Can Seeing a Therapist Help with Eczema?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Eczema is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition, but the effects go much deeper than that. Changes in the color and texture of the skin can impact self-esteem, and constant itchiness, discomfort, and self-consciousness can cause emotional distress.

Collectively, these symptoms can lead to significant mental and physical health concerns, including:

  • anxiety and depression
  • sleep disorders
  • attention deficit disorders
  • suicidal ideation

The role of therapy in eczema relief

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Because emotional well-being can be significantly affected by eczema symptoms (and vice versa), caring for your mental health is an important component of eczema care.

In a recent study, people with eczema who participated in an internet-based therapy program had less frequent eczema symptoms after 12 weeks of therapy. These benefits lasted for as long as a year after the therapy sessions were completed.

Compared with people who only received education on their disease and treatment but didnt participate in the therapy program, those who received therapy also were found to have:

  • less intense itching
  • lower stress levels
  • fewer sleep problems
  • lower levels of depression

There are many benefits of therapy for people with eczema, including physical and emotional relief. Therapists can also offer tips for coping with the stress of living with eczema and techniques to avoid constant scratching.

What to expect from therapy

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People with eczema may be prescribed a variety of therapies to help manage their mental health, such as:

  • mindfulness-based therapy
  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, is a type of therapy that focuses on changing your mindset and way of thinking to prevent unwanted behaviors. For people with eczema, that may mean developing strategies to stop you from scratching in stressful situations.

Therapists can also help with relaxation techniques that can help you take care of your mental well-being by reducing stress. These may include exercises such as:

  • mindfulness
  • meditation
  • hypnotherapy

Like the therapy program used in the study described above, some people may prefer internet-based therapy. Even before the pandemic, online therapy was a growing industry that made it easier for people to connect with a therapist from their own homes.

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But everyone is different, and some people may prefer in-person therapy over online sessions. If youre experiencing severe depression or anxiety from your eczema symptoms, your therapist may prefer to start in person as well.

Other ways to protect your mental health

In addition to therapy, there are steps you can take on your own to protect your mental health.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) offers some tips for coping with stress related to eczema.

  • Connect with others who have eczema. Having eczema can feel isolating, but its actually one of the most common skin conditions. Connecting with others, such as through online support groups, can help boost self-esteem, reduce feelings of isolation, and help you learn new ways to cope with living with eczema.
  • Learn effective strategies for stress management. If you find that youre unable to relax or handle your stress on your own, a therapist can help you identify healthy coping strategies.
  • Practice healthy habits. Try to eat nutritious, well- balanced meals, prioritize quality sleep, and try to get regular physical activity. This also means practicing healthy skin habits, such as moisturizing often and using medications prescribed by your dermatologist.Connect with an eczema specialist. Dermatologists are experienced at treating eczema, which means their patients often have fewer eczema symptoms and, in turn, eczema- related stress than people treated by non-specialists. If you havent already, talk with your regular healthcare professional about how to connect with a dermatologist in your area.

Finding a therapist

If youre interested in meeting with a therapist, talk with your dermatologist about finding someone who has experience working with people with eczema. They may be able to provide recommendations for someone whos already attuned to the unique needs and concerns that go along with living with a chronic skin condition.

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You may also try using an online directory for therapists in your area. You can filter by specialties like chronic pain or chronic illness, as well as insurances accepted.

Your dermatologist can also connect you with eczema support groups or communities that may be able to recommend therapists in your area (or online) with experience with eczema.

Before your first appointment, be sure to call your insurance company or the clinic to determine whether therapy is covered by your medical plan and what costs you can expect.

The takeaway

The relationship between mental health and skin symptoms in eczema is complex and bidirectional. Itchiness, irritation, and discoloration can be stressful, and stress can make the symptoms of eczema worse. This leads to a cycle of physical and emotional distress that can cause low self-esteem and mental health concerns.

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Research shows that people with eczema may benefit from seeing a therapist who can help them develop healthy coping strategies and relaxation techniques to reduce stress, which in turn can help relieve symptoms related to eczema.

If you find that youre experiencing intrusive or negative thoughts related to your eczema, your dermatologist can help connect you with a therapist who understands your unique needs.

Help is out there

If you or someone you know is in crisis and considering suicide or self-harm, please seek support:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency services number.
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
  • Text HOME to the Crisis Textline at 741741.
  • Not in the United States? Find a helpline in your country with Befrienders Worldwide.

While you wait for help to arrive, stay with them and remove any weapons or substances that can cause harm.

If you are not in the same household, stay on the phone with them until help arrives.

Read more on: dermatitis, eczema


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