Due to my dermatological knowledge from working as a nurse in this area for over 10 years I have a keen interest in how emotions affect the skin. Research has shown a clear link between skin diseases and psychological factors. Taking data from a number of studies an average of 70% of patients with chronic conditions, like psoriasis, acne, eczema and rosacea, had emotional triggers. Stress is also a known trigger or can be a worsening factor for fever blisters, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis and has even been shown to impair skin barrier function and dehydrate the skin – allowing more irritants, allergens, and infectious agents to penetrate the skin and cause problems.
This is why hypnosis is so effective at treating skin conditions. I look at what could be triggering or exacerbating the presenting condition and deal with it in order for you to feel better about yourself which will help to reduce or clear your skin!
What is Psychodermatology?
When you’re mentally worn out from a tough week at work, a disagreement with a friend or just a long day, there are probably some steps you’ll take to relax. You might have a bubble bath, talk to a friend or take a day off from your job. However, what if your skin is trying to tell you that it needs a break. A pesky breakout or itchy rash may be a sign that your skin is also fed up with whatever is stressing you out. Irritated skin usually sends people running to the chemist for quick relief, but a rising trend has some heading to therapists who specialise in psychodermatology — therapists for your skin.
Psychodermatology is an approach to treating skin conditions that addresses the connection between mind and body and, in doing so, examines disorders that are exacerbated by psychological or emotional stress. The field’s practitioners study the external stressors that often trigger skin conditions or inhibit the body’s healing process. With these stressors in mind, a therapist creates a treatment plan that can involve anything from yoga to self-hypnosis, often in tandem with more traditional dermatology therapies, such as antibiotics. Although psychodermatology has been growing in popularity, it may be more effective for conditions that aren’t responding well to medical treatment than for conditions that do.
Research has shown clear links between skin diseases and psychological factors. In one study, 50 to 90% of patients with chronic conditions, like psoriasis, acne, eczema, and rosacea, had emotional triggers. This evidence is one of the psychodermatologists’ major arguments. They believe that these emotional stressors can make traditional medicines less effective, so removing the stressors has to be part of a patient’s treatment. The American Academy of Dermatology concluded that when dermatologists treat both skin and the source of stress, the skin clears more quickly as stress decreases.
- Stress can manifest itself in one’s appearance in many ways, but primarily by making the skin more sensitive and more reactive. For example, stress can make psoriasis or rosacea worse, result in acne lesions that are more inflamed and more persistent, cause brittle nails and ridging of the nails, cause hair loss, cause or worsen hives, and cause excessive perspiration. Stress also is a known trigger or can be a worsening factor for fever blisters, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis and has even been shown to impair skin barrier function and dehydrate the skin – allowing more irritants, allergens, and infectious agents to penetrate and cause problems.
- Beyond the direct physiological effects of stress, patients under stress also tend to neglect or abuse their skin. For example, they often lack the energy and motivation to adhere to their skin-care regiments, and there also might be signs of stress-related behaviours – such as scratching, pulling or rubbing – that can exacerbate problems.
- Traditional dermatologic therapies should be used in conjunction with appropriate stress management therapies to successfully treat stress-related dermatologic conditions. When dermatologists treat both the skin and stress, the skin often clears more quickly and completely as the influences of stress are diminished. This, in turn, can help decrease a patient’s overall anxiety level, and the patient may start to feel better about how they look and how they feel emotionally.
- On a microscopic level, stress reduction can decrease the release of proinflammatory stress hormones and chemicals. For example, release of neuropeptides (or stress chemicals released from the nerve endings) can be reduced with stress management techniques. This often results in skin that looks and functions better. These interventions can reduce blood vessel over-activity, resulting in less blushing or flushing.
- With accurate diagnosis by a dermatologist, effective treatments improve the appearance and function of the skin. This alone can substantially reduce patients’ stress and improve their skin, hair and nail conditions. However, if stress is clearly interfering with patients’ overall well-being and ability to cope, simultaneous stress management interventions are warranted.
Hypnosis for skin conditions
Hypnosis can be used to increase healthy behaviours, to decrease situational stress, to reduce needle phobias, to control harmful habits (eg, scratching), to provide immediate and long-term analgesia, to ameliorate symptoms related to diseases (eg, pruritus), to accelerate recovery from surgery, and to enhance the mind-body connection to promote healing. Hypnosis can be especially helpful in dealing with skin diseases that have a psychosomatic aspect.
Direct suggestion while in the hypnotic state is a frequently used method of decreasing discomfort from pain, pruritus, burning sensations, anxiety, and insomnia. Again, post-hypnotic suggestion and repeated use of an audio-cassette tape for self-hypnosis help to reinforce the effectiveness of direct suggestion. Direct suggestion may produce a sufficiently deep anesthesia in highly hypnotisable individuals for cutaneous surgery. Direct suggestion can also be used to reduce repetitive acts of skin scratching or picking, nail biting or manipulating, and hair pulling or twisting. Unwanted psychophysiologic responses, such as hyperhidrosis, blushing, and some types of urticaria, can also be controlled by direct suggestion. Some skin lesions can even be induced to resolve by using direct suggestion; the classic example is verrucae.
Symptom substitution retrains the subconscious by means of hypnosis to replace a negative habit pattern with a more constructive one. For example, scratching can be replaced by another physical activity, such as grabbing onto something and holding it so tightly for a half minute that it almost hurts. Other stress relievers that can be substituted for scratching include athletic activities, artwork, verbal expression of feelings, or meditation.
Please get in touch should you have any queries about how you skin can the emotions around it can be helped with hypnotherapy