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Stress dermatitis: how to combat this skin disorder

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Stressful situations can unbalance our organism’s proper functioning, especially when they are prolonged over time.

In fact, stress can trigger health problems at different levels and to different degrees, with the skin being one of the areas of the body most affected.

An example of this is stress dermatitis, a skin problem of an inflammatory nature that can affect people of any age. 

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What is dermatitis?

In general terms, dermatitis is an inflammatory skin disease that results in the appearance of rashes called eczema and causes redness and itching.

However, there are different forms of dermatitis that differ in their cause and symptoms, such as seborrhoeic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, herpetiformis or atopic dermatitis, among others.

Atopic dermatitis is one of the most common types of dermatitis. Many factors are involved in its development, but the exact cause is unknown.

However, it is known that stress can be critical in its manifestation and worsening; in many cases, it is the main trigger, in which case we speak of stress dermatitis.

Stress dermatitis

In stress dermatitis, there is a close connection between the emotional state and the skin condition, as emotions and the degree of tension can trigger different reactions at the skin level.

Stressful situations, both occasional and chronic, can lead to stress dermatitis and other skin problems such as psoriasis, which can be triggered or worsened by stressful states.

Stress: cause and consequence of atopic dermatitis

Stress can promote an inflammatory response capable of triggering episodes of severe atopic dermatitis. Still, dermatitis outbreaks can also lead to high pressure and other psycho-emotional conditions, such as anxiety and depression.

In other words, it is a skin problem that can significantly affect sufferers emotionally and psychologically.

In general, this occurs because the discomfort and pain caused by dermatitis outbreaks can be so intense that they affect the rest and day-to-day life of those involved.

We are therefore faced with a problem that often feeds on itself and which, to avoid entering a vicious circle, requires us to act both at the skin level and about emotional wellbeing.

How do I know if I have stress dermatitis?

Atopic stress dermatitis is characterised by outbreaks, so there is usually, more or less clearly, a precise and temporary association in the manifestation of symptoms.

In other words, when stress is the critical factor or trigger, outbreaks tend to occur close in time to stressful situations or periods of emotional distress.

Stress dermatitis may also be suspected when psychological and/or emotional tension worsens ongoing symptoms.

Symptoms of atopic stress dermatitis

The skin manifestations caused by dermatitis tend to appear in the creases of the elbows and the back of the knees, although they can occur in any area of the body.

Symptoms that may be experienced as a result of this type of dermatitis include:

Itching can be intense on the skin and lead to scratching sores.

Hives, which may ooze fluid.

Dry skin and eczema, with red, rough, scaly and cracked areas of skin.

Scabs, which may appear from scratching wounds.

How is stress dermatitis cured?

Dermatitis tends to become chronic, although as it manifests in the form of outbreaks, symptoms and discomfort are not usually present continuously.

The frequency with which episodes occur varies significantly from person to person and even throughout the life of the same sufferer. Sometimes years may elapse between outbreaks, while in other cases, they may occur in relatively short periods of time.

There is no cure or definitive remedy for this skin problem, so the treatment of atopic dermatitis aims to reduce the symptoms that occur during outbreaks or relapses, such as itching and eczema.

In addition to reducing the discomfort of symptoms, the treatment also helps to prevent the worsening of dermatitis and the development of possible complications.

Topical products are usually used, although the exact type will depend on the specific characteristics of eczema (oozing or lichenified lesions), the location and intensity of eczema, the age of the person, and their state of health and their response to previous treatments if any. 

Therapeutic measures should also ensure that the skin is adequately hydrated, as the skin of people suffering from atopic stress dermatitis tends to be drier and more irritable.

Therefore, it is essential to take care of the skin and keep it moisturised, even when there are no lesions or active outbreaks. To do this, emollient creams can be applied, preferably on damp skin.

In addition, it is advisable to use creams and soaps specially formulated for atopic or susceptible skin.

This primary care can also be complemented with elements beneficial for skin with this type of problem, such as organic silica.

This trace element contributes to the regeneration and strengthening of the skin barrier, among other things, because it boosts collagen and elastin synthesis.

As a result, silicon soothes, calms, moisturises and cleanses the skin, reducing itchiness and improving skin resilience.  

However, in the case of stress dermatitis, it is not enough to address the skin manifestations. It will also be necessary to address stress management.

In other words, when stress is the crucial factor in the development of dermatitis, treating only the physical symptoms will not help to prevent further outbreaks.

Addressing stress to improve dermatitis

Although it is best to see a specialist who can assess and advise on an individual basis, some general strategies for better stress management are:

Learn to identify the stressors or situations that cause us stress and lead to the outbreaks of dermatitis we suffer.

– Practise relaxation and breathing techniques that help us to achieve a balanced and relaxed state.

– Resorting to activities which, although not focused on relaxation, are relaxing on an individual level (reading, walking, listening to music, cooking, embroidery, etc.).

– Take regular physical exercise, as it improves emotional well-being directly and indirectly by making us feel healthier and more at ease with our physical appearance (improved self-esteem).

– Adopt a healthy lifestyle, with a healthy and balanced diet and without harmful habits such as smoking or alcohol.

Take care of your skin and your emotional state

In short, if you suffer from stress dermatitis, you should take care of your skin and emotional wellbeing, as the two are closely linked.

In addition, to reduce outbreaks’ occurrence and/or intensity, banish bad habits and ensure you give your body and skin all the nutrients and minerals it needs.

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