Mind Your Health: Atopic Dermatitis

Medically reviewed in December 2022

People with atopic dermatitis are more likely to develop depression and anxiety.

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Learning how your mind works and learning how to work with your mind helps you realize how much power you actually have, especially when it comes to chronic disease management.
[MUSIC PLAYING] Mental health is critical to our whole body health.
And it's especially important for anyone dealing with chronic conditions. Yeah, I think often we've spent so much time
separating the mind from the body. It's like taking care of physical things, taking care of mental things. We really can't separate the two.
It's really the whole person, the whole human. Let's talk about atopic dermatitis and mental health. We've heard a few things from atopic dermatitis patients,
such as "I don't like to go outside because I hate people always asking me what's wrong with me when I'm having visible signs of medical issues."
Others say, "When my mental health is hurting, I tend to shy away from healthy activities that promote happiness and wellness."
81% of patients report that psychological stress aggravates their itchy skin. Clearly mental health can't be ignored when it comes
to treating atopic dermatitis. So how exactly can it impact a person's physical symptoms and vice versa?
Studies have found that patients with atopic dermatitis are more likely to develop depression and anxiety. In fact, many AD patients find themselves
stuck in an itch-scratch cycle. The scratching worsens dermatitis and the feeling of itchiness, which can then heighten anxiety
over chronic itchiness. Atopic dermatitis may contribute to both depression and anxiety through chronic itchiness and discomfort, physical changes,
perceived social stigmatization, poor sleep, lower quality of life, and emotional distress.
Risk of a new depression diagnosis increases linearly with increasing atopic eczema severity, providing strong evidence
for a dose-response relationship. So what I mean by dose-response relationship? By this, I mean increasing levels of exposure
are associated with an increasing risk of the outcome. So, Dr. Jud, what would you recommend that patients with atopic dermatitis
do to go about managing their mental health? Research has shown that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, improve itchy skin in addition
to psychogenic itch. Autogenic training can also be helpful, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy. And dermatological education has also
been shown to significantly improve scratch intensity. Talk to your health care provider about what steps you can take.
And together, you can get your disease under control. [AUDIO LOGO]

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