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Skin and Psyche


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Photo Credit: The skin of the lizard at Jurong!, originally uploaded by leonefabre.

The ectodermal germ layer gives rise to both the skin and the brain. That there is a connection between our thoughts and the condition of our skin, then is not such an unlikely consideration. Both of these structures originated from the same primordial tissue and share a very close link. Psychodermatology attempts to address the impact that the psychological state has on dermatological disorders.

This link between our thoughts and their affect on our skin quality is of great interest. Psychophysiologic disorders are those that are affected by our level of stress and emotional anxiety. These include acne, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, rosacea (chronic red skin), urticaria(hives), sebhorreic dermatitis. Other skin disorders are primarily psychiatric. One example is trichotillomania, which is when the patient pulls out his or her own hair. In diseases that are primarily psychiatric, the skin abnormalities are self- induced. Another category includes the psychological sequelae of a dermatological disorder, such as vitiligo or psoriasis.

A recent study looked at the effect of psychological distress on the treatment response of psoriasis to photochemotherapy. Psychological distress was compared to other confounding factors such as severity of psoriasis, family history, alcohol intake, and clinical severity. Only psychological distress significantly slowed the time taken to clear psoriasis with photochemotherapy. In psychodermatological disorders, psychological stress has been shown to adversely affect the cutaneous permeability barrier. The transcutaneous permeability barrier is restored after administration of anxiolytic medications, again exemplifying the connection between stress and dermatological disorders.

Addressing the stressful trigger may be of use in treating these dermatologic disorders. Also, referral for psychological counseling, stress management or teaching relaxation techniques may be helpful in controlling the eruption of symptoms. As discussed above, anti-anxiety medications may be used depending on the degree of severity of the psychological trigger. Incorporating the psychological dimension of dermatological disorders may be of great value when attempting to heal not only the skin, but the whole person. That something so seemingly superficial as our skin is a reflection of our deep-rooted psyche underscores the naturally integrated state of our bodies.

  1. http://archderm.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/139/6/752
  2. http://www.aafp.org/afp/20011201/1873.html
  3. http://archderm.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/134/11/1437
  4. http://archderm.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/137/1/53

1 Comment »

  sonybibliotrontap wrote @ September 2nd, 2008 at 2:06 pm

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hey !!
its very reasonable article.
Good post.
realy gj

thx :-)

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