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Dermatitis: Diagnosis and Treatment of Psychosomatic Diseases

01.09.2020 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

“At the age of 3 I got atopic dermatitis. At that time, psychosomatic approach to medicine did not seem to be serious, and besides, we did not have enough information about it. I had skin inflammation and itching. Sometimes at night I scratched skin on my face till it bled, and my mother had to swaddle me tightly, like a baby. My mom and I visited all hospitals trying to find a doctor who could help us. I was treated with creams, ointments, even alternative medicine. Some doctors said that this problem will disappear in adolescence, but this did not happen. It all ended only four years ago, when I moved out of my mom’ house.”

– Veronika, 31

Stories like the one above could happen to you, your friends or family. Chronic diseases, which seem to arise out of nowhere, don’t answer to treatment, and then disappear in some mysterious way when circumstances change, are obviously related to psychosomatics. The main risk factor of psychosomatic diseases is that often neither the patient, nor his or her relatives, nor attending physician can find out true causes of such symptoms. The treatment could last for many years, and the patient would suffer both physically and emotionally.

In this article, we will discuss psychosomatic aspects of dermatitis and how psychotherapy can help treat this disease. All tips posted on this website are advisory in their nature and do not replaceor supersede a face-to-face interaction with your doctor. The information posted on this website cannot be used for self-treatment or diagnosis.

Information on the possible results of treatment may not serve a guarantee of achieving results when applying the described treatment methods in each case, even if such information was confirmed by previous medical practice.

Content:

  1. Is psychosomatics a salutary science or a dangerous trap?
  2. Types of dermatitis and its significance in terms of psychosomatics
  3. Psychosomatic dermatitis in infants
  4. Psychosomatic dermatitis in children and adolescents
  5. Psychosomatic dermatitis in adults
  6. Capabilities of the 7Spsy method in the treatment of psychosomatic dermatitis

Is psychosomatics a salutary science or a dangerous trap?

“The body and the spirit are in constant interaction, just as the conscious and the unconscious.”

Liz Burbo “Your body says: love yourself!” [1]

psychosomatics a salutary science or a dangerous trap

Psychosomatic approach is a newish area in medicine and psychology, which studies how psychological factors (feelings, emotions, concerns) are related to somatic (physical) disorders. The term ‘psychosomatic’ itself was proposed in 1818 by German physician Johann-Christian Geynrot. From the point of view of psychosomatics, disease is always caused by person’s fears, internal conflicts or secret desires, pushed into the unconscious. But is it really? Here, as in every other area of our lives, there is a danger of exaggeration.

You can easily find a detailed list of psychological causes of ailments and pains in different parts of the body on the Internet under the ‘table of psychosomatics’ tag. These tables are based on the book of Louise Hay [2]. They also provide ‘affirmations’ representing the positive assertions that supposedly can help to cure every disease. It is precisely because of the growing popularity of such tables that psychosomatics is subjected to harsh criticism on behalf of some medical representatives and psychologists.

We will eliminate the psychosomatic causes of dermatitis

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Just imagine: you have obvious symptoms of appendix inflammation. You look at the table and find out that appendicitis is caused by ‘fear of life’ and ‘development of barriers for all good things that set up your life’. You feel a sharp pain. But instead of calling an ambulance, you start repeating the affirmation: ‘I am safe, I am relaxed, I allow all good things to flow into my life”. You must admit that in real life this is unlikely to happen. We have chosen such a ‘sharp’ example to explain how serious a health hazard can be if we rely only on the psychosomatic approach in treatment. Now imagine that you are repeating the same phrase in your mind, but already lying in the ambulance on the way to the operating room. Most likely, this will help you to escape from acute pain and calm down emotionally as much as possible in such a situation. This kind of approach is much more rational.
The application of knowledge about the dermatitis psychosomatics, as in the example above, should not replace visiting your doctor. In addition, not every disease is fundamentally psychogenic in nature; sometimes we really get sick physically, without having any psychological problems. Here are the few factors that can make us think about possible relation between physical ailments and an emotional background:

  • lack of significant improvements after the long-term therapy;
  • relapses of the disease after the adequate treatment;
  • frequent changes of various symptoms;
  • symptoms appear and disappear spontaneously. [3]

Types of dermatitis and its significance in terms of psychosomatics

“Irritated skin gives you a signal that your life lacks calmness and affection, attention and stroking. Pay attention to yourself. Take care of the needs of your body”.

