How you look affects how you feel; exploring the link between skin conditions and mental health.
We all have the desire to present our best face to the world. Experiencing skin problems, particularly on the face where it is extremely difficult to hide, can have devastating affects, particularly on mental health. How we look is so linked to the way we feel about ourselves. If we believe we look good, we feel good too. Conversely, if there is something about your skin which you are uncomfortable about or unhappy with, it tends to have a detrimental effect on your self-confidence and self-esteem. While there are some celebrities who have embraced openly their skin conditions, such as the model Winnie Harlow who suffers from Vitiligo, for others living with blemishes or imperfections it can require enormous courage to share them with the world and not hide behind make-up, long fringes or clothing. Feeling like you can’t be yourself and be accepted for how you are can have a devastating effect on your mental health.
The results of a survey conducted by Allergy UK with people with skin conditions underline the insecurity that many people feel. It found that 80% said their condition affected their mood, 73% it effected their self-esteem, 70% said it made them feel depressed and 60% said it made them want to stay indoors.
Many of the most common skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and rosacea have no cure. Many people go through years of frustration trying to find the right medication or skin care regime that works for them. Not feeling in control of your body and how you look can cause powerful feelings of anxiety, frustration and despair. Often the first port of call is a GP, but many lack the specialist skills and experience to be able to treat conditions effectively. A dedicated dermatologist can make an enormous difference. They have the in-depth knowledge to identify what tests should be conducted and are able to prescribe much stronger medicines and treatments. Unfortunately, getting to see a dermatologist can be a lengthy process.
The struggle to find the right treatment and the right expert can be extremely stressful. Stress is one of the factors that can make skin conditions worse, so the more stressed someone gets about their condition, the worse that condition can get, leading to a downward spiral that can be extremely difficult to escape from. Skin conditions can also act as catalysts for mental health conditions. Trichotillomania, compulsive picking of the skin(nodular prurigo) or acne excoriée, (compulsive sctratching of spots leaving scars) can both be a by-product of certain conditions. It’s important that the link between skin conditions and mental health is understood, so that everything can be treated together and produce a healthy outcome on all fronts.
Access to skin care experts can be a major issue. According to the latest NHS figures, the average wait for a GP appointment is now more than two weeks. However, just getting that appointment is only the start of a journey for many. Despite 25% of GP appointments being related to skin care problems, many GPs lack expertise in this area. It then takes typically four to six months to get a non-urgent appointment with a dermatologist. This means the majority will be waiting around four months to get to see a specialist to even start their treatment. During this time, there could be a serious deterioration in mental health, which could require additional help, which may be difficult to access too.
If you are looking for help with managing a skin condition, the British Association of Dermatologist’s website offers a wealth of advice, including guidance on how to look after your emotional health. If you would like to see someone face to face, book an appointment with our dermatology expert, Dr Christos Kasparis, who can quickly set you on the right track to looking and feeling better. Christos has a wealth of experience with helping patients to successfully manage their skin conditions, often assisting them to end years of pain and frustration, allowing them to face the world with confidence.