No one likes living with acne. It pops up for seemingly no reason, and causes a great deal of self-consciousness and distress. There are a lot of different factors that lead to the development of acne, but what you may not know is that many believe that anxiety and acne are linked.
The question is: does a person get anxiety because they have acne, or does a person get acne because they have anxiety? And, if it's the latter, does curing anxiety provide you with a valuable acne treatment? We explore these questions in this article.
Do You Have Acne and Anxiety?
Find out if you may be suffering from anxiety and what you can do to treat it by taking my free 7 minute anxiety test now. It's a revealing tool that will help you compare your anxiety to others and show you ways to fight it.
Anxiety is a Separate Condition
Your anxiety is always something that you should treat, because allowing your anxiety to flourish will only cause long term setbacks if you hope to cure it in the future. Make sure you take my anxiety test to find out if you may have anxiety and what you can do to stop it.
Anxiety and acne are two separate conditions. Acne alone cannot cause the development of an anxiety disorder, and anxiety alone cannot lead to acne. The two also share a considerable number of causes - especially puberty and sexual changes. But let's look at the links between anxiety and acne, and then discuss what this means for treatment.
Anxiety Can Cause Acne
Anxiety alone doesn't create acne, but anxiety can absolutely cause acne breakouts, and increase the frequency of acne development.
Acne is the result of bacteria in the skin and skin oils. When you have anxiety, several changes occur that may lead to acne breakouts:
- Hormone Fluctuations Stress hormones released during anxiety cause changes in your pores and possibly an increase in skin oils. This combination clogs pores, allowing bacteria to grow, ultimately leading to acne. This is the most common link between anxiety and acne.
- Sweat Sweat doesn't actually cause most facial acne. That's a myth. But sweat may increase the amount of body acne you experience (since sweating and rubbing can create some forms of acne), and sweating may cause dirt and germs to be more likely to live and stick to your skin.
- Behaviors Anxiety may also cause various behaviors that increase the likelihood of an acne breakout. For example, anxiety may cause you to touch your face more. Touching your face doesn't necessarily cause acne (that is also a myth), but too much facial touching may cause you to spread bacteria that could conceivably lead to acne breakouts.
Hormone fluctuations are the main cause. Anxiety may also cause you to make poor decisions as a result of your acne. Popping pimples causes scarring that can look like you still have acne for years, and may spread bacteria increasing the likelihood of a future acne breakout. Popping pimples often occurs because a person is too anxious about their appearance.
There are a lot of myths about what causes acne, and many of those myths would be affected by anxiety if they were true, but they appear to all be false. Still, anxiety certainly doesn't help acne, and absolutely may create acne breakouts.
Acne May Cause Anxiety
One thing that is important to note though is that acne takes weeks to develop. It never develops overnight. So when you breakout before a first date or meeting with a boss or picture day at school, it's not your anxiety causing you to have that breakout - that breakout was coming anyway.
Anxiety may have been the cause days or weeks prior, of course, but the specific event wasn't caused by acne. Unfortunately, acne can cause you to experience anxiety, because acne may make you overly self-conscious in your appearance. Self-consciousness always increases the risk of having anxiety, because it's very hard to be confident when you're thinking about how you look.
Acne is rarely something that leads to an anxiety disorder, but it can be a contributing factor, especially if you have dealt with acne for a long time. In these cases, even if your acne is causing your anxiety and not the other way around, an anxiety intervention may help.
How to Tell if Your Anxiety Causes Your Acne
Because anxiety takes 1 or 2 weeks to develop, it can be very difficult to tell if anxiety is causing your acne or if your acne is the result of hormones and other unrelated issues. You can time your acne breakouts a bit; any time you deal with extreme anxiety mark it on a calendar and see if you seem to have bigger breakouts within 7 to 14 days.
But that's going to be difficult for those that have anxiety often, and equally difficult for those that have acne often. So the best thing to do is treat them like completely separate but related conditions. Start by first following your doctor's advice on your acne. Wash your face often, use appropriate soaps and skin treatments, and clear your acne up organically.
Then, use an anxiety treatment as an acne treatment by learning to control your anxiety so that it doesn't lead to acne breakouts. Even if your acne and anxiety are unrelated (and they are likely not), living with anxiety makes life worse, and it should be something you eagerly want to treat.
I've helped hundreds of those with anxiety and acne overcome their symptoms starting with my free 7 minute anxiety test. Take the test now to learn more about your anxiety and how best to treat it.
Aktan, Sebnem, and Erolzmen.Anxiety, depression, and nature of acne vulgaris in adolescents. International journal of dermatology 39.5 (2000): 354-357.
Wu, Steven F., et al. Role of anxiety and anger in acne patients: a relationship with the severity of the disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 18.2 (1988): 325-333.
Yazici, K., et al. Disease-specific quality of life is associated with anxiety and depression in patients with acne. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology 18.4 (2004): 435-439.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.