Valery Sinelnikov “Love your disease” [4]

Types of dermatitis and its significance in terms of psychosomatics

The above statement about the dermatitis psychosomatics by Sinelnikov, general practitioner, homeopathist and psychotherapist, should be viewed from the perspective of healthy criticism, as well as everything that relates to your personal health. Do not reject medications prescribed by your doctor in the hope that calmness and stroking will do its stuff. However, knowledge of psychosomatic causes of dermatitis can help in the treatment if the fight against the disease is becoming protracted. We present several types of skin diseases in the table and consider their significance from the perspective of psychosomatics.

Type of dermatitisNature of the diseaseAffected regionCauses according to psychosomatics
Atopic (neurodermite or diathesis)Hereditary chronic recurrent disease, accompanied by inflammation and severe itchingBody areas with thin skin: bends of knee and elbow, skin folds, neck, faceUnresolved internal conflicts, constant anxiety, prevailing stress situation, depressed mood
SeborrheicInflammatory disease caused by Malassezia, accompanied by itching and peelingParts of the body with a lot of sebaceous glands: hairy skull, parotid areas, nasolabial triangle, between the shoulder blades, on the front surface of the thoracic cageSevere emotional upset, mental disorders, prolonged work under constant stress conditions (seborrheic eczema)
PerioralChronic inflammatory disease most often occurring in women of reproductive ageArea around the mouth, cheeks, lower eyelidsIncreased anxiety related to feelings of guilt and shame, lack of self-confidence
ContactInflammation in the form of a rash that occurs with the prolonged contact with an allergen in most peopleAt the point of contact with the allergen, most often on the skin of the interdigital areasRejection of a certain work or activity at the emotional level
AllergicInflammation in the form of a rash that occurs even with the short-term contact with an allergen in people with immune cells specific to this substanceAt the point of contact with the allergen, sometimes along the entire bodyRejection of a certain person or group of people from the environment at the emotional level, if it is necessary to maintain constant contact with them
HerpetiformisChronic recurrent lesion of the skin, manifested in form of spots, blisters, bumps and accompanied by itching and burningSkin in the area of abdomen, arms, and legsVarious phobias, internal resistance to something, lack of emotional protection

The following general conclusion can be made in relation to the aspects indicate above: being under permanent stress conditions impairs the functioning of body’s natural defense systems, which can provoke the occurrence and adversely affect the development of skin (and not only skin) diseases.

Next, let’s consider some possible causes of dermatitis at different ages from the point of psychosomatics.

Psychosomatics dermatitis in infants

The expression ‘body language’ in relation to the infants can be considered the most accurate one. Body language is vital for children. The infant begins communicating with his parents from the very first day (and even earlier, from inside the womb). Not being able to speak, he uses the body as means of communication. The ‘statements’ of the child are not only the screams, but also the possetings, insomnia, and skin diseases. When talking about the psychosomatics of dermatitis in infants, the experts most often pay attention to the emotional state of the mother. At the same time, there are two types of important feelings and emotions: those that the mother experiences during the difficult period of the first months of the child’s life and those experienced during the pregnancy.

The most common causes of atopic dermatitis in babies in relation to psychosomatics are the mother’s fear of childbirth, maternal hyper protection, and emotional burnout.

Psychosomatic dermatitis in children and adolescents

Psychosomatic dermatitis in children and adolescents

As they grow older, children start to obtain their own emotional experience. Against the background of conflicts within the family, excessive care and precaution of parents (more often mothers or grandmothers), the child may demonstrate psychosomatic diseases. Atopic dermatitis is often found in children whose parents show increased concern for their health, beginning from the babyhood. Psychosomatics explains this fact as follows: it like the child’s immunity receives a ‘conditional signal’ that the child will be taken care of without its help, and refuses to activate its own protective functions. As a result, child’s skin reacts to the slightest external stimuli and becomes inflamed. The disease is diagnosed in approximately 20% of children under the age of 14 years. [5]

The psychosomatics of contact and allergic dermatitis has a similar explanation. An additional reason for the disease development may be some negative experience gained by the child during the contact with the outside world. For example, if mother sharply forbids her child to be friends with anyone, and the child doesn’t want to agree. Then he may experience dermal reactions as a signal of deterrence from himself.

The face break-outs in adolescents are often associated with endocrine changes typical for that awkward age, and much less often cases of such diseases are linked to the psychosomatics of dermatitis. Many parents try to console the teenager, saying that “I was like that at your age too” and “it will pass soon”. However, paying attention to the emotional state of a teenager is no less important than trying to alleviate his suffering from temporary imperfections in his appearance. Perhaps, at the subconscious level the child is trying to draw more attention from his parents or is deeply experiencing some kind of trauma (parental divorce, unrequited love, fear of failure).

