Why we all need to be mindful of the skin we're in
Dermatology The psychological impact of skin diseases must not be minimised says Dr Anthony Bewley, Consultant Dermatologist with Barts Health NHS Trust.
Skin really matters. A report from the British Association of Dermatologists found that about 90 per cent of patients with skin disease have a significant amount of psychological issues associated with their condition. We know there is a close connection between the brain and the skin; and that distress, lack of confidence, anxiety and/or depression can exacerbate skin disorders. In turn, skin disorders can exacerbate psychological issues. And so a self-perpetuating vicious cycle is created.
Tragically, a number of children commit suicide every year — and 12 per cent of them do so primarily because of their skin diseases; plus we know that around 300 people choose to end their life every year, rather than live with their psoriasis.
So we cannot, and must not, underestimate the psychological strain that skin diseases can cause. For too long, patients have visited their healthcare professionals to be told: 'It's only eczema' or 'It's just your skin.' Firstly, when a condition is minimised in this way, the patient is immediately disempowered. Secondly, research shows that patients who live with skin diseases find it every bit as traumatic as those who live with life-threatening illnesses. Then there are the secondary effects: itching skin leads to sleep disturbance, for example, which can take a heavy psychological toll.
Thankfully — as this campaign focusing on such conditions as eczema, psoriasis and skin cancer makes clear — there are now a number of resources and treatments for patients with skin disease. Plus, healthcare professionals are getting the message that living with skin conditions can have psychological consequences. This is as it should be. It's time that everyone started thinking differently about the skin they're in.