When stress is frequent, prolonged or chronic, healing and rapidly growing tissues like hair, skin and nails are hit the hardest. In fact, these tissues can be a barometer for how much stress is affecting your body. In this blog we focus on the effects of stress on skin. Below are 10 skin problems caused or made worse by stress.
Atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema, is a red rash that can appear all over the body. Eczema can be quite uncomfortable, as the intense itching often leads to scratching until the skin breaks and bleeds. The cause of eczema is not yet known, though we do know triggers for the rash. Stress can worsen outbreaks, which can lead to additional stress over the spread of the rash.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes excessive skin cells, which show as scaly silvery patches. These patches are often painful and itchy. Like eczema there is no known cause of psoriasis, though it is believed that the immune system and genetics play a part. Since psoriasis is an inflammatory disease, stress is a big factor in causing or worsening outbreaks. In people with psoriasis stress tends to have an inverse effect on cortisol levels, your body’s chief anti-inflammatory agent, which leads to flare-ups.
It’s no coincidence that acne breakouts tend to happen before or during a stressful event. With acne it’s all about the hormones, particularly cortisol. When you’re stressed your body releases more cortisol. This triggers glands under your skin to produce more oil, which leads to acne growth. In adults, acne is typically a sign of hormonal imbalance.
Rosacea is a chronic redness that typically presents on the face, though it can be found on other parts of the body. This condition typically affects those 30 and older, and becomes progressively worse if left untreated. Like eczema, stress can cause a negative feedback loop in those with rosacea. The emotional stress and worry many people with rosacea experience leads to more pronounced breakouts, which can lead to more stress over physical appearance.
Ichthyosis is a family of genetic skin disorders characterized by dry, scaling skin that may be thickened or very thin. Like many of the skin conditions listed here there is no cure for ichthyosis. This condition can be quite painful and prominent, and may who suffer from it also feel isolated, ashamed and embarrassed of their appearance. These feelings trigger the same negative feedback loop of stress caused by other skin conditions.
Also believed to be an autoimmune disease, there is no known true cause of vitiligo. This skin condition leads to patches of white skin in different parts of the body, which is caused by the destruction of cells that make pigment (color). Emotional stress is believed to be one of the major triggers for the growth or spread of vitiligo.
Hives are red, raised itchy bumps that can be caused by different triggers. Allergies or sensitivities to certain foods, medicines, materials, or insect bites can cause periodic hives. Chronic hives appear more frequently and can be caused by triggers like alcohol use, heat, or extreme exercise. Stress can also cause chronic hives, and can worsen an already present outbreak.
8. Seborrheic Dermatitis
Seborrheic dermatitis is similar to eczema, and can also be present in those already suffering from eczema. This chronic skin condition causes dry and flaking skin, along with redness and itching. It is believed that seborrheic dermatitis is caused by an abnormal inflammatory response to a yeast (Malassezia) commonly found on our skin. Stress is one of many factors that can exacerbate this skin condition.
9. Fever Blisters
Fever blisters, also known as cold sores, are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1. This virus occasionally causes outbreaks of tiny fluid-filled blisters that grow in a cluster and are often painful. The blisters usually go away within 2 weeks, but the virus remains in the body. Any elements that weaken the body’s defenses can trigger an outbreak, including stress, illness, and injury.
- Signs of Stress: Hives, Rash and More. (2014). Healthline. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/signs-of-stress
- About Psoriasis. (n.d.). National Psoriasis Foundation. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis
- Causes and Triggers of Eczema. (n.d.). National Eczema Association. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/causes-and-triggers-of-eczema/
- All About Rosacea. (n.d.). National Rosacea Society. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from http://rosacea.org/patients/allaboutrosacea.php
- What is Ichthyosis? (n.d.). Foundation for Ichthyosis & Related Skin Types. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from http://www.firstskinfoundation.org/content.cfm/Ichthyosis/What-is-Ichthyosis/page_id/952
- Fast Facts About Vitiligo. (2014). National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Vitiligo/vitiligo_ff.asp
- Frequently Asked Questions on Vitiligo. (n.d.). The American Vitiligo Research Foundation. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from http://www.avrf.org/facts/frequently-asked-questions.html
- Seborrheic Dermatitis. (n.d.). National Eczema Association. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/seborrheic-dermatitis/
- Fever Blisters and Canker Sores. (n.d.). National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from http://publications.usa.gov/epublications/fever-blister/fever-canker.html