In general, parental divorce and appearance of their new partners can be a great shock to the child. You can find many similar stories on forums for psychosomatics: a girl has obvious signs of dermatitis on her arms when a divorced mother brings her lover into the house, and these signs disappear when he leaves. Her mother accidentally overhears the daughter’s conversation with her friend on the phone during which she says:: “My hands are itching to kick him away from the house! I hate him!” 

Psychosomatic dermatitis in adults

Psychosomatic dermatitis in adults

Atopic dermatitis cannot be called the childhood disease: in Russia it occurs in 1-3% of adults. [5] However, it would be wrong to directly link even this small percentage of adult morbidity solely with the psychosomatics. There are a few factors according to which an adult can be classified to the risk group of diseases associated with psychosomatics. Please note that all of them can only indirectly be considered the causes of atopic dermatitis and other somatic diseases in adults:

  • lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, constant self-accusations;
  • low stress resistance, increased anxiety, tension;
  • difficulties with adaptation in a new society, rejection of changes;
  • problems in personal life, constant conflicts with a partner;
  • loneliness, estrangement, feeling of uselessness;
  • dependence on approval, painful reaction to criticism;
  • desire to control everything, not giving yourself the opportunity to relax.

Most often, it is young women who suffer from perioral dermatitis. According to psychosomatics, such a disease can be associated with hidden grievances, fear of telling someone else about difficulties and domestic violence in the family. It should be noted that each case and medical history is individual.
It is probably difficult for you to understand exactly how psychosomatics is related to the occurrence of skin diseases. Let us explain using an example of seborrheic dermatitis development in adults. The disease is caused by a yeast-like fungus Malassezia. This opportunistic microorganism lives on epidermis in almost every healthy person. The life cycle of fungus is connected with fatty acids in the composition of skin sebum that is produced by sebaceous glands. If for some reason they begin to secrete sebum in an enhanced mode, the number of bacteria and microorganisms is increased dramatically. One of causes can be severe and prolonged stress, as it leads to the impairment of normal function of sebaceous glands. This becomes the reason for the inflammatory reaction that is accompanied by severe itching and peeling. [6]

Capabilities of 7Spsy method in the treatment of psychosomatic dermatitis

“If a person wants to become healthy, then you need to ask him if he is ready to get rid of the causes of the disease first. Only after that he can be helped”.

Hippocrates

The possibility of combining efforts and knowledge from the field of psychotherapy and medicine has been discussed for many years. However, in our modern realities doctors advise to turn to psychologists only when the long-term drug therapy fails to provide any tangible results. Moreover, they do it with caution, believing that such recommendations throw doubts on their own competence.

Certainly, psychotherapy does not cure psychosomatic diseases. However, it helps to acknowledge deepest destructive attitudes in the psyche, to determine psychosomatic relations with a specific disease and separate the emotional state from the psychological one.

We will eliminate the psychosomatic causes of dermatitis

Make for consultation WATCH VIDEO

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique is one of the effective ways of psychotherapeutic work to change the mindset. This is a patented method that is based on the reflex theory by I.P. Pavlov and the operant conditioning theory by B. Skinner. Individual work with each patient is performed remotely under the close supervision of the psychologist. During the course of treatment the patient can contact the psychologist via the convenient communication channel: by phone, e-mail or in online chatroom. All work and interaction with the specialist are performed in full confidentiality. The duration of the behavior modification program is up to 6 weeks (depending on the results of diagnostics and individual specifications of the patient). The program is suitable for adolescents and adults.
The 7Spsy method will help to look at physical health problems from a new perspective, reduce the level of anxiety in patient or mother of the child, and feel improvements after the main therapeutic treatment.

References:

  1. Burbo L., «Tvoe telo govorit: liubi sebia!», Sofiia, 2014.
  2. Khei L., «Istseli sebia sam», Eksmo, 2016.
  3. Bolen po sobstvennomu zhelaniiu? (http://www.psychologies.ru/articles/bolen-po-sobstvennomu-jelaniyu/).
  4. Sinelnikov V.V., «Vozliubi bolezn svoiu», Tsentrpoligraf, 2016.
  5. Atopicheskii dermatit: pravda i mify (https://7days.ru/allergy/life-with-allergy/atopicheskiy-dermatit-pravda-i-mify.htm).
  6. Seboreinyi dermatit: ot prichin vozniknoveniia do podkhodov k lecheniiu (https://www.kp.ru/guide/seboreinyi-dermatit.html).