The endless itching, sleepless nights, and angry rashes associated with eczema can impact your quality of life and take a toll on your mental and emotional well-being. A 2017 study found that adults living with eczema were more likely to receive a new diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression. Another study showed that rates of suicidal ideation and action were higher among people with eczema than the general public, underscoring the need for mental health support for people with eczema.
If eczema is negatively impacting your mental health, know that you’re not alone, and don’t hesitate to ask for help. If you are experiencing suicidal ideation, call or text 988 immediately to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and get connected with someone who can help.
Caring for your mental health is just as important as caring for your skin. We’ve compiled a list of steps you can take to support your mental wellbeing as well as resources you can turn to for support.
Step 1: Understand the Connection Between Your Eczema and Your Mental Health
Stress and anxiety are two common triggers of eczema. When you’re stressed or anxious, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode. This response increases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline in the body. Too much cortisol alters the immune system and creates an inflammatory response—which can trigger an eczema stress rash.
Living with a chronic skin condition like eczema causes stress and anxiety. Chronic itch can lead to rumination—a stress response that results in obsessive focus on our skin and our itch. A growing body of research also indicates that chronic inflammation from conditions including eczema can impact our mental health. While more research is needed to understand the extent of the connection between the mind, the skin, and inflammation, doctors believe the way the body communicates with the brain during these inflammatory responses can impact our skin health.
Step 2: Notice If You’re Struggling
Take stock of your mental wellbeing by paying close attention to your moods, thoughts, energy levels and behavior. It may be time to speak with your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms:
- Consistent anxiety
- Persistent feelings of hopelessness
- Prolonged sadness
- Extreme irritability or mood swings
- Difficulty performing everyday activities
- Lost interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Insomnia or fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Persistent worrying or fear
- Changes in weight or appetite
- Unexplainable aches and pains
- Withdrawal from friends or social settings
- Decreased libido
- Substance or alcohol abuse
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
If you have any thoughts of self-harm or suicide, call or text 988 immediately to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. In case of an emergency, dial 911.
Step 3: Talk to a Therapist
Working with a licensed therapist can help you vocalize your feelings, address certain thought and behavior patterns, and cultivate helpful coping mechanisms, mindfulness practices, and stress reduction techniques. A therapist may practice certain types of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, that can help address rumination and reduce itch. If appropriate, they may prescribe or connect you to a healthcare provider who can prescribe medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or mood stabilizers.
Therapy can be conducted in-person or online, and online therapy services have made it easier to access a therapist from the comfort of your own home, no matter where you live. Even so, it can still be challenging to find a provider that accepts your insurance. We recommend checking your healthcare plan to find in-network providers and to determine if working with an out-of-network provider will impact your out-of-pocket costs. To find a therapist near you, check out the American Psychological Association’s Psychologist Locator tool.
Step 4: Seek Community Support
It’s easy to want to hide your eczema. However, opening up about your skin condition and connecting with some of the other 31 million Americans managing atopic dermatitis may help alleviate some of the mental burden. Connecting with the National Eczema Association on social media or through their website is one way to stay informed and receive community support. Other community groups include Global Parents for Eczema Research, ITSAN, and The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. There are also numerous support groups online and on social media, such as Eczema Exchange, where you can start a discussion thread, ask questions, and make new friends.
Eczema and Mental Health: Moving Forward
Because of eczema’s impact on mental health, it’s important to frequently check in with yourself about how you’re feeling emotionally. If you’ve been feeling anxious or depressed for over two weeks, it may be time to talk with your healthcare provider. Know that you are not alone and it does get easier: with the support of a therapist and an understanding community, you can start to overcome the mental hurdles of managing eczema.
For support managing the physical symptoms of eczema, check out Gladskin Eczema Cream.