about protecting your cover but also your contents. 


Psoriasis, whilst not as commonly known as acne, still affects around 2 percent of the population. Whilst not contagious, psoriasis causes scaly, itchy, red plaques on the skin, which are regularly misperceived as rashes, which can lead to unfair exclusion or ostracisation from certain settings, such as pools or other public activities. Understandably, this kind of exclusion can be devastating for people’s mental health, on top of the other side effects, such as sleep deprivation, often caused by the discomfort. 

A survey from the National Psoriasis Foundation found that 80 percent of people with psoriasis reported that their quality of life was significantly impacted by the disorder. Issues of embarrassment, helplessness and depression need to be factored into any skin care related treatment for psoriasis. Without this, the emotional burden of the skin disorder can be equally as bad as the skin disorder itself.


Eczema has a lot of parallels with psoriasis. The disorder itself presents as severely dry, tight, red, itchy skin. As a result of the discomfort, sleep disturbance is highly common, as well as an increased risk of low self-esteem, low confidence and an overall discomfort in your own skin. 

It’s not uncommon for eczema to be unfairly perceived as contagious so it’s incredibly important to be conscious of any shame or embarrassment that someone might be feeling whilst suffering from eczema. If someone you know appears to be hiding their skin, possibly through wearing long clothes on hot days or avoiding situations where their skin might be exposed, like going to the beach or the pool, then it’s critical to be sensitive and supportive so as not to exacerbate the mental struggle that such a condition can create. 

When dealing with skin disorders and seeking skin care assistance, it’s incredibly important to factor in psychological treatment into the process. Some key elements to consider include:


Make sure that with any medical assistance you seek that the professional takes the time to listen and hear your concerns and is willing to speak into and be supportive regarding the impacts, beyond just the physical symptoms.


Ask as many questions as you can and seek out as much knowledge as you can regarding your skin disorder. This can help you to connect potential triggers and may expose potentially beneficial treatments. It can also help to dispel potential misconceptions you might have around contagiousness, which can be a particularly debilitating aspect of skin disorders. 


Skin care may require a combination of medications such as emollients, creams and oral medications, as well as psychotropic medications. 

Minimise your stress

Stress can be one of the most destructive elements for skin, as both the causation and exacerbation of skin diseases. It is important to manage stress, alongside any other treatments for skin care, in order to see the best results possible. Specific psychotherapies can be particularly helpful with this. 

Finally, when it comes to skin care, just like everything else, prevention is better than cure. Utilising quality skin care products to care for your skin in collaboration with avoiding harmful conditions is the best approach. Specifically, utilising a daily sunscreen and avoiding skin exposure during the peak periods of intense sunlight during the middle of the day will go a long way to supporting healthy skin and its longevity. Obviously, skin disorders may be unavoidable in certain situations but pursuing healthy activities that promote good mental health is a win-win for both your cover and your contents.  


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Image Author: @freepik


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