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Mental Health, Emotions, And Your Skin: The Link Between Eczema and Depression

by Christen Funderburk |  | 18 comments

Could  your  state  of  mind  be  affecting  your  eczema? 

Experts  say  yes! We talk  a  lot  about  the  link  between  eczema  and  other  health  factors,  such  as  diet  and environment.  However,  another  important  component  that  is  less  frequently  discussed  is  the  link between  mental  health  issues  -  such  as  depression  and  anxiety  -  and  eczema  flare  ups.  To  help break  it  down,  we’ve  got  the  answers  to  your  most  common  questions.  Keep  reading  for  the  full scoop.

Do  emotions  have  any  effect  on  skin  issues  like  eczema? As  you  likely  already  know,  our  emotions  are  very  complicated,  but  the  simple  answer  is  that  our mental  and  emotional  well-being  can  definitely  have  a  significant  impact  on  our  physical  health. Therefore,  it  only  makes  sense  that  our  emotions  can  play  a  part  in  affecting  the  body’s  largest organ  -  aka  your  skin.  The  skin  is  actually  one  of  the  first  places  to  display  signs  of  imbalance when  our  minds  and/or  bodies  are  under  any  kind  of  stress.

What  happens  to  the  skin  when  we  feel  stressed  or  depressed? Essentially,  when  we  are  in  a  state  of  distress,  the  body’s  natural  defense  mechanisms  (known as  flight  or  fight  modes)  kick  in  and  we  experience  an  increase  in  stress  hormones  like adrenaline  and  cortisol.

This  is  a  completely  normal  response.  However,  for  someone  with  eczema,  this  extra  production of  cortisol  can  create  the  same  kind  of  inflammatory  response  that  triggers  an  outbreak. Additionally,  studies  have  shown  that  struggling  with  depression  for  periods  of  time  can  weaken the  immune  system,  making  it  more  difficult  for  your  skin  to  heal  and  repair  as  it  normally  would.

Unfortunately,  when  this  happens,  experts  say  it  can  create  a  cycle  of  distress  around uncomfortable  eczema  symptoms,  such  as  dry  skin,  itchiness,  and  painful  flare  ups.  You  may even  experience  more  difficulty  sleeping  as  a  result,  and  these  factors  can  take  an  added  toll  on your  overall  well-being.

What  can  be  done  to  prevent  feeling  stressed  out? The  good  news  is  that  there  are  lots  of  tools  out  there  that  can  help  with  lowering  stress  levels, boosting  your  mood,  and  navigating  depression.  Mindful  activities  like  meditation,  yoga, journaling,  and  exercise  can  be  beneficial  for  day-to-day  management.  You  might  also  want  to consider  talk  therapy,  either  in-person  or  via  online  platforms,  as  a  way  to  work  through  difficult emotions,  including  chronic  stress,  anxiety,  and  depression.

Can  going  to  therapy  actually  help  clear  up  your  skin  issues? Because  therapy  has  many  benefits  in  addition  to  healthy  skin,  it’s  a  great  option  for  anyone who  struggles  with  eczema  flare  ups  during  difficult  times.  Although  a  visit  with  a  therapist  may not  clear  up  your  eczema  overnight,  experts  say  that  talk  therapy  can  be  very  helpful  for learning  to  cope  and  manage  your  mental  health  long-term.  Over  time,  this  type  of  intervention can  begin  to  lower  your  body’s  inflammation  levels  and  create  more  internal  balance,  meaning you  may  be  able  to  keep  eczema  symptoms  minimized.

References: Psychoneuroimmunology  of  Psychological  Stress  and  Atopic  Dermatitis:  Pathophysiologic  and Therapeutic  Updates by  Andrea  L.  Suarez,  Jamison  D. Feramisco,  John  Koo,  and  Martin Steinhoff

The  Link  Between  Eczema  and  Depression by  Emily  Cronkleton, medically  reviewed  by  Reema Patel,  MPA,  PA-C

The  Link  Between  Eczema  and  Mental  Health  by  Kristeen  Cherney,  medically  reviewed  by Nicole  Washington,  DO,  MPH

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