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June 24, 2024

PTSD Can Affect Skin Health

The Silent Impact: Understanding How PTSD Can Affect Skin Health

by Shayla Loren

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can cast a shadow on various aspects of a person’s life. While the psychological toll is well-documented, there’s a lesser-known impact that often goes unnoticed – the effect of PTSD on skin health. The intricate connection between the mind and the skin becomes particularly evident in individuals grappling with the aftermath of trauma. Skin, the body’s largest organ, is not merely a physical barrier but a reflection of internal well-being. The intricate interplay between the nervous system and the skin can become disrupted in those dealing with PTSD, leading to a range of skin issues that can exacerbate the challenges these individuals face. This being said, it is helpful to be aware that these symptoms may or may not be evidence of PTSD or occur in all persons with PTSD. I do not encourage self-diagnosis. The following information is for awareness purposes for consumers and estheticians who may want to explore other possibilities for treatments if they have had trouble finding skincare solutions. I wish to shed new light on other possibilities regarding where certain skin conditions may be rooted.

1. Stress-Induced Inflammation:

PTSD triggers a heightened state of chronic stress and can induce a constant state of fight-or-flight, releasing an influx of stress hormones like cortisol. Being stuck in a continuous fight-or-flight state can distract the body from attending to other co-occurring issues. Elevated cortisol levels, over time, can lead to increased inflammation

throughout the body, including the skin. This inflammation may manifest as redness, itching, or exacerbate skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.

2. Compromised Immune Function:

Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections and delaying This compromised immunity can contribute to slower recovery from skin injuries and wounds or even exacerbate conditions like acne. Autoimmune disorders may also be present.

3.  Altered Skin Barrier Function:

 The skin acts as a protective barrier against environmental pollutants and allergens. However, chronic stress can disrupt the skin’s barrier function, making it more vulnerable to external irritants. This may lead to heightened sensitivity, increased dryness, or the onset of conditions like rosacea.

4.  Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms:

Individuals dealing with PTSD may resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption. These habits impact overall health and can adversely affect the skin, contributing to premature aging and a dull complexion. Alcohol consumption and substance use can cause asphyxiated skin, which lacks oxygen and becomes more prone to acne problems and dehydration. It is important to remember that if you or someone you know is coping in these ways, to address the problem and get the appropriate help for that individual’s mental health.

5.  Skin-Picking and Self-Harm:

 A significant and often overlooked aspect of the skin-PTSD relationship is the development of dermatillomania, a skin-picking disorder. Individuals may unconsciously engage in skin-picking as a way to cope with anxiety or distress, leading to wounds, scars, and potential infections.

6.  Impact on Appearance and Self-Esteem:

 Skin issues resulting from PTSD can further impact an individual’s self-esteem and body image. Visible manifestations on the skin may serve as constant reminders of trauma, intensifying feelings of shame and anxiety. Self-esteem issues may result, and the impacts are different for every person.

Addressing the Intersection of PTSD and Skin Health:

Understanding the complex interplay between PTSD and skin health underscores the importance of a holistic approach to treatment. Mental health interventions, such as therapy and medication, may address the root causes of PTSD, alleviating the impact on skin health. PTSD does not guarantee you will experience these symptoms. PTSD is a complicated condition. It cannot be placed into a singular category or be diagnosed based on one opinion. Adopting a skincare routine that focuses on nourishing and protecting the skin barrier can help mitigate various skin conditions that may or may not manifest from PTSD.

If someone you know is suffering from a mental health crisis or disorder, please advise them to seek assistance from a mental health practitioner. A supportive environment that acknowledges the connection between mental and skin health is helpful during healing. Skincare professionals and mental health practitioners can work collaboratively to develop tailored approaches that address both the emotional and physical aspects of healing. It is also important to note that addressing skin conditions resulting from PTSD will not address PTSD. They are separate conditions requiring attention, patience, time, and a supportive environment.

The silent impact of PTSD on skin health highlights the need for comprehensive care that considers the intricate relationship between the mind and the body. By recognizing and addressing these connections, we can pave the way for more integrated approaches to support individuals on their journey to healing from the inside out.

PTSD comes in all shapes and sizes. The type of support needed will vary depending on the individual. Symptomatic behavioral tendencies are often mistaken as root issues, and addressing only one issue may not solve the problem. Not everyone with PTSD is ready to begin the process of healing. Recovery is different for every person. If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, please see assistance. A few resources are listed below. You are not alone.

Contra Costa Crisis Center

24-hour suicide hotline; grief counseling program; suicide prevention; and more. Based in Walnut Creek.

Call 800-833-2900 #211 24-hour a day hotline http://www.crisis-center.org/ Contra Costa Mental Health Crisis Services

Phone: 888-678-7277 Community Violence Solutions

Operates a 24-hour crisis hotline that provides referrals to the Center’s individual and group counseling and sexual assault victim advocacy.

West County: Phone: 510-236-7273

Central County: Phone: 925-798-7273

East County: Phone: 925-439-7273

Rainbow Community Center: serving Contra Costa’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered communities.

Phone: 925-692-0090 http://www.rainbowcc.org/ Contra Costa Homeless Hotline

Referrals to homeless shelters in the East Bay Phone: 800-808-6444 24-hour crisis line Victim/Witness Program

Consult how victims of violence can apply for restitution from the state of California. Calls are taken Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Located in Martinez.

Phone: 800-648-0600

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