20 yrs old Janvi came to my clinic with sever urticaria – hives. Past two months her life has been miserable with itching and burning and red swollen patches at random places at random time.
She says “I can’t sleep; this itching is driving me crazy. Morning I wake up with either a swollen eye, lip or a patch on my arms. I was told that it’s some kind of allergy and I have been taking anti allergy medicines. They make me so sleepy and groggy, I can’t function well. It’s affecting my work. I can’t figure out how on earth I suddenly developed this allergy? And how long am I suppose to keep taking these medicines? Please help me!
A detailed history of Janvi ruled out contact with any specific substance, food, place or inclusion of something new in her life like a pet or old rug, dress, woollens or even a drug allergy. While inquiring about recent events in her professional and personal life, she mentioned that she was very upset with a senior colleague, who sabotaged a very important assignment of hers and took all the credit. She was very angry, disappointed and felt bullied but couldn’t confront or report to her higher bosses. She was surprised to acknowledge that her urticaria did start post that incidence. So much of pent up anger and helplessness led to sever itching, burning and red patches.
Most people will have this question how skin complaint has something to do with her anger or emotions?
Our nervous system and skin originate from the same parent cell –ectoderm – in the womb. Anything that affects the skin be it a pimple or pigmentation affects our mind and similarly when we are emotionally affected skin comes to the rescue of mind. It protects the inner important organs by taking the toll on itself.
Research suggests that chronic negative stress can disrupt the function of the skin’s permeability barrier, which normally keeps out harmful substances and prevents the loss of fluid from skin cell layers. This kind of disruption is thought to be a major factor in many skin diseases.
Though this is a known medical fact, the modern medicine was not very open to the idea of taking into consideration the connection and contribution of stress in skin complaints or skin issues affecting the mind.
Homoeopathic science perceives the individual in totality and appreciates this skin and mind connection and hence offers many medicines to restore the equilibrium between the two.
Emergence of Psychodermatology:
Psychodermatology is a newer off shoot of psychosomatic disorders. Many Dermatologist and Psychiatrist experienced with their patients that emotional stress does affect skin or skin has the capacity to affect the mind and treating only skin or only mind is not going to give positive and long term results. Hence the emergence of a new branch- psycho dermatological disorder needing a more holistic approach for treating patients.
Types of psycho dermatological disorder:
Functional or biological -skin problems due to body physiology that can be aggravated due to stress like- acne, eczema or dermatitis, psoriasis, alopecia areata (hair loss in patches), herpes (genital and oral), profuse sweating, itching, urticaria, and warts.
Primarily psychiatric– skin complaints purely a symptoms of a psychiatric disorder like- chronic hair-pulling (trichotillomania),distress about an imagined or minor defect (body dysmorphic disorder), imagination that body is infested with organisms (delusional parasitosis), self-inflicted damage to the skin (dermatitis artefacta).
Secondary psychiatric – mental symptoms such as shame, low self esteem, anxiety, and depression can be as consequence of socially stigmatizing issues like severe acne, psoriasis, vitiligo or genital herpes.
Attend to skin in totality
Not everyone responds emotionally through the skin, nor do all people react the same way to having a skin problem but when it does seek the right holistic approach. Don’t do a patch work.