Monday, May 7

Stress and skin problems like rashes

Does stress cause skin rash and diseases?
Yes. Stress causes skin problems like rash. Emotion and stress impact a person's health and skin, precipitating many dermal problems.
Many skin rash conditions like dermatitis, acne, psoriasis, hives, eczema, rosacea, alopecia and trichotillomania  have their roots in some emotional or psychological stress. Further mental trauma can aggravate the existing rash causing flare-ups. Now a cycle develops wherein emotional disturbances develop and worsen skin problems, and then the rash leads to more stress.

   Stress response is relative and the response to a similar situation can vary widely among individuals, being traumatic to some and being neutral or pleasant to others. In our lives stress has become an ubiquitous presence, insidiously affecting the quality of our life by undermining our physical and mental health.

Skin-psyche connection and psychodermatology

   The skin-psyche connection was well analysed by Dr.Richard G. Fried, M.D., Ph.D., FAAD, a dermatologist and clinical psychologist, in his presentation at the Summer Academy Meeting 2011 in New York, at the American Academy of Dermatology. He emphasised the need for stress management during treatment for skin rash problems.

    Psychodermatology is the latest branch of dermatology addressing the stress - skin connection in dermatological therapies. The mind and body are intricately connected. All our organs including skin are well connected by nerve endings linked to the brain. Emotional disturbances like anger, depression, distress, anxiety and tension send out neurological trauma signals to the body and the target organs may happen to be either head (headache), heart (hypertension, palpitation), gastrointestinal tract (stomach problems) or skin (rash problems).

  For patients with dermal affliction an integrated approach to relieve stress as well as to reduce the rash is very helpful, making them feel better. It allows for depression treatment, relaxation therapy and also counselling to alleviate the anxiety and mood issues, while simultaneously treating the rash problems.
When the stress is episodic and the skin rash comes and goes, there is practically nothing much need to be done except taking a positive approach for this problem. When the mental agony is chronic, behavioural and social issues have to be addressed.

   There are also some skin manifestations of true psychiatric problems, including skin picking and cutting, nail biting, hair pulling and delusional parasitosis. Apart from treating the skin rash and damages, such situations require psychiatric treatment. Disfiguring skin maladies, damages and blemishes can bring up self-esteem issues and lead to depression, requiring psychiatric help.

Skin as target organ of stress

   When a person is anxious, stress hormones including cortisol and testosterone are released inducing the excess secretion of oil glands. Mental distress also affects the immune system and antioxidant production. Free radicals and pathogenic microorganisms have a free run. The combined effect causes flare-up of problems like pimples, acne and rash.
Stress and skin problems - acne vulgaris rash

   Neuropeptides are released by skin's nerve endings as an usual response to infection or injury. This is the first line of defence and neuropeptides cause skin sensitivity, rash and inflammation. Mental problems causes these neuropeptides to be  erroneously released causing dermal flare-up problems. Further these neuropeptides move to the brain and enhance the re uptake of neurotransmitters. Mental trauma depletes the emotion regulating neurotransmitters like dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin.

   Stress affects the skin barrier function, dehydrating the dermal layers, allowing allergens and pathogens to penetrate the skin and cause rash. Mental distress can worsen rash acne, rosacea, hives,herpes infections, psoriasis, eczema and seborrheic dermatitis. There is a connection between triggering of autoimmunity problems like vitiligo and high degree of mental trauma.

Stress management for skin problems

   In addition to conventional dermatological therapies, appropriate strategies for managing distress must be taken for fighting stress-induced-aggravated dermatological problems. Psychiatric treatment methods like antidepressants, beta blockers, behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy, psychotherapy, biofeedback, meditation, hypnotic techniques, relaxation techniques, massage and yoga exercises can be tried to make the patient attain mental equilibrium. Imbibing the confidence that he can overcome the dermal problems will make him to take control of his mind and body and break free from the rash and anxiety cycle.

Some of the effects of emotional trauma are premature aging, fine lines, wrinkles, dull and dehydrated skin. sound sleep and actively practicing relaxation for short spells through out the day will give serene mind and positive attitude, keeping stress and connected skin problems and rash at bay.
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