Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes inflamed, patchy and dry skin. This autoimmune disorder can damage the skin considerably while allowing entry of bacteria and other allergens. This can lead to more itchiness. So, what causes eczema and is there a psychological reason behind the disease?
Yes, it has. Eczema has a profound connection with mental health conditions such as stress, depression and anxiety.
There are evidences of mental health conditions flaring up atopic dermatitis and vice versa. Outburst of eczema can also trigger depression, anxiety and stress, due to fear of social embarrassment for the debilitating skin condition.
What is the connection between mental health and eczema?
Revealed by several studies, Eczema not only causes physical problems but also affects a person’s emotional well-being, leading to mental health condition such as depression.
A 2019 study by Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute, University of Alberta in Canada, has established a connection between autoimmune disorder such as Atopic dermatitis and depression. The study suggests that eczema causes inflammatory changes in the brain associated with anxiety and depression.
Another study, published in 2018 and conducted by the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, did a meta-analysis and systematic review on this and revealed that patients with eczema are at a greater risk of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. The study also focused on spreading awareness among dermatology providers to be aware of this increased risk in patients with atopic dermatitis, monitor for suicidality, and make appropriate referrals to mental health professionals.
Being afflicted by atopic dermatitis can cause sleep loss, debilitating skin symptoms and psychosocial factors such as shame, stigmatization and impaired ability to perform in academics or workplace.
Often, atopic dermatitis and mental health conditions feed off each other. Overwhelming emotions of pain and distress can trigger the fight-or-flight response, thereby increasing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.
Increased cortisol levels can jeopardize oil production in the skin glands causing breakouts and clogged pores. This eventually flares up existing atopic dermatitis symptoms. Increased cortisol levels compounds the risk for weakening the immune system, making it difficult for the body to fight skin infections, and delays the healing process of the skin. Skin regeneration also becomes slow due to this.
People grappling with eczema and depression at the same time may become self-conscious and this feeling of embarrassment and hopelessness affects their mental well-being. They may also refrain from physical activity, social gathering and relationship, which can force them into self-isolation. This, in turn, can trigger symptoms of depression.
Atopic dermatitis and depression also share an interim connection with sleep regression. When the feeling of itchiness interferes with sleep it compounds the risk of depression. People suffering from depression often struggle to sleep well, leaving them irritable, with an impaired ability to concentrate and regulation of emotion. It can make a person feel worthless, less motivated and sad all the time.
What are the treatment options available?
Treating depression involves anti-depressant medication combined with psychotherapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, talk therapy, interpersonal therapy, group therapy and family therapy. There are several inpatient and outpatient treatment programs available, which can be customized as per severity of the condition and medical assessment of the patients.
To combat eczema, traditional methods are very helpful. They reduce skin irritability, alleviate symptoms and prevent future reoccurrence. A few such therapies are:
- Wet wrap therapy
- Applying coconut oil, aloe Vera, apple cider vinegar to the skin
- Phototherapy using UVA or UVB waves
- Taking a colloidal oatmeal, baking soda, or Epsom salt bath
- Receiving biologic drug injections
- Corticosteroids or immunosuppressant treatment
- Using prescription topical corticosteroid creams and ointments
- Switching to an anti-inflammatory diet
- Using a humidifier
- Bathing and moisturizing daily
Finding ways to relax your mind and body can alleviate symptoms of both, eczema and depression, and these methods include:
- Breathing techniques
- Practicing relaxation techniques
- Music therapy
- Massage therapy
- Good sleep
- Spending time with family and friends
- Trying creative activities
- Trying a digital detox
- Spending time in nature
How we can help?
Understanding the link between eczema and depression can help to alleviate the symptoms of both the disorders. Seeking help from a mental health specialist and a healthcare professional is necessary because they can suggest the best treatment intervention. Combining conventional methods and alternative healing techniques can help improve overall well-being, assuage physical symptoms and boost mental health.
Medical Concierge is a well-known name in treatment of mental health condition and co-occurring disorders. We offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs and evidence-based therapies. We collaborate with some of the best post traumatic stress disorder treatment centers offering quality post traumatic stress disorder inpatient treatment programs. To know more about our treatment programs call us at our toll free number 877-636-0042.