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Mind Talks, Body Listens: A Tangible Connection Between The Two

If you or someone you know is going through a personality shift ever since their skin started getting worse, see a dermatologist immediately. Remember, a healthy skin is a happy mind

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Ever had a pimple that ruins your day? Or an embarrassing thought that was betrayed to the world by your blushing skin? Has stress ever made you break out in rashes or lead to severe itching? Most people will answer these questions with a resounding “YES!” because skin problems are mental health problems.

The relationship between skin and body has been a studied through the ages, their connection often misunderstood. Broadly, they have been categorized in these three types:

  • Skin conditions that arise due to psychological factors such as stress-related eczema or psoriasis,
  • Psychological conditions such as depression or anxiety that occur due to a severe skin disorder such as cystic acne or vitiligo,
  • Psychiatric conditions that manifest themselves into skin disorders such as delusional parasitosis (body feels infected with parasites) or skin picking disorders (excoriation).

In a country like India, where 80% of the youth between the age of puberty and 30 will experience acne, the information about the mental ramifications of skin disorders is abysmally low. Most people don’t even understand what they’re going through – all they understand is that they are angry, upset and they practice negative self-hypnosis, which is when you tend to focus on the worst possible outcome for your affliction.

Factors like stress lead to flare up of conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, which causes constant discomfort and itching. If one could decrease their stress, the frequency of flare ups would reduce, leaving the person’s self-esteem intact

“Patients with skin disorders often have low self-and feel socially stigmatized” says Dr. Deepali Bharadwaj, a leading dermatologist based out of New Delhi. “Unlike diseases such as diabetes or hypertension, skin conditions are obvious, which makes them easy targets for bullying or mockery.”

The relation between mind and body is individually assessed. There are people who may have a deformity covering their face and still not show any signs of depression or anxiety. On the other hand, there are people who find one zit on their face and contemplate suicide. Irrespective of the extent of their conditions, those who show signs of mental health issues must be encouraged to seek help.

Treatment in cases like these are a team effort. A dermatologist leads the team,diagnosing the condition, giving topical ointments or oral medicines to decrease the extent of the condition, while the psychiatrist diagnoses the patient’s mental health. The therapist follows up to work on body-mind techniques to help the person cope. Studies have shown relaxation and meditation aid the healing of the skin disorders as well as curb one’s stress levels.

“Personally, I remember even prior to being a dermatologist, if my mind was at peace, my skin was healthy and shining” says Dr. Bharadwaj. “10-15 minutes of yoga every day, eating right and healthy & keeping hydrated are changes that reap great benefits”

Other tips include:

  • Bathing: Twice a day in the summers. Once a day in the winter. Wash hair 3 times a week
  • For men: Getting regular haircuts (Once in 3 months)
  • For women: Getting regular haircuts (Once in 2 months), semi-regular blow out, regular manicure-pedicure
  • Listen to a favourite song/watch a favourite show to de-clutter your mind
  • Actively take 5-10 minutes of “me” time, no matter how busy your schedule

“These tips are something I practice every day. If my mind is not fit, then my body is not fit which affects every part of my life. Be it work or leisure, my mind needs to be nurtured and settled. These exercises are not too difficult to inculcate on a daily basis and help you immeasurably in the long run” notes Dr.Bharadwaj.

 Considering the extent of skin disorders that affects the mind, Psychodermatology was established. It is a new field where the skin is seen from both a biological and psychological angle, which includes investigating the link between the psyche and the skin of the person and identifying the psychological triggers for diseases such as psoriasis, eczema, acne, hives, itching & other physical manifestations.

If you or someone you know is going through a personality shift ever since their skin started getting worse, see a dermatologist immediately. Remember, a healthy skin is a happy mind.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Dr Deepali Bhardwaj

The author is MD(USA.IM),DVDL,M.Phil(Cosmetology), Allergy Fellowship Munich,Germany;Cosmetic surgeries,Iran. Honorary Dermatologist at President Estate Clinic in Rashtrapati Bhawan

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