Are my Skin Conditions caused by Stress & Anxiety?

Can stress cause skin problems?

The skin and the mind are intimately intertwined. Many skin problems such as eczema, acne, rosacea, hives, psoriasis, alopecia, and vitiligo are all rooted from or place their roots in the psyche. Most experts call this new field “psychodermatology”.

Karen Mallin, PsyD, and instructor in the departments of behavioural sciences & psychiatry and cutaneous surgery & dermatology of the University of Miami says, “Psychodermatology is a field that addresses the impact of an individual’s emotion as it relates to the skin,”

“I think [psychodermatology] is going to be growing by leaps and bounds [because] dermatology is ready for a more integrated approach with other fields such as psychology, psychiatry, and even complementary medicine,” says Mallin.

Such an integrated approach allows for new treatment possibilities including relation therapy, counselling that can reduce mood problems that result from or cause skin problems.

How to improve mental health and get healthy skin

Skin Problems: what stress has to do with it?

There are a number of experts who are becoming more aware of the effect stress has not only on skin conditions such as skin rashes, itchy skin, but the impact it has on the individual’s stress hormones that trigger a flare.

Stress stimulates both the skin and brain to signal the release of hormones that can trigger inflammation (triggering a flare within the body), accelerate aging, impair wound healing, and worsen skin conditions.

We can all say that stress arises when we are under physical, emotional, or mental pressure and that it is an inevitable part of life. As humans the way we perceive stress exceeds our ability to adapt to it.

Our brain plays a major role in the stress response, and when this response is activated, stress hormones such as corticotropin-releasing hormone, epinephrine, and glucocorticoids are released.

This results in a wide range of immune reactions that can exacerbate or trigger skin conditions (e.g. stress skin rashes, acne) .

“The mind and skin are connected on many different levels,” Mallin tells WebMD. “A lot of nerve endings are connected to the skin, which wraps around the organs, so as emotions are played out neurologically, they can be expressed through the skin just as stress can be expressed through gastrointestinal symptoms, increased anxiety, or hypertension”.

How can mental health and wellbeing affect your skin

How can mental health and wellbeing affect your skin?

Take acne, for example. When an individual’s body is tense, it releases stress hormones including cortisol, which may increase the skin’s oil production, making you prone to pimples. This can be a vicious cycle especially if you are prone to stress on a daily basis. According to Francisco Tauski, MB, quality of life is greatly impacted by skin problems.

One reason being that individuals are more prone to experience low self-esteem which can create negative feelings- constant self-criticism can lead to persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, guilt, depression.

Multiple studies found that people with certain skin conditions are significantly more prone to have mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Negative emotions directly affect the immune system and cause changes in the response via inflammatory cytokines. This in turn affects the mechanism of inflammatory skin diseases, often making them worse.

During times of stress or anxiety, our skin is prone to flare-ups in existing skin conditions. Whether these are breakouts, full-blown acne, super sensitivity, redness, or dry, tight, itchy skin, they all show how our skin’s functionality has been compromised.

Struggling with these skin conditions caused by stress and anxiety is enough to make anyone want to pull their hair out, let alone trying to cope with a mental health disorder caused by it.

It’s hard to feel good about ourselves if all we can see is unhealthy skin when we look in the mirror. To keep our skin looking well, we need to start feeling good too!

Multiple studies found that people with certain skin conditions are significantly more prone to have mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.

How to keep inflammation at bay?

When a healthy gut keeps inflammation, beautiful, clear skin is a direct result. This connection is often referred to as the skin-gut axis.

Stress-related skin conditions caused by stress and anxiety can be fixed with a compromised gut, which will alternatively show you a vulnerable complexion. One study found that a large role that the microbiome plays is regulating the organ systems, including the skin, and nervous system. This study concluded that a balanced healthy microbiome can keep inflammatory skin damage/problems in check.

Not only will it keep your inflammation levels down, but will contribute to a better gut-brain connection (your gut and brain are connected through chemicals called neurotransmitters, neurotransmitters produced in the brain control emotions and feelings).

When your gut is in check, so is your brain and skin health.

When your gut is in check, so is your brain and skin health.


How to improve mental health and get healthy skin

In daily life, most individuals when stressed or anxious try to cover it up with an evening alcoholic drink after a stressful day that perhaps gets you through the day, week, or even month.

This, however, triggers a flare and causes inflammation in the body which can result in skin problems.  But, finding a better defense is offense, that is, healing the root of the problem to bring your system into eternal balance while enjoying your most radiant, clearest skin.

 NOTE: Learn how to reduce stressors that cause you to feel anxious. Implement a stress management plan that included self-care, good quality sleep, regular physical activity, or exercise.

Try to find ways to minimize and manage stressful events or interactions to better your quality of life and better your mental health.

By consciously summoning positive thoughts and finding things to be grateful for, you have a higher chance of breaking the vicious cycle in your daily life.

Overall, it is incredibly important to always listen to the subtler conversation our skin is trying to have with us.

The skin is part of our first line of defense from the outside world and it is crucial for our feelings of mental wellbeing and self-worth.

Two-way communication between the skin and the brain can cause issues for both what shows up on the skin and how we can respond to it.

Therefore, healthy skin is important for a healthy body and mind as well as reflecting our overall wellbeing and health.


Author: Katarina Kupcikova