“A recent survey by the National Eczema Association revealed that more than 30% of people with atopic dermatitis were diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety” – Nation Eczema Association.
An often overlooked part of eczema is the toll it takes on our mental health. Eczema is a very visible condition most of the time which can take away from what it’s doing to us inside. I have been very lucky my whole life to not suffer much with my mental health but during a huge flare up at the end of 2019 I saw it decline slightly.
Bed ridden and in pain 24/7 does nothing good for someone’s mind and I for sure felt the effects of it. A day didn’t go by without me crying, I felt alone and sad, like I had no way out and this was me forever. I remember calling my boyfriend every evening during the week and just crying to him. I was at uni so he only visited at the weekends and even then I couldn’t do much and it was starting to show in my mood.
Fast forward to now, I am not in this dark place and I thankfully haven’t been since either. But I can quite easily transport myself back to then and feel what I felt.
I think it’s important to be open about the mental effects of having a skin condition and raising awareness to the strain it has on other parts of our lives. Like any condition, it’s an added to stress to the stresses we already have as human beings and more often than not this can have a big impact on our mental health.
I want to add here that being open and honest about your current state is really beneficial. I’ll use myself as an example, so when I was struggling in my 3rd year of uni to even leave the house because of how poorly my skin made me I sent an email to my tutor just to explain what was going on and tell her that I needed some time to do my dissertation from bed. Making my uni tutors aware meant they were able to reach out to me to support me and they could take into consideration my mental and physical state at the time of writing my dissertation when it came to marking. I was really lucky that I was under no pressure to attend uni until I felt comfortable enough to do so. I also told my closest friends and they were the biggest support system and made coming back into campus much easier as I could use them as a comfort blanket almost. (Forever grateful for these people and it makes me emotional writing this)
Here are some tips I find useful when I need to check in with my mental state:
- Make a conscious effort to get enough sleep – I know how hard this is when you have ants crawling on your skin but making sure your environment is dark, quiet and peaceful will help massively in getting some rest between the itchy moments.
- Taking time for yourself – this means switching off to the outside world, physically and virtually. Especially if you follow eczema focussed accounts, taking time away from social media is a good way to bring the attention back to yourself.
- Finding support – this is huge. As I mentioned earlier I found support kept me going during the really bad times, having people check in with you is such a blessing. It’s probably good to mention here that it is easy for people to not know what you’re going through so making people aware is usually the first step to getting the support you need.
- Make use of the phone – the NHS is there to help and also are so many eczema hotlines that can help. One that I have used it the National Eczema Society help line 0800 448 0818. They are there to talk and most importantly listen.
- Food – I think it’s really important to remember the phrase ‘all in moderation’. I am a huge advocate for gut health and eating yourself healthy but when you’re sad about your skin you often want to eat yourself happy instead. Just keep in mind all in moderation and make a conscious awareness of what might be making things worse.
- Try and be aware of any aggressors or stresses – another easier said than done point but removing yourself from things that could be making your condition worse will give your body and mind a chance to chill out. Even if this is only minor, it’s a step in the right direction.
Resources for more information regarding all aspects of living with a skin condition:
@itch_n_bitch – They have an incredible podcast where they speak opening about the daily struggles, experiences and also mental health.
@_lydslife – She is currently doing a series of lives with different people covering all sorts of topics under the branch of eczema.
@camilleknowles @thebeautyofeczema – Camille has such a beautiful and holistic approach to eczema.
@drruthskinjourney – An NHS GP and eczema patient who covers everything from gut health to skin barrier.
@chloemaychapman – An honest and open account for daily living with eczema, covering natural and holistic healing.
Finally, it’s ok to seek help as well. This is common and many people use therapy as tool to manage their eczema!
Cover image: @rubyetc_