Dermatitis: Diagnosis and Treatment of Psychosomatic Diseases

Jan 09, 2020

“At the age of three I got atopic dermatitis. At that time, the psychosomatic approach to medicine did not seem to be serious, and besides, we did not have enough information about it. I had skin inflammation and itching. Sometimes at night I scratched the skin on my face until it bled, and my mother had to swaddle me tightly, like a baby. Mom and I visited all the hospitals trying to find a doctor who could help us. I was treated with creams, ointments, even alternative medicine. Some doctors said that this problem would disappear in adolescence, but this did not happen. It all ended only four years ago, when I moved out of Mom’s house.”

– Veronika, 31

Stories like the one above could happen to you, your friends or family. Chronic diseases, which seem to arise out of nowhere, don’t respond to treatment, and then disappear in some mysterious way when circumstances change, are obviously related to psychosomatics. The main risk factor of psychosomatic conditions is that often neither the patient, nor relatives, or attending physician can find out the true cause of such symptoms. The treatment could last for many years, and the patient could suffer both physically and emotionally.

In this article, we will discuss psychosomatic aspects of dermatitis and how psychotherapy can help treat this disease.

All tips posted on this website are advisory in their nature and do not replace or supersede a face-to-face interaction with your doctor. The information posted on this website cannot be used for self-treatment or diagnosis.

 

Information on the possible results of treatment may not serve as a guarantee for achieving results when applying the described treatment methods in each case, even if such information has been confirmed by previous medical practice.

Contents:

  1. Is psychosomatics a salutary science or a dangerous trap?
  2. Types of dermatitis and their significance in terms of psychosomatics
  3. Psychosomatic dermatitis in infants
  4. Psychosomatic dermatitis in children and adolescents
  5. Psychosomatic dermatitis in adults
  6. Capabilities of the 7Spsy method in the treatment of psychosomatic dermatitis

Is psychosomatics a salutary science or a dangerous trap?

“The body and the spirit are in constant interaction, just as the conscious and the unconscious.”

 

Liz Burbo “Your body says: love yourself!” [1]

The psychosomatic approach is a relatively new area in medicine and psychology, which studies how psychological factors (feelings, emotions, concerns) are related to somatic (physical) disorders. The term ‘psychosomatic’ itself was proposed in 1818 by German physician Johann-Christian Geynrot. From the point of view of psychosomatics, diseases are  caused by person’s fears, internal conflicts, or secret desires, pushed into the unconscious. But is this really true? Here, as in every other area of our lives, there is a danger of exaggeration.

It is easy to find a detailed Internet list of psychological causes of ailments and pains in different parts of the body under the ‘table of psychosomatics’ tag. These tables are based on the book by Louise Hay [2]. They also provide ‘affirmations’ representing the positive assertions that supposedly can help to cure every disease. It is precisely because of the growing popularity of such tables that psychosomatics is subjected to harsh criticism on behalf of some medical representatives and psychologists.

Just imagine that you have obvious symptoms of appendix inflammation. You look at the table and find out that appendicitis is caused by a ‘fear of life’ and the ‘development of barriers for all good things that set up your life’. You feel a sharp pain, but instead of calling an ambulance, you start repeating the affirmation: “I am safe, I am relaxed, I allow all good things to flow into my life”.

You must admit that in real life this is unlikely to happen. We have chosen such an extreme example to explain how serious a health hazard can be if we rely only on the psychosomatic approach in its treatment. Now imagine that you are repeating the same phrase in your mind, but already lying in the ambulance on the way to the operating room. Most likely, this will help you to escape from the acute pain and calm you down emotionally as much as possible in such a situation. This kind of approach is much more rational.

The application of knowledge about dermatitis psychosomatics, as in the example above, should not replace visiting your doctor. In addition, not every disease is fundamentally psychogenic in nature. Sometimes we really get sick physically, without having any psychological problems. Here are the few factors that can make us think about a possible relationship between physical ailments and one’s emotional background:

  • lack of significant improvements after long-term therapy
  • relapses of the disease after adequate treatment
  • frequent changes of various symptoms
  • symptoms appear and disappear spontaneously. [3]

Types of dermatitis and their significance in terms of psychosomatics

“Irritated skin gives you a signal that your life lacks calmness and affection, attention and stroking. Pay attention to yourself. Take care of the needs of your body”.

