Unblemished skin is perceived as a sign of beauty so it is hardly surprising that people of all ages feel pressured to have perfect skin. The state of ones skin, the largest organ of the body, can reflect ones general state of health and emotional well being. In fact research shows that the first thing that is noticed about a person with acne is their skin, and negative assumptions are made e.g. that the person is shy, less socially active, more likely to be bullied and less successful in the job market.
Sadly some people become preoccupied with covering their skin or avoiding situations when their skin may be seen. It can even be so distressing it can lead to the development of mental health problems. The level of distress is not necessarily related to how bad the skin looks, small blemishes can be severely disabling for some. Skin disorders can lead to embarrassment, humiliation and other negative body image experiences. These negative experiences, together with influences of others and expectations of society can diminish self-esteem and self confidence and increase self-consciousness, create a loss of sense-of-self and isolation. Stress itself can lead to or cause exacerbation of skin disorders so a vicious circle can occur.
One of the greatest problems experienced is social anxiety which is difficulty with social interactions and relationships. The coping strategies often adopted include concealing the skin and avoidance of social situations. However there are positive actions which can be taken to try to improve the health and appearance of the skin:
The first strategy is to optimise medical treatment via a Gp and/or dermatologist.
Then there are charities which may help for example Changing Faces offers free confidential advice and support service which includes social skills training. Changing Faces provides a Skin Camouflage Service.
CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is effective for people suffering with skin conditions including psoriasis, acne, trichotillomania, eczema and vitiligo.
Habit reversal therapy is helpful for conditions which primarily cause scratching reducing the desire to scratch. This is also helpful for eczema and skin picking by allowing the skin to heal, reducing the eczema and halting the itch-scratch cycle.
Family therapy can also be helpful in exploring relationships, which can be empowering the sufferer reinforcing feelings of support.
Brief interventions can help for example by exploring coping strategies to help with social situations.
Sadly psychological service provision, although identified as being a priority for people suffering with skin conditions, is very poor within the NHS but it may be worth trying to find out what level of provision exists in your area. The good news is that you can contact Changing Faces yourself and you can access online support with CBT through the RCP (Royal College of Psychiatrists) by clicking on the links:
There may also be helpful treatments which I can offer that are not available on the NHS. If you would like to find out if there are any options which may be helpful to you please get in touch. If I think that you should be able to get help and treatment through the NHS I will point you in the right direction and help you to improve your skin.