Study finds link - skin and depression
By Dave Yasvinski
A study recently completed by a Western professor has highlighted a connection between skin disorders and suicidal thoughts.
The study, conducted over five years by psychiatry professor Madhulika Gupta, examined patients with mild to moderate acne and those with psoriasis.
Her study concluded adolescents with acne have thoughts of depression and suicide comparable to older patients with psoriasis. She explained while a person in their 40s may be able to adjust to changes in appearance, even a few pimples can be devastating for some younger patients.
One of the implications of this study is acne may be a more serious condition than was previously thought. "Anyone treating a patient with mild to moderate acne should not take it lightly," Gupta said. If a person is overly focused on the condition of their skin, this could be a sign of underlying psychological problems, she added.
Gupta said she was surprised at her findings because she did not realize acne problems could be serious enough for high suicide thinking.
Patrick McElgunn, past vice-president for the Canadian Dermatology Association, said he has seen a lot of psychiatric problems related to acne symptoms. "There is definitely an emotional impact. If you have something that affects your appearance, it can be blown out of proportion."
He added he is not surprised some adolescents become as depressed as older adults with psoriasis, because some teenagers tend to be overly dramatic. "I'm not surprised with the correlation both have. [These skin conditions] have a tremendous effect on the psyche."
Judy Misner, founder and president of the Psoriasis Society of Canada, said she found the findings surprising. "Acne you can outgrow. There is no cure with psoriasis."
She said she is well aware of how devastating the psychological effects of psoriasis can be. "People with psoriasis have many, many suicidal thoughts. It's more serious than people think it is."
Misner said it has been her experience that once people come to terms with the fact they have psoriasis, depression and thoughts of suicide decrease. "Once people accept it, they are better able to cope."
Gupta said she hopes to do a follow up study, to see how depressed and suicidal thoughts resulting from skin conditions vary with treatment.