Do you have acne? Are you feeling isolated, depressed, anxious, undesirable? You are not alone. Many people who suffer from acne also struggle with mental health issues. Learn the link between acne and mental health and find out some steps you can take to find relief.
Multiple studies have verified the reality that many acne-sufferers know: serious skin conditions like acne can cause serious mental health issues, including clinical depression. Allure cites a study published in The British Journal of Dermatology that found that “in the first year following an acne diagnosis . . . patients have a 63 percent increased risk of developing depression compared to patients who did not have acne.”
Acne-sufferers who also struggle with mental health issues are often responding to the stigmatization of acne in our culture. In a study done by researchers from Harvard Medical School, the University of Utah, and the Cambridge Health Alliance published by the American Academy of Dermatology, participants were shown pictures of people suffering from various skin conditions, like eczema, warts, vitiligo, psoriasis, and acne and then completed a questionnaire exploring their reactions to the images and perceptions of each condition. 62.5% of the viewers said they were upset by the acne images, 55.4% of subjects believed that acne was caused by poor hygiene, 37.5% thought it was related to diet, and 50% believed it was infectious. The majority of subjects said they would feel ashamed if they had acne and would find someone with acne unattractive (67.9%). In addition, 41.1% would feel uncomfortable being seen in public with a person with acne, and 44.6% would feel uncomfortable touching them.
Clearly, this study shows that acne sufferers’ perception of others’ lack of acceptance of them is not just in their heads. They are responding to real prejudices and misconceptions in their friends, peers, surrounding culture.
While people of all ages experience acne, it predominantly affects adolescents and young adults, largely due to the hormonal changes that happen as your body hits puberty. The National Institute of Health reports that an estimated 80 percent of people between ages 11 and 30 have acne outbreaks at some point. These outbreaks are particularly difficult for teenagers and young adults, who are developing their self image and creating a social identity. As the pimples, lumps, and scars appear, young people start to suffer from low self-esteem and loss of confidence. It is very common for young people who suffer from acne to not go on dates, not apply for jobs, stay home from social events, not participate in sports, and become reclusive. Many teenagers experience teasing and bullying because of their acne, furthering their feelings of inferiority and increasing the chances of social withdrawal.
It’s no secret that we live in a culture that is image-obsessed, which is compounded by our constant use of media. Science Daily reports on a study conducted by University of Limerick, Ireland researcher Jamie Davern and Dr Aisling O'Donnell. The study explored whether the perception of stigmatization by people with acne pronouncedly predicted psychological and physical health. Davern stated, “Like many physical attributes that are stigmatized, acne is not well represented in popular culture, advertising or social media. This can lead people with acne to feel that they are 'not normal' and therefore negatively viewed by others.”
Not only do acne sufferers’ struggle because they don’t see other acne sufferers represented in media, but they also experience low self-esteem because of the constant pressure to represent your image on social media. “Selfies” have become a common word in our cultural vocabulary. But who wants their selfie posted when they feel unattractive or even repulsive to potential viewers? A lack of participation in social media can further the feelings of isolation, rejection, and exclusion. And these feelings can quickly turn to depression and anxiety.
If you suffer from acne, it’s important to seek treatment for both the external and internal symptoms of acne. There are many ways to treat your skin, from creams and other topical treatments to oral medications to procedures that can clean your skin and reduce acne scars. Some of these procedures include laser therapy, microdermabrasion, and facials.
If you are an adolescent or young adult with acne, remember that it is highly likely that your acne will disappear once you have passed your teenage years or young 20’s. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to seek help for your mental health distress. Find a support group either online or in your area so you don’t feel alone in your struggle. Talk with your dermatologist for recommendations of other medical health professionals or therapists who can provide psychological help, including talk therapy, medication, and strategies to overcome your low self-image and sense of rejection or isolation.
Call Vanguard Dermatology today to get the help you need for your acne. The knowledgeable dermatologists at Vanguard in the greater New York City area will work with you to create a treatment plan to both care for your skin and sustain your mental health.