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Can Stress Get Under Your Skin?

Have you ever suspected that how your skin is looking might be connected with how you might be feeling? Yes, what you are feeling on the inside can apparently dictate how you are looking on the outside according dermatological studies. Skin eruptions, irritable skin, and really tired looking skin are signs that your emotional states might be getting under your skin!

We have developed the notion that skin problems mostly happen because of hereditary, environmental, hormonal, nutritional and aging factors. There is definitely another factor at play - and that is ongoing emotional stress. A tensed and disturbed state of mind can play havoc with the skin and psychodermatology addresses this correlation of emotional health and skin issues.

Research has found that there is a very strong link between skin health and emotional wellbeing. Studies link psychological states such as emotional stress, anxiety and depression to a higher incidence of skin problems such as psoriasis, dermatitis, acne and eczema. This is not to say that emotional issues are the only reason for development of such skin conditions, but emotional triggers are definitely a major contributing factor that make the skin more prone to problems primarily by making the skin more sensitive and more reactive.

When you are constantly stressed out the adrenal glands will continuously produce cortisol, a steroid hormone, commonly known as the stress hormone. Chronic elevated levels of cortisol can lead to serious issues as it will interfere with the immune system. Research has shown that long-term stress can wreaks havoc with the immune system, raising the odds of regular infections, chronic inflammation, autoimmune diseases or allergies. Therefore, skin-related autoimmune disorders, such scleroderma, psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema cannot be ruled out if you are constantly stewing in stress.

Stress is known to worsen conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis making these conditions even more inflamed and persistent. Physiological effects of stress can even weaken the skin barrier function and add to dehydration of the skin - leaving the skin at the mercy of irritants, allergens, and infectious agents that cause skin problems.

In addition to the direct physiological effects of stress, stress-related behaviours such as scratching, pulling or rubbing can further exacerbate skin problems. It is also not unlikely that when suffering from stress our focus is elsewhere focusing on more pressing issues that we tend to neglect, or lack the energy, motivation and time to adopt a good skin care regimen, which again may aggravate the problem.

While it is important to get proper treatment for dermatological conditions, combining stress management therapies can dramatically enhance recovery. In one study thirty seven patients suffering from psoriasis was subject to phototherapy (UVB) or photochemotherapy (PUVA) treatments. Randomly picked patients from both groups were then guided to do a mindfulness meditation as a stress reduction intervention during the light treatments. The control group was not asked to do the meditation. The results revealed that psoriasis conditions cleared significantly more rapidly in patients who did the meditation than in those who did not, from both treatment groups (UVB and PUVA) clearly indicating the importance of stress reduction for treating chronic skin problems such as psoriasis.

Simple stress management tips:

1. Deep breathing- This is one of the simplest ways to make the mind calm and composed.

2. Mindfulness meditation - a good way to free your mind and drop down into the quiet stillness within you. In recent times this method has received a lot of attention from the medical community and its effects are being studied.

3. Yoga - another effective way to help calm the mind and also strengthen the immune system.


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