The role of the psychologist in the treatment of skin problems

The relationship between skin diseases and the psyche has long been the subject of interest and research.

According to research, it is the psyche that influences the appearance and worsening of between 30% and 60% of skin diseases. For this reason, the new trend in medicine – psychodermatology is beginning to occupy an increasingly significant place.

A psychodermatological disease is a condition whose cause is related to the relationship between the skin and the psyche. This type of disease is divided into several categories. The first covers psychological problems or trauma, as well as the presence of stress, as a result of which a dermatological disease occurs. Examples of such diseases are psoriasis, vitiligo and eczema. In the second type, pre-existing mental disorders develop into self-induced skin disorders, such as trichotillomania and intense itching. The third type illustrates cases where chronic skin conditions lead to psychological problems such as depression, social phobia and low self-esteem.

The causes of the occurrence of these diseases show how important it is to understand the importance of the psychosocial, familial and occupational aspects when it comes to skin disorders. All these social factors could lead to mental stress, which in turn can be reflected in skin disease. Mental trauma, as well as all the dramatic experiences in a person’s life, are also potential factors for the appearance of chronic skin diseases.

To conduct what is known as psychodermatological treatment, a combined method is used. It involves a dermatologist and drug therapy, as well as a clinical psychologist. In some of the more severe cases when therapy and dermatological treatment do not give a good enough result, a psychiatrist may be included in the team.

Психодерматологията се занимава с психологическия корен на проблема при лечение на разнообразни упорити кожни заболявания като: псориазис, витилиго, акне, екзема, дерматит, уртикария, херпес, брадавици, алергични обриви, алопеция, трихотиломания и други.”

In order to start the active process of psychodermatological treatment, it is necessary to start with a psychological consultation. After getting to know the patient and the nature of their problem, a judgement is made whether it is good for them to start psychotherapy and whether this could positively affect their condition. When treatment begins, all efforts are directed at establishing the root of the problem that caused the disease. If the patient suffers from symptoms such as low self-esteem, anxiety about the appearance of their skin, depression, anger, shame, and social withdrawal, these experiences must be managed and minimized. In the course of therapeutic treatment, various techniques are used to identify the problem and reduce stress levels. Various proactive methods and psychological tests are also used, aiming to better understand the patient’s emotional functioning and personality characteristics, which are of great importance for successful treatment.

Patients whose skin diseases are not amenable to treatment by standard drugs and have undergone all kinds of therapies without success could try this innovative and modern medical method to achieve significantly better results in the treatment of their skin.

Psychodermatological treatment is new for Bulgaria and for the first time it is available to patients whose skin diseases could be affected by this method. It enables patients with chronic skin diseases to look at their condition from another angle and get to the root of the problem, which they may not have even suspected. Conducting consultations with a psychodermatologist is a good auxiliary method in the course of dermatological treatment. When the two processes happen at the same time, treatment goes much more smoothly and the potential for better results is greatly increased.

Author: Victoria Todorova, clinical psychologist at Derma-Act