With rates of skin cancer on the rise, people with eczema need to be prepared to self-screen for any trouble spots that flaring skin may make it hard to identify
Published On: May 27, 2017
Last Updated On: Jul 15, 2021
Children as young as three-years-old begin to notice differences about others (Chernyshov, 2016) and react to these differences. Sometimes, they are just curious and no harm is intended. Sometimes bullying follows. Bullying can occur in the form of verbal, physical, social or psychological taunts that are harmful, repetitive and involve an imbalance of power. It can occur directly or through electronic means in the form of cyberbullying. Teasing is generally described as more “playful” or “joking” but not necessarily any less hurtful than bullying (Magin et al, 2008).
Teasing/bullying often occurs when someone is viewed as appearing or behaving differently than their peers. Unfortunately, eczema is typically very visible and those with eczema may be identified as being “different” before one even gets to know them.
Many studies have looked at how teasing and bullying based on appearance affects people physically and mentally. Some show that bullying/teasing negatively impacts one’s level of self-consciousness, self-image, and self-esteem (Magin et al, 2008). Others identified reduced quality of life and more frequent depression (Halvorson et al, 2014). Still others showed increased anxiety levels and social phobias (Stawser, Storch, Roberti, 2005), feelings of loneliness, and decreased contact with friends (Forero et al, 1999). One study (Fattori et al, 2015) assessed bullying in the workplace and found a substantial impact on quality of life and productivity independent of the individual’s underlying medical condition.
Clearly, this isn’t true for every person with eczema. At least one study (Absolon et al, 1997) looking at stigmatization found that increased psychological disturbance rates were significantly higher only for the children with moderate and severe atopic dermatitis. Another (Halvorson et al, 2014) found that an association between atopic dermatitis and depression/anxiety/suicidal thoughts was only present when significant itch was also reported.
So what can be done?
At National Jewish Health, we have found that using a multidisciplinary approach changes the focus to the “big picture” of physical health, emotional well-being and impact on family; which increases quality of life for all involved. Creating your own multidisciplinary care team for your child can be very effective. It’s important that this team communicate with one another and work together to treat you/your child with an integrated approach. This may take some extra work up front but is well worth it in the long run.
Jennifer Moyer Darr, LCSW is the Manager of Outpatient Behavioral Health Services at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado. For the past 12 years she has provided clinical services to children and families living with eczema, asthma, food allergies, and other chronic illnesses.
Absolon C, Cottrell D, Eldridge S, Glover M (1997) Psychological disturbance in atopic eczema; the extent of the problem in school aged children. Br J Dermatol. 137(2): 241-245
Chernyshov, P (2016) Stigmatization and self-perception in children with atopic dermatitis Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology 2016:9 159-166
Fattori, L et al (2015) Estimating the Impact of Workplace Bullying: Humanistic and Economic Burden among Workers with Chronical Medical Conditions. Re- search article Hindawi Publishing Corporation BioMed Research International; Vol 2015 Article ID 708908
Forero, R et al (1999) Bullying Behavior and psychosocial health among school students in New South Wales, Australia: cross sectional survey Br Med J 319: 344-8
Halvorson, J et al (2014) Suicidal Ideation, Mental Health Problems, and Social Function in Adolescents with Eczema: A Population-Based Study. Journal of Investigative Dermatology 132, 1847-1854
Magin, P et al (2008) Experiences of appearance-related teasing and bullying in skin diseases and the psychological sequelae: results of a qualitative study Scand J Caring Sci; 22; 430-436
Stawser M, Storch E, Roberti J (2005) The Teasing Questionnaire-Revised: measurement of childhood teasing in adults. J Anxiety Disord; 19; 780-92
First published in The Advocate Fourth Quarter 2016 (Volume 29 Number 4 Year 2016)