Skin & Your Wellbeing
A very common, but perhaps underdiscussed, aspect of having a skin condition is the impact it can have on your mental health and your enjoyment of everyday life. Although not everyone with a skin condition feels this way, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that it is a widespread issue. There are many ways this can manifest itself, and the exact reasons can vary from person to person, but include things like:
Long-term: Many skin conditions don’t have a cure, but instead must be managed over a life time, which can be draining.
Appearance: Skin conditions often have an impact on the way we look, and the way in which others perceive us. This can increase appearance-related distress, social isolation, and depression, amongst other things.
Sleep: Some skin conditions, such as eczema, can make it difficult to sleep. Anyone who has had long-term sleep disruption will know the impact that this can have on mental health.
Pain, discomfort, and itch: Many conditions can cause pain, discomfort, and chronic itchiness. Managing this can have a serious impact on your mental health.
In addition to this, there is evidence to suggest that in some cases stress, anxiety and emotional distress can manifest themselves on the skin and can aggravate an existing condition.
What to do if your skin is having an impact on your mental health?
If you are facing a mental health emergency and feel that you are a danger to yourself then you should call 999 immediately. For help and support, or for information on accessing mental health you could try either Samaritans or Mind.
If your need is less immediate then you should make an appointment with your GP or talk to your dermatologist. It may be that they can refer you to an expert or have access to psychodermatology professionals through their department. A list of Patient Support Groups who may be able to help can be found here.
The more openly you can speak about your mental health, and the impact that your condition is having on it, the easier it will be for them to help you. If you don’t get a satisfactory outcome you are within your rights to get a second opinion.
The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme is another option. IAPT services provide treatments for people with anxiety and depression, and you can refer yourself, meaning you don’t need approval from a doctor. You can search for IAPT services near you online, and self-referral is usually done through a website or on the phone.
If you can’t access these services, or you don’t feel that it’s a step that you are ready to take then it is also possible to access online self-help. The British Association of Dermatologists has developed Skin Support to act as a hub for a range of information and self-help guides which focus on different aspects of skin disease.