Can Psychodermatology Help Your Eczema?
For many people with eczema, conventional dermatology is dramatically helpful. But if your frustration is building because you are not getting the help you’re hoping for, it may be time to add some new tools.
Eczema is as clearly medical as heart disease or stomach trouble, yet mind and body always do an intricate dance together. You probably know that many medical problems respond well to stress reduction and life changes, but perhaps did not realize that eczema is also very responsive to psychological techniques.
Rather than dividing illness into "emotional" or "psychosomatic" and "physical," I see emotions as one factor in all skin diseases. Some skin problems are like the common experience of blushing: an emotional event produces a direct and dramatic change in the skin. Emotional stress may be the sole cause of a few symptoms, but is more typically a trigger of the flare-ups of an ongoing medical condition. In one study, 70 percent of atopic eczema sufferers were able to identify their specific emotional triggers.
Recent studies tell us that between 30 and 60 percent of all people who seek medical attention for a skin problem experience significant underlying psychological turmoil. This is critically important because emotional problems can keep even the most sophisticated medical treatment from working.
The Itch-Scratch Cycle that is responsible for so much misery is also very fertile ground for psychodermatology. Emotional factors can cause, and frequently heighten, itching and scratching. Psychological techniques can be vital tools for breaking the cycle.