Growing up with serve food allergies and anaphylactic reactions, I was always cautious about what I put into and around my body. This type of stress can be hard on an adult, let alone a young, developing child. When reactions did occur, all I wanted to do was itch my skin, cry, and be alone. I need antihistamines, such as Benadryl, to survive a lot of normal, everyday things. On some occasions, the rashes would be so bad and painful, I didn’t even want to move. I would often find myself avoiding outings out of fear and anxiety, and noticed drastic changes in my mood and panic attacks, especially after reactions.
Could there be a connection between eczema and depression?
Being diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, depression, and anxiety, I truly feel the correlation, but, am I alone?
From its red, rash-like appearance to the relentless itch and sleepless nights, living with eczema can be downright challenging on anyone's emotional well-being. Anxiety and stress are common triggers that cause eczema to flare up, which then creates even more anxiety and stress. This can lead to even more eczema flare-ups. It's a vicious cycle!
Understanding the connection
The link behind our anxiety and flare-ups is that when we experience a stressful situation, our body goes into “fight-or-flight” mode. This causes our body to take action and respond by increasing the production of our stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol. When the body produces too much of these stress hormones, it can suppress our immune system and cause an inflammatory response on our skin, leaving people living with skin diseases, such as eczema, to be highly susceptible to this inflammatory response.
A survey by the National Eczema Association revealed that more than 30% of people with atopic dermatitis are diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety. One explanation for why people with inflammatory skin diseases are more susceptible to mental health issues is because of the way their bodies communicate with their brains during an inflammatory response. However, there is still a lot more discovery to happen in this field to link mental health and eczema to each other.
What can we do to find some relief for ourselves?
I have a set of stress relief remedies I follow to help soothe my mind and skin when I feel my symptoms coming on, and wanted to share them with you:
Distract your mind from negative thinking and your hands from itching with creative activities, such as writing, painting, knitting, baking, playing video games, and so on. Cooking, writing, and reading are my go-to’s when I want to distract myself.
Meditation has been linked to helping ease the eczema itch! You can take a yoga class or, as I do, simply practice deep breathing while listening to soothing music or nature sounds.
A good night's sleep is an important step in tackling mental health issues but can be a challenge for people suffering from an eczema flare-up. Accomplish this step by lathering up with a moisturizer after a warm shower in the evening to starve off the itch. Then, about one to two hours before bedtime, limit your use of electronics and begin your sleep aid routine. I usually brew a cup of lavender tea, take my CBD, and read. It also helps to turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary by keeping the room dark, cool and clean!
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to combat stress, anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions you may be going through. Any form of exercise is believed to trigger certain neurotransmitters and hormones that can dramatically improve your mood! However, if sweat is a trigger for your eczema, remember to take a cool or lukewarm shower soon after your workout and change clothes to prevent a rash flare-up.
It is common for people with eczema to also have food allergies. I know limiting even more food from your diet is not ideal, but avoiding the following foods has been stated to lessen both eczema and depression symptoms: sugars, caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, and foods high in trans-fats. Some have even found success eating a diet containing anti-inflammatory foods, such as fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids. While sticking to a healthy, well-balanced diet may sound like common sense, it’s also important to remember that what is helpful to some may be harmful to others. Always consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
Eczema is a common disease that affects more than 31 million Americans. Despite this vast number, many who suffer from it are too embarrassed to talk about it. I was one of those people. I would just cover up my skin and go on with my day. But we don't have to be alone!
Always remember, we are here to help and support you! If you are going through a similar experience and want to talk, feel free to message us.
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