Acne’s Mental Toll
Most people, especially during adolescence and young adulthood, break out with pimples from time to time. It might even be considered a growing up rite of passage. But for some, it is more than just an occasional whitehead to cover up. There are individuals who end up with quite a bit of acne that may not respond well to treatment. Anyone who has dealt with problem skin knows it can hurt your self-esteem, and new research suggests that it might take a serious psychological toll as well.
The study, which was conducted at the University of Calgary in Canada, found that individuals who have acne have a considerably increased risk of developing depression for the first several years of their skin problems.1 These results were based on data compiled on 134,427 British men and women who had acne and another 1,731,608 who did not.
At the start of the investigation, the subjects ranged in age from seven to 50, but the majority were teenagers. They were tracked for 15 years, during which time the researchers calculated that the risk of major depressive disorder was 18.5 percent in those dealing with acne, compared to 12 percent in those without acne. Major depressive disorder is characterized by loss of interest in most normal daily activities, feelings of sadness or hopelessness, changes in appetite, and lack of energy.
Acne did not strike participants equally across the board. It was more common among those who were younger, female, and in higher income brackets. Living cleanly didn’t appear to help, as the volunteers with acne were less likely to smoke, drink alcohol, or be obese. The findings remained consistent even after the researchers controlled for all of these potentially influential factors.
The data showed that the higher risk of depression lasted for five years after the diagnosis was made. Not surprisingly, the chance of developing depression was greatest within the first year of diagnosis. During that period, people with acne were found to face a 63 percent higher risk of depression than their counterparts who had not been breaking out.
While the study did not delve into why people with acne were so much more likely to become depressed, it is not difficult to come up with some possible reasons. For most of us, how we look is very much tied into our perception of who we are. We may be quick to throw on a hat when having a bad hair day, but acne is harder to disguise. When it is pervasive, acne can’t readily be covered up with makeup, which can lead to feelings of despair and self-loathing.
A 2016 study at Aarhus University in Denmark showed that feeling unattractive impacts psychological well-being and is associated with greater levels of distress and depression.2 And depression is hardly uncommon, especially in younger people. It is estimated that 3.1 million adolescents—or nearly 13 percent of the United States population between the ages of 12 and 17—have experienced depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. This is not to say that all or even most of these individuals suffered from acne, but it’s a good reminder that there can be many factors that affect our mental health.
Then again, it’s probably worth mentioning that acne is at least partially connected to changes in the level of androgenic hormones, and changes in hormone levels can directly impact mood.
How To Naturally Prevent Acne?
If you or someone you love has acne, consider some natural options to help resolve it rather than turning to the shelves of treatment products in drug stores or pharmaceutical medications prescribed by dermatologists. It’s essential to keep your skin clean, and topical liquid olive leaf extract and echinacea extract can help control bacteria. Immune boosters and pathogen destroyers are useful in fighting bacteria systemically. And supplementing with vitamin A, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the inflammation that is a hallmark of acne. You may consider eliminating dairy since it contains IGF-1 hormones and causes your skin to produce excess sebum (oil) which both contribute to acne. And you also might want to consider some natural hormone balancers to help even out the swings in testosterone levels common in adolescence. To learn more about how acne develops and how you can prevent it, read Acne, Pimples, Blackheads & Bacteria.
- 1. Vallerand, I.A.; et al. "Risk of depression among patients with acne in the U.K.: a population-based cohort study." British Journal of Dermatology. 7 February 2018. Accessed 14 February 2018. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bjd.16099/abstract.
- 2. Gupta, Nabanita Datta; et al. "Beauty in Mind: The Effects of Physical Attractiveness on Psychological Well-Being and Distress." Journal of Happiness Studies. March 2016. Accessed 15 February 2018. https://www.springerprofessional.de/en/beauty-in-mind-the-effects-of-physical-attractiveness-on-psychol/5546318.