Gabby Bachner, a pharmacy student at the University of Georgia in Athens, discovered she had eczema shortly after going to college. The specific type you have, called contact dermatitis, happens when your body touches something that causes an allergic reaction. Bachner, who works at a pharmacy, discovered that her exfoliants and certain lotions caused her eczema outbreaks.
Eczema can cause several unpleasant symptoms, such as:
- Spicy, dry, cracked, scaly or bumpy skin
These changes can also have an emotional and mental impact. Bachner says his eczema outbreaks definitely affect his self-confidence.
Eczema and mental health
Your skin is your largest organ, so problems with its appearance can have a psychological impact.
Self-confidence can reduce your mental health. “With eczema in both children and adults, we know there is a higher rate of depression, ADHD, anxiety and also many sleep disorders,” says Mamta Jhaveri, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
People with eczema are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than those who do not. The odds are even higher if you have severe eczema. This can lead to a frustrating cycle. “Stress makes eczema worse and eczema makes stress worse,” Jhaveri says.
There are three main ways that eczema can affect your mental health:
- Chronic itching. Eczema usually causes an uncontrollable itching. When in public, it can be difficult to hide scratches. This can lead to stress, anxiety and worries about what others think.
- Inflammation. Chronic conditions such as eczema are the result of inflammation. Jhaveri says it can eliminate energy levels and hinder concentration.
- Visible symptoms. Eczema often affects places that are difficult to cover, such as the face, eyes, hands, or limbs. These areas can become inflamed, flaky, cracked or bloody, although they can tarnish your personal image.
Bachner says holidays spent with eczema were never outside. Before a trip, a pedicure was often done. Lotions used during treatment caused eczema outbreaks in the legs. And because many eczema therapies don’t work right away, I couldn’t control the outbreak before I left. This made it difficult to trust the swimsuit. He feared that people would confuse his condition with an infection.
The combination of self-confidence, itching, and fatigue can make it difficult to be around others during an outbreak. People with eczema often want a comfortable, private environment. You may need to stay home and take care of your skin.
“It leads to a lot of lost work, to losing school, and sometimes people choose not to participate in social interactions,” Jhaveri says. “Eczema can also affect privacy. … If it affects the face or any intimate part, it can affect relationships “.
How to feel safer
When Jhaveri treats someone with eczema, he also uses scales to assess anxiety and depression to assess how his skin condition affects his mental health.
But the first line of treatment is always to control eczema. “Sometimes this in itself will help with mental side effects,” he says. If the skin symptoms do not go away, Jhaveri will help people find more help.
The path to confidence is slightly different for children than for adults. Here are some things parents can do to help build their child’s self-image:
- Ask about your classmates. It is important for the parents of a child with eczema to ask about their social and school life. If you think your child’s peers are intimidating them because of their condition, contact them as soon as possible.
- Work on sleep. You and your child’s doctor can help resolve sleep problems related to eczema. They may suggest that your child take melatonin supplements or use anti-itch medications to help them sleep at night. A good sleep is directly related to a child’s own image. With more sleep, they will feel more confident and focused on school, which will increase their self-image.
These steps can help adults improve their mental health and body image:
- Get professional help. If eczema affects your confidence, talk to a therapist or psychiatrist. They can help you regain self-confidence and provide advice on how to deal with the mental aspect of a skin condition.
- Join online support groups. Jhaveri often suggests that people with eczema join Facebook support groups or get involved with the National Eczema Association. These outlets help you connect with others and share tips for building trust.
- Talk to your family. If you feel comfortable doing so, it can help you explain to your family how eczema affects you emotionally. This way you will have someone to talk to or rely on when your personal image is not at its best.
- Practice conscious meditation. Stress relief can play an important role in body image and confidence. Jhaveri suggests meditation or another relaxation technique, such as yoga, tai chi or music therapy. All of these things can help you reconnect with your insides, she says. This can help you see the impact eczema has on your personal image.
- Write a warning. Jhaveri says it can help you write a story or diary about how your skin condition affects you. Sharing it with someone close to you can help you release bottled emotions and help you accept your feelings.
- Take a step back. Bachner says one of the best things he does to regain his confidence is to think logically. It’s easy to feel like everyone is focusing on your eczema, she says. But most people won’t even notice your flares if you don’t point them out. It is important to remember that self-confidence comes from self-acceptance. “It’s not your fault that you have eczema,” Bachner says. “Try not to get carried away. … People are not paying attention to what you think it is. “