Counselling for skin conditions

Living with a chronic or acute skin condition can be incredibly difficult.

Conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne can cause lifelong distress and negatively impact one’s quality of life. According to statistics, approximately 50% of the UK population will experience a skin problem each year, with the most common conditions including eczema, acne and psoriasis. Typically, skin disorders are treated within the parameters of dermatology and treatments generally seek to relieve the symptoms (itching, inflammation, infection for example). This can be a limited and frustrating experience for patients.

Emotions cause many skin problems and aggravate others. Given the skin’s intimate bonds with the nervous system, the role of the mind in skin disease is not surprising. One’s skin is frequently utilized, either consciously or unconsciously, as an outlet for relieving tension. In this way, the skin has a double life both as an emotional and physical organ. When we don’t experience the pain of difficult events – when we don’t feel our feelings – we are much more prone to develop physical symptoms, including skin disorders.

Psychodermatology is psychotherapy and counselling for skin conditions. It is a very useful adjunct to conventional dermatologic therapy for conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne. It recognises that emotional issues may also be involved in difficult skin conditions, which often resist conventional treatment. Therapy may be particularly helpful with skin problems that are resistant to every medical treatment as an underlying psychological difficulty may be “speaking through the skin,” and exploring that possibility can benefit both skin and mind. Treating both the skin physiology and the accompanying psychological issue may create the best conditions for improvement.

Difficulties include:

  • depression and anxiety

  • confidence/assertiveness problems

  • isolation and loneliness

  • relationship difficulties including intimacy problems

  • obsessive concern about appearance or intrusive thoughts about skin health

  • body dysmorphia

Therapy can help by:

  • providing a neutral and safe space to talk about the difficulties (psychological impact)

  • exploring the psychological factors that may be contributing to the skin problem (psychological contribution)

  • supporting the development of healthier expression of feelings

  • supporting a conventional dermatoglical regime