Psychodermatology is a holistic way of approaching the treatment of chronic skin conditions, treating the physical symptoms as well as helping patients (and those close to them) manage the emotional aspects of dermatological disease, as well as addressing skin conditions caused by psychological issues.
What is Psychodermatology?
There is increasing evidence to suggest that patients with dermatological problems have higher levels of psychological and psychiatric comorbidities than those without skin conditions. In fact, 85% of dermatology patients feel that psychosocial factors are a major component of their illness and 30% of people with skin disease have high levels of psychological distress. There is evidence to show that addressing psychological factors can improve skin conditions.
People are looking with more detail into the effects of lifestyle on mind and body. The link between stress and skin is one such pathway that is being explored to see if modifying stress levels can positively impact skin. Feelings of emotional distress lead to the release of a stress hormone (cortisol), which is known to affect the immune system (making the skin less able to defend itself), drive allergic responses, delay healing and disrupt the skin’s natural barrier. The effects seen on the skin can vary, including feeling dry and itchy, as well as the formation of lines, wrinkles, pigmentation, signs of premature aging and dull skin. Other effects include hives, acne breakouts and hair loss.
Skin conditions treated by Dr Ahmed include:
1) Skin conditions that have psychological impact
Having a chronic skin condition (e.g. acne, vitiligo, hair loss), can have devastating psychological consequences, including issues with low mood, anxiety, body dissatisfaction, and self-confidence. Dr Ahmed is passionate about treating signs of emotional distress as well as managing the skin.
2) Skin conditions caused or aggravated by stress
Some skin conditions are prone to be impacted by stress (e.g. eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, hives). These feelings can then impact the skin and it can turn into a vicious cycle. Dr Ahmed recognizes that managing stress can positively impact skin conditions.
3) Complex skin conditions
Apart from chronic skin disease, psychodermatologists also see patients with issues such as chronic itch, hair pulling, skin picking, nail biting, body dysmorphia and infestations. These are complex conditions that require in depth discussions with Dr Ahmed about possible causes and further management.
Why should I see a Psychodermatologist?
Dr Alia Ahmed is considered a leading UK expert in Psychodermatology. As well as making dermatological diagnoses, Dr Ahmed asks questions about patients’ lives, including mood, feelings of anxiety, sleep patterns, diet, exercise and lifestyle choices. During the consultation, she may measure the psychological impact of skin conditions using validated questionnaires. This information helps form an impression of how well the patient is coping with their dermatological diagnosis.
Dr Ahmed treats both the skin problem and any psychological distress reported. In addition to medical treatment, Dr Ahmed may offer lifestyle advice, talking therapies (e.g. mindfulness, habit reversal), and in some cases, oral medication to manage low mood or anxiety. Very few people realise how reactive their skin is to lifestyle choices. Often very simple changes can make big differences in patients’ lives.