If you've ever experienced breaking out or developing a rash when you're stressed, you're not alone. According to Dr. Richard G. Fried
, dermatologist and clinical psychologist, stress can trigger or worsen chronic inflammatory skin conditions
like acne or psoriasis
, and learning how to manage it can help you improve your skin.
In Dr.Fried's presentation at the American Academy of Dermatology's 2011 Summer Academy Meeting, he explains the link between stress and skin conditions. "Stress is personal, so what might be stressful for one person may be a non-stressor or even exhilarating for someone else," he is quoted as saying on MedicalNewsToday.com.
"In terms of how stress can exacerbate or even initiate a skin condition, we are talking about distress, such as feelings of anger, anxiety, depression or tension
, and how these emotional states translate to physiological problems."
When you're stressed, your neuropeptides
, which protect your skin from infection, can cause your skin to itch or get irritated at the wrong time. "They travel to the brain and ultimately increase the reuptake of neurotransmitters, meaning that stress depletes the chemicals that regulate our emotions, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine," says Dr. Fried.
This means that stress does more than just aggravate your skin; it keeps your mood level down and traps you in a vicious cycle of causing yourself more stress and more damage to your skin. Dr. Fried says it also reduces the skin barrier
function, which makes your skin more sensitive and prone to irritation.
To improve your condition, he suggests learning stress management techniques, which you can use in coordination with your regular dermatological treatments. "When you are withdrawn and have more time alone, it can make your symptoms seem more pronounced and you can end up feeling worse. That's why it is so important for patients to seek a treatment plan from their dermatologist to help reduce their stress level and break the cycle of stress-related flares."
So the next time you start feeling stressed because of work, you know it's time for a break! Need help de-stressing? Try reading these:
(Photo by Ollie Crafoord via Flickr Creative Commons)