MENTAL HEALTH WITH ATOPIC DERMATITIS

“It’s a changeable journey and one minute you could be feeling like the Queen of England, the next you’re not. At the end of the day it’s all about self-love and care.”

“A key challenge for people living with eczema is the effect it can have on your mental well-being. Anxiety and stress are common triggers that can cause eczema to flare-up, which often results in a vicious cycle where the flare-up itself subsequently causes more stress. Eczema can also impact other aspects of your life, from an inability to work, stigma from colleagues or at school, or simply a lack of understanding and support from your family and peers. All these factors can have a marked effect on your mental health.


MENTAL HEALTH1

“She gets anxious; like if she’s walking round the shops she’ll get anxious because she’ll think somebody’s looking at her.”

- (Partner of atopic dermatitis patient),1

MENTAL HEALTH TOP TIPS

  1. Everybody is different, so find out what works for you.
  2. Write a list of your positive attributes; your skin doesn’t define who you are.
  3. Meditation, yoga or breathing exercises can help you rebalance your thoughts and feelings.
  4. Use your support networks – your friends and family are there to help and it’s harder to do this alone.
  5. Focus on having a positive mind-set and setting objectives to help you overcome your challenges, rather than becoming overwhelmed by them.
  6. Consider trying cognitive behavioural therapy – a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.

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ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

Three adults in their 20s, Amara, Aramide and Zainab, were interviewed to give their experiences of living with eczema.

That’s where life hacks comes in. We’ve compiled real life hacks from real people, which they use day to day to manage their AD, keeping the itching at bay and helping to interrupt the itch-scratch cycle.

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"In the past, living with a visible skin difference made me feel unnecessarily self-conscious."
— Aramide

Zainab recounted how as a child, she felt the insults more deeply:

“I have been called a lot of names that have reptile connotations. At the time, it seems like a big deal when someone calls you a name. But when you’re young you can’t see ahead – you’re stuck in the moment."

She acknowledged that the comments hurt, but wanted to remind others that with time things can and do get better, saying:

"In the grand scheme of things, you realise that your skin is such a small part of you. If [the bullies are] focussing on that then they miss all the other great things about you."
— Zainab

It’s not just bullying that can affect your mental health, but by staying calm and stepping outside the situation you can gain control of your reaction to adverse events.

Aramide’s experience of travelling alone is an excellent example of this:

“In preparation for travelling, I put all my emollients and tablets in a small box, however when I went to get them after landing, I found that the cream had spilt over the tablets, making them unusable. I immediately had a meltdown in the airport.”

“I called my mum and sobbed uncontrollably down the phone. But I soon calmed myself down and realised that I was victimising myself. I was adamant that this experience wouldn’t break me, and so it didn’t. I think mind-set is really important with these things.”

While these experiences are understandably negative, Aramide, Amara and Zainab all stressed that most eczema-related scenarios that cause anxiety and fear can be overcome.

When your body and mind are tired from the physical manifestations of eczema, it’s so important that you prioritise your mental health. More crucially still is that what works for one person may not work for someone else – so find what works for you.

“It is important to be positive about yourself, focusing on more than your looks and thinking about your personality, your hobbies, your goals and your job.”
— Aramide

For some, that may be focussing on your best features.

“I think a good coping mechanism for self-esteem is writing down your best features and actually noticing them.”
— Amara