Researchers from the University of Sheffield have collated the findings of various studies on psychological interventions and their effects on a wide variety of skin conditions. Their research, published recently in the British Journal of Dermatology, show that meditation and other psychological interventions like habit reversal, cognitive behavioral therapy and arousal reduction techniques lessen the severity of many skin diseases and help significantly in alleviating distress associated with such conditions.
Using data from 22 different studies that involved about 900 subjects, the researchers looked specifically on the additional benefits patients get from psychological treatments aside from helping them cope with their ailments. Deborah Mason of the British Association of Dermatologists says that the study shows ‘for the first time that psychological interventions can also improve the physical symptoms’ of patients aside from helping them ‘deal with the emotional impact of their skin diseases.’
The onset and exacerbation of skin disorders such as psoriasis, eczema, acne and the pigment disorder vitiligo are often caused or aggravated by psychological factors such as stress. Consequently, physical symptoms of these same skin conditions are more or less alleviated by mindfulness-based meditation and other psycho-therapies. For example, habit reversal therapy that focuses on helping people deal with itching and scratching have high success rates, while changing negative thought patterns and arousal reduction techniques have medium to high efficacy on alleviating skin problems.
While recommending that more studies are needed to come up with treatments that targets specific conditions, the researchers emphasized that meditation is particularly useful for people stuck in a ‘stress– disease cycle.’ These are instances where the onset and maintenance of the skin disease is mainly due to stress, and the continuing disease in turn causes tremendous stress on the patient. Doctors have long believed that initial development and periodic flare-ups of skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema are associated with distress and trauma.