With numerous studies proving the profound effect that our mind can have over our health, it comes as no surprise that some skin conditions can also be triggered by psychological factors. According to a Harvard Medical Report, considerable data shows that psychological disturbances such as stress or emotional troubles may manifest in the skin, activating or worsening particular skin conditions in certain people. We sat down with our resident acupuncturist and skin specialist Laura Jones to divulge the complex relationship that is the Mind-Skin connection.
How big a part do you believe the mind plays in the formation of problem skin?
I think that the mind and emotions play an important role in skin conditions as they do in most health conditions. In Chinese Medicine we are taught that an imbalance in any of the seven emotions (grief, worry, fear etc) can lead to disharmony and illness within the body. That illness may manifest in the skin, that being said though a skin complaint due to another cause such as poor diet can also lead to imbalance in the emotions such as anxiety and depression.
In trying to establish the cause of the skin condition so that I can treat it effectively I also look at what was going on in a patient’s life around the time it started to manifest and also in the months leading up to this. This is because from experience I have treated many patients who having been through periods of extreme stress or other emotional trauma such as grief or shock and have suddenly developed a skin condition. My approach to treating these patients tends to be slightly different to treating someone where the cause is due to other factors, for example, developing acne when coming off the contraceptive pill.
What are some of the most common skin ailments you see within your client base and what percentage of these cases do you believe may involve a psychological aspect?
The most common conditions I see in my clinic are acne and rosacea, closely followed by eczema and psoriasis. I would say that most, if not all of these cases involve a psychological aspect to some degree. A lot of my patients have tried many different remedies and treatments to no avail before coming to see me and so can be quite frustrated and sometimes depressed about their skin, many having lost their confidence as well. Some skin conditions can also be incredibly painful and physically uncomfortable which can also affect a person’s lifestyle and emotional well-being. I feel it is incredibly important when working with a patient with a skin condition to always bear this in mind and keep a check of their emotional as well as physical well-being throughout the treatment.
What are some natural remedies or techniques that we can adopt to ensure our state of mind and skin remain healthy and balanced?
In Chinese Medicine it is said that the Lungs rule the skin – how many of us breathe deeply regularly throughout the day? How many of us swallow our feelings and don’t express ourselves as we would like to? How many of us have experienced loss during our lives? All of these things will affect the energy of the Lungs and therefore the condition of the skin. Regular practice of deep breathing exercises can strengthen your lung function, help you let go of any negative emotions that you are holding on to and from a physiological perspective, that extra oxygen is extremely beneficial to all your tissues especially the skin (this is particularly important if you live in a large, polluted city) I would suggest getting some fresh country air as often as you can.
REF: Harvard Health Publications. (2006, November). Recognizing the mind-skin connection. Retrieved from Harvard Medical School: Link