Dark Light

Is Stress Causing Inflammation? Here’s Your Guide To Psychodermatology Leave a comment


Last month while working at home, I felt my body become inflamed as internal heat shot up through my joints, later reaching my skin. I kept working anyway, figuring the pain would subside after 10 minutes and one Advil later. While my inflammation settled down, I couldn’t help but wonder about my harrowing experience and how to prevent it from occurring again, as well as the stress I experienced throughout the day affecting my body and skin. After some research, I came across the term, Psychodermatology, which is the relationship between skin and mental health. According to mental health expert and licensed social worker Minaa B., Psychodermatology is a treatment approach that addresses the impacts skin has on the mind and the impacts our mental health has on our skin. It is the intersection between dermatology and psychiatry. She believes that when our mental health is compromised due to stress or trauma, our mood can negatively impact our physical beings. “Our mind encompasses stress and our mental health. When our mental health is compromised, and we experience high-stress levels, an increase in cortisol, for example, can lead to oily skin. Even dealing with anxiety can lead to poor sleep, which can cause dehydrated skin, which helps us understand how the mind and skin are interconnected, and to heal our skin; sometimes we have to start healing our mind,” she states to ESSENCE. 

Shavone Jones, a licensed social worker and founder of the Mental Wellness Collective, agrees with Minaa, as she believes the mind and skin are interconnected and, in my case, could lead to chronic inflammation. “The connection between stress and inflammation is significant. When we experience stress, our body’s stress response system becomes activated, releasing stress hormones. These hormones can trigger an inflammatory response in the body. Under normal circumstances, inflammation is a natural and essential part of the immune system’s response to injury or infection. However, chronic or prolonged stress can dysregulate the inflammatory process, leading to persistent low-grade inflammation. Stress-induced inflammation can affect various systems and organs, including the skin,” she shares. 

She continued, “Inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea can be exacerbated by chronic stress. Stress can also disrupt the balance of immune cells in the skin and weaken the skin’s barrier function. Furthermore, stress can also contribute to inflammation indirectly. Unhealthy coping mechanisms associated with stress, such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and inadequate sleep, can further promote inflammation in the body.”

To manage your stress, she believes it’s crucial to adopt stress management techniques and promote overall well-being. “Practices such as regular exercise, mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and seeking support from friends, family, or professionals can help mitigate the impact of stress and inflammation in our bodies. By addressing stress and implementing healthy coping mechanisms, managing and reducing the detrimental effects of stress-induced inflammation is possible,” she states. 

According to American Family Physician, Psychodermatologic disorders can be broadly classified into three categories: psychophysiological, primary, and secondary. Psychophysiological disorders lean more toward dermatologic diseases heightened by emotional stressors, like atopic dermatitis, acne, perioral dermatitis, psoriasis, and hyperhidrosis – all examples of conditions that patients report worsen when they are under stress.

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Naana Boakye, MD, MPH, and Founder of Bergen Dermatology, confirms that stress leads to pro-inflammatory cytokines, exacerbating inflammatory conditions. As a lifestyle dermatologist, she teaches her patients how to improve their lifestyles by improving their sleep hygiene and nutrition and promoting physical fitness. By incorporating the pillars above, they can better manage their stress levels, decreasing inflammation. “It’s been reported that stress impacts acne through stimulating androgens (i.e., testosterone, DHT, and DHEA) which can exacerbate acne. Improving the gut microbiome can improve the skin. Certain diets cause an increase in IGF-1 and insulin which can increase sebum and levels of androgens. This results in an increase in acne. Those who are more plant-forward and eat less inflammatory foods are usually better controlled with their acne,” she shares. 

Another dermatologist, Dr. Adeline Kikam, says, “Living with chronic skin conditions is a classic example of how dermatologic conditions can significantly impact an individual’s mental health and overall well-being. Skin conditions may cause physical discomfort, pain, itching, or visible symptoms affecting body image, self-esteem, and confidence. This can lead to psychological distress, social isolation, depression, and anxiety.” According to Dr. Kikam, when the body is under stress, whether physically or mentally, the hormone cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone,” is released at a higher level. However, the short-term release of cortisol is not bad, as cortisol is known to have immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory effects. Still, in the setting of chronic stress, it can lead to a dysregulation of the immune system, causing chronic low-grade inflammation.

While cortisol serves important functions in the body’s stress response, prolonged or excessive levels of cortisol negatively impact the skin in several ways:

Premature Aging: Cortisol breaks down collagen, forming fine lines and wrinkles. So there is truth to the saying, stress ages you. 

Impaired barrier function: Elevated cortisol levels can compromise the skin’s natural barrier function, leading to increased water loss and decreased moisture retention. 

Overstimulation of sebaceous glands: Excessive sebum production can contribute to oily skin, clogged pores, and an increased risk of developing or exacerbating existing acne conditions.

Delayed wound healing: High cortisol levels can slow the skin’s healing process by inhibiting collagen synthesis and dampening the immune response necessary for efficient wound healing. As a result, cuts, scratches, or other skin injuries may take longer to heal. 

Skin inflammation: Cortisol can influence the immune system and increase inflammation in the body, including the skin. Elevated cortisol levels may exacerbate inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea, leading to flare-ups and increased symptoms.

So now, how can one reduce inflammation from a skincare perspective? Here are Dr. Kikam’s tips: 

Use antioxidants: Antioxidants play a huge role in reducing the impact of inflammation on the skin, whether from stress, UV radiation, or environmental factors such as pollution. Use topical products containing anti-inflammatory ingredients such as vitamin C, niacinamide, chamomile extract, green tea extract, or colloidal oatmeal. These ingredients can help calm and reduce inflammation in the skin.

Protect your skin from the sun: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 daily to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Sun exposure can exacerbate inflammation in the skin, so wearing sunscreen is crucial. If you have rosacea and lupus, these are inflammatory skin conditions made worse by the sun, so it’s important to use sun protection. 
Moisturizing is also crucial for decreasing inflammation, especially in the case of eczema, where dry skin can lead to itching and scratching, resulting in emotional distress and even a lack of sleep.


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *