Psychodermatology: The Mental Connection To Physical Appearance

Did you know a strong connection exists between our minds and bodies? Here's everything you need to know about psychodermatology.
Studio portrait of graceful mature blonde woman with perfect glowing skin and natural makeup looking aside with a smile, posing naked isolated over beige background. Self acceptance, beauty concept

Some days you can look in the mirror and think, “I’ve got it all together today! I look good, I feel good, I’m having a good hair day, and my skin is glowing.” Funny then how the next day you can wake up, take one look, and walk away in disgust of yourself. How could so much have changed in one day? Can you possibly be an entirely different version of yourself from one day to the next, or is your mind playing tricks on you? If you’ve lived life at all, you’re keenly aware that there is a mental connection to physical appearance. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, it can change your entire perspective of yourself, possibly even your self-worth. Your self-perception can alter the outcome of your day or affect you for weeks, months, or years.

It seems reasonable that if you’re having a bad hair day or have a blemish on your face, you might feel more negatively about yourself throughout the day. The things we deem being less than ideal about our appearance can play into our insecurities, but is there truly a connection between the mind and our outward appearance? Can our perception of ourselves, or how our mind interacts with our body, cause hurt or healing?

Psychodermatology: The Connection Between Mind and Skin Disorders

Woman with a rash on her elbow

Psychodermatology is the treatment of skin disorders using psychological and psychiatric techniques by addressing the interaction between the mind and the skin. For example, in high school, I had a friend who broke out into hives when she became stressed about something. These were huge, red welts that formed from head to toe. Watching this happen right in front of me was my first experience watching a person whose state of mind had an immediate, adverse effect on their body. There are also examples of the mind’s connection to other skin diseases because they’re made worse by emotional stress. Examples of those are atopic dermatitis, acne, perioral dermatitis, psoriasis, and hyperhidrosis. Studies show that these conditions often worsen when a person is under stress.

Psychophysiology: Connection Between Mind and Body Disorders

Sick, nausea, stomach ache

Have you ever been nervous about a presentation you’re about to make in front of a group of people, and suddenly you must go to the bathroom urgently? Your whole digestive system and stomach can get completely messed up due to this kind of adrenaline-inducing stress. Whether or not you’ve realized it, if you’ve had this happen, you have been the subject of a psychophysiological disorder. Some other examples of this would be migraine headaches, tension headaches, ulcers, irritable bowel, and insomnia. Your psychological state can either cause physical symptoms or be a culprit in making physical symptoms worse.

Your Mind Has The Power To Hurt Or Heal You

woman working out

Studies have determined that there are physical disorders or diseases whose symptoms are brought on or worsened by stress and emotional factors. Knowing that there is a direct connection between psychological distress making physical problems worse, how can we control our environment and control stress to heal our bodies? It may seem like a simple solution, but what can be done to reduce or control stress if a negative or stressed state of mind contributes to painful symptoms?

Stress Control Strategies

Here are some practical things that you can weave into your daily routine to control stress and change how your body responds to it:

  • Physical movement. Go on a walk or run, lift weights, ride a bike, and briskly clean the house. Just get moving!
  • Turn off sensationalized, negative news. Relax on the couch and turn on a funny show. Even better, get out with friends and share funny or lighthearted stories. Laughter is healing.
  • Get together with friends. Human connection is crucial to health and healing. If the people in your life are bringing you negativity, go out of your way to connect and make plans with positive, healthy people.
  • Quality sleep is necessary for a healthy mind and body. If you aren’t getting quality, restorative sleep, take action steps to improve your sleep, even if it means talking to your doctor about it.
  • Healthy diet. It might seem too easy or maybe even seems like a letdown to stop eating your favorite unhealthy foods. However, if you’re constantly eating junk, you’re not doing yourself any favors. A lousy diet will affect your mind, body, and physical appearance.

While you can’t always control your reaction to personal stress or a stressful environment, there is a lot that you can do that’s proactive. When you have a series of healthy habits and coping strategies, your body is less likely to react negatively to stress. A healthier diet, more laughter, and positive friendships might help you avoid repeated migraines or constant skin breakouts. Your mind is truly a powerful tool that can be used to your advantage in long-term health and well-being.

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