Psychodermatology Overview


Psychodermatologists approach treating skin disorders by examining the mind's response to environmental stressors such as work, family and relationships and how these stressors affect your skin. A psychodermatologist's role is to help you discover the underlying emotional factors contributing to your skin condition and to help you learn how to manage this stress in a way that will enable your skin to heal quickly.

"Derm shrinks" or "skin shrinks" sometimes prescribe relaxation and meditation, often in addition to traditional medications, as a way to care for the skin [source: Mapes]. Other alternative treatments range from common exercise and Eastern practices like yoga and tai chi to lesser known techniques such as self-hypnosis or biofeedback. Hypnosis and biofeedback -- real-time measurements of physiological responses to help patients gain awareness to their bodies' functions -- are methods that focus on mentally preparing yourself to heal. These techniques may include relaxing and imagining peaceful locations or mentally walking through the healing process and visualizing the positive end result. Some psychodermatologists also prescribe therapy or anti-anxiety medications to help deal with certain conditions.

The effectiveness of psychodermatology has not been universally refuted or accepted by the medical community. However, many psychodermatologists report positive results that suggest a link between mental stress and skin conditions. If you suffer from a dermatological disorder that seems to grow exponentially under stress, you may want to explore this field a little further.

Read on to find a lot more information about treating skin conditions.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Feeling Stressed? How your skin, hair and nails can show it." Science Daily. November 12, 2007. (Accessed 7/28/09).
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Psychodermatology Fact Sheet." November 2008. (Accessed 7/28/09).
  • Jafferany, Mohammad. "Psychodermatology: A Guide to Understanding Psychocutaneous Disorders." The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. v.9, no.3. September 9, 2006. (Accessed 7/28/09).
  • Koo, John, MD and Andy Lebwohl, MD. "Psychodermatology: The Mind and Skin Connection." American Family Physician. December 1, 2001. (Accessed 7/29/09)
  • Mapes, Diane. "Does your skin need a shrink?" MSNBC. February 12, 2007. (Accessed 7/28/09).
  • National Eczema Association. "Can Psychodermatology Help Your Eczema?" April 3, 2009. (Accessed 7/29/09).
  • Singer, Natasha. “If You Think It, It Will Clear.” The New York Times. July 28, 2005. (Accessed 7/28/09)
  • Wechsler, Amy. "Stress and Your Skin." Parade. October 10, 2007. (Accessed 7/28/09).