In a recent American study when 50 women with moderate to severe acne were interviewed, it was confirmed that concerns about their appearance had an impact on their social, professional and personal lives. Depression, anxiety, social isolation and stress were reported. A recent review of 42 published studies confirmed the role of acne in causing raised rates of anxiety amongst sufferers.
Not only does acne cause anxiety, but stress worsens acne symptoms. Indeed, surveys indicate that sufferers consider stress to be the most important factor that worsens skin symptoms. For example, students experience increased severity of acne at exam times – and the more stressed they feel, the worse the exacerbation of acne tends to be.
It is not really known exactly how stress worsens acne. It seems probable that there is a complex interaction between stress hormones and factors altering immunity.
As will probably be clear from the above, a vicious circle can occur: stress worsens acne, acne causes stress, thus stress worsens acne and so on.
So, how can this stress/ acne circle be interrupted?
Perhaps, surprisingly, few studies have looked directly at whether stress management techniques improve acne symptoms. One small study found convincingly beneficial effects through stress management using a modified form of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) known as Pythagorean Self- Awareness Intervention. Such specialised techniques will rarely be available, unfortunately, so more accessible stress reduction remedies should be considered. These include yoga, meditation and counselling. The counselling does not necessarily need to be with a specialist; talking to a trusted person about the things that cause stress in your life and then seeking to modify this factors is a sensible first step.
Another important way of reducing acne induced stress is to treat the acne! A recent survey of London adolescents found that while around half of the 120 young people had acne, only a small percentage had sought treatment. As readers of these blogs will be aware (I hope!) modern holistic treatments for acne are effective, and the first rule of thumb when cutting into the vicious acne/stress circle is to seek out these effective treatments.
DR SAM ROBSON - TEMPLE MEDICAL CLINIC, ABERDEEN.
Dr Robson is LUSTRE® Expert Panel Member, and Medical Director of Temple Clinic in Aberdeen.
- Tags: Lifestyle