Matt Traube, MFT

Healthy Mind, Healthy Skin

Skin Problems and Depression

Dealing with skin issues and depression can feel unmanageable.

Posted Jun 27, 2017

Dealing with skin conditions can be challenging, but dealing with the combination of skin conditions and depression can feel unmanageable.  Skin issues, like depression, can often make people feel sad, anxious, irritable, and hesitant to socialize with others.  When you are experiencing skin issues and depression simultaneously, the negative emotional feelings that can accompany both conditions often work together against you. 

Having had the opportunity of working with many people in private practice, I have noticed that certain types of thinking patterns evolve over time.  Everyone experiences negative thinking at times and how we address this is crucial.   If we let untrue thoughts become routine thinking patterns, then gradually we will mistake them for reality.

During depressive episodes cognitive distortions can occur.  Distorted thinking can cause intense emotional discomfort.  Have you ever tried to do a great job at something, didn’t do as well as you were hoping and thought to yourself that you were a failure and always mess things up?  Have you ever obsessed over one quality that you dislike about yourself and gradually convinced yourself that it’s not just that one quality you dislike, but you really dislike everything about who you are?  These are examples of cognitive distortions, incorrect thinking.  When these thoughts remain uncorrected and you believe that they are true, the emotional toll can be immense.   

Similar to depression, skin issues can mislead your brain into thinking you have larger problems than you actually do.  Have you ever obsessed about your skin and gradually determined that because your skin will never be perfect, somehow you will always be a failure?  Have you ever thought someone disliked you because of your skin imperfections and decided you will never find true love because of your skin problems?  Skin issues can cause faulty thinking and when faulty thinking is not addressed, it can lead to thinking patterns that are false.

The tricky part is knowing how to identify when your thinking is not accurate.  Imagine you wake up in the morning and think you cannot leave your home today because your skin looks awful and no one wants to be around you when you feel bad about yourself.  The message is clear, but is it correct?  Here is a quick strategy to help you sidestep this potential mental trap.  Imagine that one of your closest friends was telling you she could not leave the house today because she has terrible acne.  Most people can immediately see that her thinking is flawed and too self-critical.  We have a tendency to be harsher critics to ourselves than to others.  By changing the context, we allow ourselves to escape our harshest critic, ourselves.

Whether you find yourself experiencing negative thinking as a result of skin issues, depression, or a combination of the two, practice evaluating the accuracy of your negative thoughts.  By identifying and questioning these unhealthy thoughts, we give ourselves the opportunity to revise our thinking and create a positive reframe that allows us to venture out and engage with the world.  Over time you can create a mindset that prepares you to manage the negative thinking that can be caused by skin issues and depression.

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