Skin Conditions and Itching Linked to Psychological Health

One of the most annoying sensations is when our skin is itching. ​The causes behind it are plenty and diverse. However, what is starting to seem more obvious is the fact that numerous people who battle chronic itching due to skin conditions are also hiding a severe psychological burden.

While the essence of this correlation between cases such as eczema and psoriasis has been studied before, scientists say we are only starting to comprehend the way skin conditions, mental health issues, and life quality all overlap.

“There are already studies showing evidence of a correlation between itch and mental health problems in general, and in specific skin disorders, but there is a lack of a cross-sectional study across chronic skin diseases,” says dermatologist Florence J. Dalgard from Lund University in Sweden.

To better understand that correlation, Dalgard and her colleagues studied data gathered from thousands of dermatology patients suffering from skin conditions in 13 European countries, including the U.K., France, Germany, Russia, and so on.

Skin Conditions Liked to Psychological Well-Being

Altogether, more than 3,500 patients with different skin issues were part of the research. They were subjected to physical examinations and needed to fill out questionnaires related to their socio-economic background and experiences with itching. The questionnaires were also measuring manifestations of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

As the scientific team observed the responses, they discovered various correlations between skin conditions, itching, mood disorders, and life quality depreciation. The frequency of depression was 14.1 percent in patients suffering from skin issues who complained of itching. The number lowered to 5.7 percent in subjects that did not report itching.

Patients without skin conditions who were itching have approximately a 6 percent prevalent of depression as well – the rest of 3.2 percent of the group members who did not report itching reported depression.

Anxiety had a similar structure, appearing in 21.4 percent of the cases of patients with skin diseases and itching, and going down to 12.3 percent in cases without itching, while about 8 percent of the subjects reported suffering from anxiety.

The preponderance of suicidal thoughts was higher in people with itch – 15.7 percent – than in patients without itch – 9.1 percent.

Patients suffering from itching reported more negative life events – 38.2 percent – than the subjects without itch did –  32.4 percent. Those reporting itching were also more prone to undergo more economic issues.

No Definite Correlation

Even though the scientific team admits their data cannot prove anything about the origins of the issue, also transmit the fact that mental health suffering could likely induce itch to a certain degree, they believe that skin conditions are the cause of itching, which then conducts to psychological health effects.

“Speculative reasons for this correlation is that itch correlates with skin inflammation and skin inflammation induces serotonin network in the brain leading to depression and anxiety,” the researchers write in their paper.

There is definitely a need for more research to explore the theory. In the meantime, the correlation between itching and depression looks more tightly determined than ever. That, scientists say, should be mirrored on how medics treat patients suffering from skin conditions: with a multidisciplinary group of physicians to help assist these patients and everything they may be facing.

The discoveries are published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

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