Psychodermatology

Although the term may seem to have a negative connotation, Psychodermatology simply refers to the treatment of skin diseases with psychological techniques, such as:

  • Relaxation
  • Biofeedback
  • Hypnosis
  • Meditation

 

The powerful connection between the mind and the body is well-known, and many skin disorders show a clear relationship to the state of mind: stress and sleep deprivation, for example, can directly damage skin barrier function, in patients with atopic dermatitis and even in patients with normal skin.

Scratching in eczema can also become a habitual behavior, sometimes brought out during times of increased stress.

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Several studies have shown positive effects from these techniques in patients with eczema. They appear to be very safe and may help minimize exposure to treatments with more side effects.

However, there are several downsides to this approach:

  • These treatments are not well-covered by some insurance plans and thus may be expensive
  • Although there are a variety of studies on this topic, there is less standardization for some of these techniques than for medications and other treatments. Because of this, it may be difficult to know if it is a failure of the treatment itself, or simply the way the treatment is being administered
  • These therapies tend to be somewhat time-consuming, often requiring multiple appointments with a provider over time to be properly administered
  • Patients generally need to be able to speak for these therapies; infants thus may not be able to utilize them

 

Psychodermatology may be of help in certain situations and for select patients, and is worth considering when treatments with more side effects are being discussed.