Saturday, May 25, 2019

Posted at: Jun 9, 2018, 1:06 AM; last updated: Jun 9, 2018, 1:06 AM (IST)

Want healthy skin? Be happy

Dr Vikas Sharma

As medical science evolves and progresses in its research on various skin disorders, it has been found that most skin diseases get triggered or relapsed by the emotional state of a person. Emotions play a huge role in our well-being. Excess of anything is bad — whether we are extremely happy, sad or nervous, our emotional state has a bearing on our physical appearance. Smiling or laughing too often may result in crow's feet or/and laugh lines. When nervous or agitated, some people bite nails and/or lips, lick lips, squeeze pimples, tug hair, etc. Therefore, learn to manage emotions is important not just for mental well-being but for our physical appearance as well.

Learning about the emotional factors that can affect the health of our skin is necessary so as to learn to cope with stress. Bouts of anger, anxiety and stress have been found to flare up and cause relapses in many skin problems like psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, melasma, vitiligo, acne, telogen effluvium (hair loss), rosacea.

Lichen simplex chronicus

Hyperactivity of certain skin cells, which become unstable and incite itching, causes this skin disease. The reflex action of scratching the itchy area to get relief instead irritates the unstable cells. It results in more itching and more reflex scratching. This vicious itch-scratch-itch cycle results in a skin disorder called Lichen simplex chronicus.

Acne excoriée

Sometimes called picker's acne, some affected people cannot resist squeezing the acne lesions. This can cause pitted scars on the face. Although it starts as an effort to get rid of acne but sometimes in adolescents reeling under stress this habit continues even when there is no acne.


It is body-focused repetitive behaviour, also called an impulse control disorder, involves pulling out one's hair. The recurrent pulling out of hair results in hair loss. Patients get a sense of gratification or relief after they have pulled out their strands. Mostly seen in school-going children, it starts between nine and 13 years, especially during examination days. The onset often accompanies an extreme emotional state, such as stress anxiety or boredom.

Onychotillomania and onychophagia

Chronic nail biting (onychophagia) usually starts in childhood while compulsive nail picking (onychotillomania) is more common in adolescence. These may gradually damage nails and cause inflammation of nail folds. These may also result in nail dystrophy and formation of dark lines over nails.

Lip-lick dermatitis

It starts as a reflex action when lips go dry. Repeated wetting of lips with saliva, however, results in the skin disease called lip-lick dermatitis. It is characterised by dryness and darkening of skin around lips.


An auto-immune disorder, stress is major trigger for psoriasis. It can also affect your quality of life. Psoriasis is associated with low self-esteem and depression. You may also withdraw socially.

Chronic urticaria

The urticarias (hives) are often a result of depression, dysthymia and anxiety.

Effective management of any chronic disorder also depends on the timely diagnosis of a patient’s emotional wellbeing. The chances of disease control and cure increase if there is less stress, anxiety and depression associated with the primary disorder.

Emotion-focused coping strategies help patients share their feelings and become realistic about prognosis. Adverse psychological responses to anyway illness can turn it chronic. Therefore, it is imperative to treat the root-cause and not just provide symptomatic treatment.

— The writer is dermatologist, National Skin Hospital, Panchkula


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