 

Valery Sinelnikov “Love your disease” [4]

The above statement about the dermatitis psychosomatics by Sinelnikov, (general practitioner, homeopathist, psychotherapist) should be viewed from the perspective of healthy criticism, as well as everything that relates to your personal health. Do not reject medications prescribed by your doctor in the hope that calmness and stroking will work effectively. However, knowledge of psychosomatic causes of dermatitis can help in its treatment if the fight against the disease is becoming protracted. We present several types of skin diseases in the table and consider their significance from the perspective of psychosomatics.

Type of dermatitis
Nature of the disease
Affected region
Causes according to psychosomatics
Atopic (neurodermite or diathesis)
Hereditary chronic recurrent disease, accompanied by inflammation and severe itching
Body areas with thin skin: bends of knee and elbow, skin folds, neck, face
Unresolved internal conflicts, constant anxiety, prevailing stress situation, depressed mood
Seborrheic
Inflammatory disease caused by Malassezia, accompanied by itching and peeling
Parts of the body with a lot of sebaceous glands: hairy skull, parotid areas, nasolabial triangle, between the shoulder blades, on the front surface of the thoracic cage
Severe emotional upset, mental disorders, prolonged work under constant stress conditions (seborrheic eczema)
Perioral
Chronic inflammatory disease most often occurring in women of reproductive age
Area around the mouth, cheeks, lower eyelids
Increased anxiety related to feelings of guilt and shame, lack of self-confidence
Contact
Inflammation in the form of a rash that occurs with the prolonged contact with an allergen in most people
At the point of contact with the allergen, most often on the skin of the interdigital areas
Rejection of a certain work or activity at the emotional level
Allergic
Inflammation in the form of a rash that occurs even with the short-term contact with an allergen in people with immune cells specific to this substance
At the point of contact with the allergen, sometimes along the entire body
Rejection of a certain person or group of people from the environment at the emotional level, if it is necessary to maintain constant contact with them
Herpetiformis
Chronic recurrent lesion of the skin, manifested in form of spots, blisters, bumps and accompanied by itching and burning
Skin in the area of abdomen, arms, and legs
Various phobias, internal resistance to something, lack of emotional protection

The following general conclusion can be made in relation to the aspects indicated above: being under permanent stress conditions impairs the functioning of the body’s natural defense systems, which can provoke the occurrence and adversely affect the development of skin (and not only skin) diseases.

 

Next, let’s consider some possible causes of dermatitis at different ages from the point of psychosomatics.

Psychosomatic dermatitis in infants

The expression ‘body language’ in relation to infants can be considered a most accurate one. Body language is vital for children. The infant begins communicating with parents from the very first day (and even earlier, from inside the womb). Not being able to speak, the baby uses the body as a means of communication. The ‘statements’ of the child are not only the screams, but also the posseting, insomnia, and skin diseases. When talking about the psychosomatics of dermatitis in infants, the experts most often pay attention to the emotional state of the mother. At the same time, there are two considerations of important feelings and emotions: those that the mother experiences during the difficult period of the first months of the child’s life and those experienced during pregnancy.

 

The most common causes of atopic dermatitis in babies in relation to psychosomatics are related to the mother’s fear of childbirth, maternal hyper protection, and emotional burnout.

How to negotiate and compromise

Psychosomatic dermatitis in children and adolescents

As they grow older, children start to gather their own emotional experiences. Against the background of conflicts within the family or excessive care and precaution of parents (more often mothers or grandmothers), the child may demonstrate psychosomatic diseases. Atopic dermatitis is often found in children whose parents show intense concern for their health, beginning from  babyhood. Psychosomatics explains this fact as follows: the child’s immunity receives a ‘conditional signal’ that the child will be taken care of without its help and refuses to activate its own protective functions. As a result, the child’s skin reacts to the slightest external stimuli and becomes inflamed. This condition is diagnosed in approximately 20% of children under the age of 14 years. [5]

The psychosomatics of contact and allergic dermatitis has a similar explanation. An additional reason for the disease development may be related negative experiences gained by the child during the contact with the outside world. For example, if the mother sharply forbids her child to be friends with anyone, and the child doesn’t want to agree. Then the child may experience dermal reactions as a signal of deterrence from him/herself.

