Eczema is a chronic condition that causes patches of dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. It is related to conditions such as asthma, food allergies, and skin infections. Eczema also has links with mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
Mental health conditions may trigger an eczema outbreak. At the same time, an eczema flare-up may cause a person to feel more stressed, anxious, or depressed. They may also experience fatigue and social withdrawal due to their physical and mental health symptoms.
However, there are several ways to treat eczema and mental health conditions.
This article explores the connection between eczema and depression. It also looks at the potential treatment options and the support available for mental health.
Eczema is an autoimmune condition. These conditions occur when a person has an overactive immune system. This creates an inflammatory effect in the body, harming the skin barrier and increasing susceptibility to bacteria, allergens, and irritants.
Of the seven types of eczema, atopic dermatitis is the most common. It is the type most likely associated with related health conditions, including mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
In addition to causing physical symptoms, eczema can affect a person’s mental and emotional well-being. In fact, researchers have linked eczema with several mental health conditions, including stress, anxiety, and depression. Although the exact reasons are unclear, there are several potential causes of these connections.
Research from 2019 indicates that depression is more common in people with autoimmune conditions such as atopic dermatitis. The study authors suggest that this may be due to inflammatory changes in the brain associated with anxiety and depression.
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Often, eczema and mental health conditions feed off each other, with eczema symptoms negatively impacting mental health and vice versa. Stressful emotions or events may trigger the fight-or-flight response, thereby elevating stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.
Having high cortisol levels can increase skin inflammation and oil production in the skin glands, leading to clogged pores and breakouts. This can also cause a flare-up or exacerbate existing eczema symptoms. Having elevated cortisol levels may also weaken the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight skin infections and regenerate skin to promote healing.
Mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety, and depression may cause an eczema flare-up or worsen existing symptoms. This can cause a person to feel more stressed, anxious, or depressed.
People with depression and eczema may feel embarrassed, ashamed, or hopeless about their situation, which can affect their mental well-being. They may also withdraw from or avoid social activities, relationships, or physical activities, which can exacerbate symptoms of depression.
Eczema and depression are associated with sleep disturbances. The discomfort and itchiness associated with eczema may interfere with sleep, and people with depression may find it more difficult to fall asleep, sleep deeply, and get enough sleep.
A lack of quality sleep may cause irritability, moodiness, and depression. It can also affect concentration, motivation, and emotion regulation.
Treatment options for depression and eczema involve conventional methods, complementary therapies, and natural remedies. A person can work with a healthcare professional to create an individual treatment plan that best fits their needs.
Treatment for eczema involves healing irritated skin, reducing the severity of the symptoms, and preventing future outbreaks. It is also important to identify and avoid triggers.
Some eczema treatment options include:
- applying aloe vera, coconut oil, or apple cider vinegar to the skin
- trying wet wrap therapy
- taking a baking soda, colloidal oatmeal, or Epsom salt bath
- trying phototherapy using UVA or UVB waves
- receiving biologic drug injections
- using prescription topical corticosteroid creams and ointments
- taking corticosteroids or immunosuppressants
- using a humidifier
- bathing and moisturizing daily
- switching to an anti-inflammatory diet
Learning to relax mentally and physically may help relieve stress, decrease inflammation, and alleviate symptoms of eczema and depression. Practicing relaxation techniques may also improve how a person handles and reacts to stressful situations, including eczema flare-ups.
Some ways to manage and relieve stress include:
Psychotherapy teaches people to improve their thought patterns, behaviors, and emotional issues. This can have a positive effect on their relationships, communication, and social functioning.
To alleviate the symptoms and severity of depression, people can also take oral medications such as:
Eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that causes patches of dry, irritated, and itchy skin. The most common type, atopic dermatitis, is connected to several mental health conditions, including depression.
Understanding the link between eczema and depression can help a person manage their symptoms and make positive changes.
A healthcare professional or mental health specialist can recommend an appropriate eczema and depression treatment plan that combines conventional methods, alternative healing techniques, and positive lifestyle changes. This can help alleviate physical symptoms, boost mental health, and improve overall well-being.