Eczema, commonly known as Atopic Eczema (AE) or Atopic Dermatitis (AD), is a disease that is associated with itchy, dry, inflamed and irritated skin. In the UK, 1 in 5 children and 1 in 12 adults are affected by AE. For some of us, eczema can have a negative impact on our emotional well-being and mental health.
How Can Eczema Affect Mental Health?
Living with eczema can prove immensely challenging for those suffering from this insidious skin condition. It can also be particularly difficult for the parents and carers of these individuals. It is very common for eczema and its symptoms to affect one’s confidence and self-esteem. For those with severe eczema, worrying about a flare-up becoming worse, on top of agonising about what others may think, can lead to anxiety. We all feel anxious at certain points in our lives, and when it’s eczema that is actively causing a feeling of unease, this can result in higher stress levels and, unfortunately, increase the risk of further disorders, including depression.
The word “stress” means different things to different people and those affected know what they believe it to be. It is therefore wise to avoid offering any definition of the word as this could prove a very effective way of increasing that person’s stress. Despite this, we must accept that it exists and the effects of stress can present as a skin rash.
Atopic Eczema: A Second-Level Condition
It is what happens with that initial skin rash that can lead to Atopic Eczema, which is best seen as a second-level condition. Normal skin is the baseline and a skin rash is the first level. The rash can be caused by stress, allergies, heat, or something else entirely. For many people, whether they have experienced eczema before or not, their instinctive reaction is to apply products to the skin rash. It is these very products, when applied to damaged skin, that induce irritant inflammation. As long as these products are being used, the inflammation will be maintained - that inflammation is the second-level condition which is called Atopic Eczema.
Dr Harley Farmer
, introduced the term “product-maintained dermatitis” to highlight that the products used to manage eczema actually maintain the dermatitis. When you stop applying these products - which may have been prescribed by a doctor, developed by a well-known brand and even labelled as eczema treatment - there is nothing to maintain the dermatitis and the skin can heal itself, as it is prone to do.
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