How can acne affect you emotionally?

words Alexa Wang

Acne is an inflammatory skin condition that affects mainly the face and forehead, but may also present on the chest, upper back and upper arms. Usually associated with adolescent skin, the resulting blackheads, whiteheads, pimples and spots can actually occur in adults of any age.

Acne cysts or nodules are deeper, often painful breakouts that can leave permanent pitted acne scars. “In about 5% of cases acne results in overgrown raised scars or hypertrophic scars,” explains a leading specialist in acne scarring treatment

Acne may look like a straightforward physical skin condition but its effects go far beyond the cosmetic. It has the potential to affect people’s mental wellbeing in many different ways. 

acne affect

Low self-esteem

Since it is so visible on the face, acne can have a major impact on your self-esteem. Whether you lack the confidence to perform well in a job interview or to be yourself on a romantic date on account of the way you look, acne can make you feel bad about yourself. Adolescents are often the subject of taunts and bullying because of their bad skin, and their confidence can be shaken to the core at a critical period in their life.

Anger & frustration

Acne can be hugely frustrating, especially when you are diligent about your skincare routine but treatment after treatment show no signs of improvement. It is understandable that you may feel angry with your own body’s lack of compliance, while others around you seem to get away with having clear skin despite making no effort whatsoever.

Hopelessness and lack of control

You may feel a sense of helplessness in the fight against acne, having tried every treatment you can think of with no visible improvement. Perhaps you feel guilty about being upset about what you’ve been told are ‘just spots’, repressing your feelings. Bear in mind that acne treatments take time to work and just because you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, it doesn’t mean that progress isn’t being made.

acne health

Obsessive behaviour

Are you constantly preoccupied with your skin, letting it control every thought and every action of the day? If you feel that your acne obsession has taken over your life to the point that you won’t wear certain clothing, withdraw from social activities and stop you from leading a normal life, you should consult your GP. They may decide to change your treatment plan or refer you to a therapist to help you deal with these negative feelings.

Depression & anxiety

A recent study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology has proved a strong association between acne, depression and anxiety. Symptoms of depression include sleep problems, an overwhelming feeling of sadness, social withdrawal and lack of interest in previously liked activities. Anxiety and chronic stress can increase the frequency and severity of acne flare-ups.

Acknowledging the hold your acne may have over your sense of self-esteem, your inner confidence, your social interactions and the way you feel about yourself as a whole are the first step towards making progress. Once you address the issue in earnest, managing your emotional wellbeing should go alongside your medical treatment plan. Here are some useful strategies for you to put into place:

A healthy diet

While diet doesn’t cause acne, it may play a role in its severity. Certain foods can make acne worse including dairy products, refined carbohydrates, fast food and chocolate. Work with your doctor or dietician to create a healthy diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains for optimum health.

Physical activity

Exercise alone won’t clear up your skin but it is part of a healthy lifestyle that will give you the best chance for feeling and looking good. Physical exercise is a well-documented stress reliever and mood booster that can help you feel better about yourself at a time when self-confidence is low. 

Stress relief

Acute and chronic stress can exacerbate acne outbreaks, so it’s worth incorporating stress-relieving activities into your daily routine. In addition to physical exercise as mentioned above, try relaxing activities such as yoga, tai chi, mindfulness & meditation, reading a book, playing an instrument, going fishing – whatever works for you.

Social support

For the majority of acne sufferers, the positive support and understanding received by their friends and family is a huge help in learning to cope with their skin condition. In addition, there are professional organisations such as Acne Support as well as online groups and forums where you can connect with others in the same situation and share experiences.

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