The face ‘break-outs’ in adolescents are often associated with endocrine changes typical for that awkward age, and much less often cases of such diseases can be linked to the psychosomatics of dermatitis. Many parents try to console the teenager, saying that “I was like that at your age too” and “it will pass soon”. However, paying attention to the emotional state of the teenager is no less important than trying to alleviate his/her suffering from temporary imperfections in appearance. Perhaps, at the subconscious level the child is trying to draw more attention from parents or is deeply experiencing some kind of trauma (parental divorce, unrequited love, fear of failure).

 

In general, parental divorce and appearance of a new partner can be a great shock to the child. You can find many similar stories on forums for psychosomatics. A girl has obvious signs of dermatitis on her arms when a divorced mother brings her lover into the house, and these signs disappear when he leaves. Her mother accidentally overhears the daughter’s conversation with her friend on the phone during which she says: “My hands are itching to kick him away from the house! I hate him!”

Psychosomatic dermatitis in adults

Atopic dermatitis cannot be called a childhood disease. In Russia this occurs in 1-3% of adults. [5] However, it would be wrong to directly link even this small percentage of adult morbidity solely to psychosomatics. There are a few factors according to which an adult can be classified with the risk group of diseases associated with psychosomatics. Please note that all of them can only indirectly be considered the causes of atopic dermatitis and other somatic diseases in adults:

  • lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, constant self-accusations
  • low stress resistance, increased anxiety, tension
  • difficulties with adaptation to a new society, rejection of changes
  • problems in personal life, constant conflicts with a partner
  • loneliness, estrangement, a feeling of uselessness
  • dependence on approval, painful reaction to criticism
  • a desire to control everything, not giving yourself the opportunity to relax.

Most often it is young women who suffer from perioral dermatitis. According to psychosomatics, such a disease can be associated with hidden grievances, fear of telling someone else about their difficulties and domestic violence in the family. It should be noted that each case and medical history is individual.

It is probably difficult for you to understand exactly how psychosomatics is related to the occurrence of skin diseases. Let us explain using an example of seborrheic dermatitis development in adults. The disease is caused by a yeast-like fungus Malassezia. This opportunistic microorganism lives on epidermis in almost every healthy person. The life cycle of the fungus is connected with fatty acids in the composition of skin sebum that is produced by sebaceous glands. If for some reason the glands begin to secrete sebum in an enhanced mode, the number of bacteria and microorganisms increases dramatically. One of the causes can be severe and prolonged stress, as this leads to the impairment of the normal function of the sebaceous glands. This becomes the reason for the inflammatory reaction that is accompanied by severe itching and peeling. [6]

Capabilities of the 7Spsy method in the treatment of psychosomatic dermatitis

“If a person wants to become healthy, then you need to ask him if he is ready to get rid of the causes of the disease first. Only after that he can be helped”.

Hippocrates

 

The possibility of combining efforts and knowledge from the field of psychotherapy and medicine has been discussed for many years. However, in our modern reality doctors advise to turn to psychologists only when long-term drug therapy fails to provide any tangible results. Moreover, they do it with caution, believing that such recommendations throw doubts on their own competence.

Certainly, psychotherapy does not cure psychosomatic diseases. However, it helps to acknowledge the deepest destructive attitudes in the psyche, to determine psychosomatic relations with a specific disease and to separate the emotional state from the psychological one.

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique is one of the effective ways of psychotherapeutic work on changing the mindset. This is a patented method that is based on the reflex theory by I.P. Pavlov and the operant conditioning theory by B. Skinner. Individual work with each patient is performed remotely under the close supervision of a psychologist. During the course of treatment the patient can contact the psychologist via a convenient communication channel – by phone, e-mail or in an online chatroom. All work and interaction with the specialist will be performed in full confidentiality. The duration of the behavior modification program is up to 6 weeks (depending on the results of diagnostics and individual specifications of the patient). The program is suitable for adolescents and adults.

 

The 7Spsy method will help to look at physical health problems from a new perspective, reduce the level of anxiety in a patient or parent and help instigate improvements after the main therapeutic treatment.

Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

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