Eczema can be a problematic skin condition. While not dangerous, living with eczema can be irritating, and many people find that their inflammation makes them far more uncomfortable in their daily life.
Studies have shown that emotional stress, like a stressful career or relationship, can actually make eczema worse. Anxiety is one of the most persistent causes of stress in a person's life, so those living with anxiety may be prone to constant eczema breakouts.
Reduce Anxiety - Reduce Eczema
If you're living with constant anxiety and stress, don't force yourself to manage through it any longer. Learn how to control anxiety by taking my free 7 minute anxiety test now.
Types of Anxiety and Stress Development
Anxiety is actually a natural process. It's your body's way of preparing for danger. Nearly every symptom of anxiety is directly related to someone that is supposed to keep you safe from harm. Make sure you take my anxiety test if you haven't yet to understand this even further.
When you're about to be faced with some type of danger, your body turns on everything it needs to protect itself. One of the things it turns on is cortisol - a stress hormone that plays a variety of functions in your body.
The Effects of Cortisol on Skin and Eczema
Despite its bad reputation, cortisol actually has some benefits. It's what helps trigger many of the necessary responses your body uses to combat dangers. But one of the effects it has is to suppress the immune system, and that leads to inflammation - especially on the skin.
It's possible that this inflammation can actually keep you safer in some way. But when you have anxiety, you're not reacting to danger - you're reacting to a disorder, so your fight or flight response stays active causing the skin to remain inflamed. For those without eczema, they may not even notice. But those with eczema find that the extra inflammation makes their anxiety considerably worse.
Other Effects of Anxiety and Eczema
While cortisol is the main culprit, there are actually several other links between anxiety and eczema. These include:
- Paying Attention to Itching When you have anxiety, it becomes much harder to ignore negative feelings, like itching and pain. People say that anxiety makes it harder to focus, but anxiety is actually very good at causing your mind to focus on negative things. When you focus on the itching and discomfort of your eczema, the itching tends to be worse, leading to more scratching and irritation.
- Sleep Loss Anxiety can also make it much harder to sleep. Studies have shown that sleeplessness seems to have an effect on your skin's ability to heal eczema problems. So if you're losing sleep because of your anxiety, you're likely to also experience worse eczema symptoms.
- Eczema Causing Anxiety We noted that anxiety causes you to pay more attention to things like eczema, and unfortunately one of the effects of that is that occasionally you may find that your eczema causes your more stress and anxiety, especially in public. Unfortunately, this can lead to the development of further eczema problems.
So in addition to cortisol increasing the effects of eczema when you're stressed, there are also several other issues at play that may also create an increase in your eczema symptoms.
Control Anxiety to Control Eczema
Eczema is rarely "caused" by anxiety, so relieving your anxiety is unlikely to make your eczema go away completely. But if you control your anxiety you should be able to decrease some of your symptoms, and since anxiety itself is already something that lowers your quality of life, that's generally a good motivation to make sure that you're actively working to decrease your overall anxiety levels.
You should start by simply caring about relaxation. Make sure that you're revolving your life around the idea that a stress free environment is better for your physical and mental health than a stressful environment. Cut out anything in your life that clearly causes you stress if you can, so that you're able to decrease unnecessary stressors. You should also consider all of the following:
- Exercise Exercise is extremely important. Research has showed two things - first, that those that don't exercise seem to have a profound increase in their anxiety, and second, exercise appears to create neurotransmitters and hormones that dramatically improve mood. Exercise should be your number one priority when it comes to altering your stress levels.
- Learn Relaxation Strategies When you're feeling stressed or tense, there are many relaxation strategies that can be helpful in overcoming that tension. One example is progressive muscle relaxation. Tense each muscle one at a time for 10 seconds, starting at the left foot and working your way up to the face.
- Eczema Safe Bath Long baths are actually spectacular relaxation tools. Of course, hot baths with drying soap can be problematic for your skin, so make sure that you're also taking precautions with the products you use to fill your bath. Use only lukewarm water as well.
These are just a few helpful strategies that can have a fairly profound effect on your ability to overcome anxiety. But they're only the first step. You'll still need to look at your symptoms and devise a long term strategy for anxiety reduction.
I've helped hundreds of people suffering from anxiety eczema outbreaks control their symptoms with my free 7 minute anxiety test. So make sure you take the test now to learn more about your anxiety symptoms.
Kimyai-Asadi, Arash, and AdilUsman.The role of psychological stress in skin disease. Journal of cutaneous medicine and surgery 5.2 (2001): 140-145.
Veien, Niels K., Thais Hattel, and Grete Laurberg.Hand eczema: causes, course, and prognosis I. Contact Dermatitis 58.6 (2008): 330-334.
Linnet, J., and G. B. E. Jemec.An assessment of anxiety and dermatology life quality in patients with atopic dermatitis. British Journal of Dermatology 140 (1999): 268-272.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.