Acne is something most of us will deal at one point or another in our lives. Whether it be a pre-teen hormonal breakout, or late onset adult acne- the side effects experienced are typically pretty similar. Pustules, pimples, under the skin bumps, redness, irritation, and scarring; acne is a physically painful skin disease to go through. We all know that. But what about the emotional side effects?
The blatant stares, unwanted product suggestions, and shame from family members or friends can be just as equally as damaging. Emotionally, acne is considered one of the hardest diseases to deal with, yet no one talks about how painful the psychological side effects are. Increased depression, social anxiety, poor self-image, low quality of life, and poor self-esteem are four of the most common side effects acne sufferers deal with on a short term and long-term basis.
We’ve all had a blue spell or two where we didn’t feel our best. But if you’re consistently withdrawing from friends or family, have trouble sleeping, are tired every day, have poor performance in school and work, and have noticed you have a sudden change in mood- you could be suffering with depression. Staying home from important events like a best friend’s birthday or a big date because of your skin may very well be linked to both depression and social anxiety. Although this is fairly common with acne sufferers, if you find yourself just feeling “not like you”, it may be time to talk with a professional that can help.
What to Do: To treat depression brought on by acne it’s important to treat both the acne and the depression. If you’re acne doesn’t respond to over the counter treatments, it may be time to book a visit to the dermatologist. A psychiatrist or other mental health professional can help you deal with your depression and any other mental health issues that may be brought on by acne.
Anxiety (Most Commonly Social Anxiety)
You know that feeling of tightness in your chest, unable to catch your breath (like the wind has been knocked out of you), excessively worrying, racing thoughts, and the inability to concentrate? Well, there’s a name for all of that, and it’s my dear little friend called anxiety.
Most acne sufferers experience some level of social anxiety; afraid of judgement by their peers and avoiding activities that may bring attention to their breakouts. For example, an irrational fear of swimming because it may wash away their makeup or inability to sleep over at a friend’s house due to the fear of washing their face and exposing their skin.
Other people may feel anxious about current societal ideals that revolve around perfect skin and beauty. Dealing with persistent breakouts and not living up to this standard can cause excessive worrying about one’s appearance as well as poor self-esteem and self-image.
What to do: If you’re feeling anxious make sure to take a few deep breaths and try to relax. For some people, limiting alcohol and caffeine can help manage anxiety symptoms, as well as changing up your daily life habits- like exercising and getting enough sleep. If you are having frequent anxiety or panic attacks it may be time to talk to a mental health professional who can help.
Low Quality Of Life/ Constriction Of Activities
Those with acne tend to live a lower quality of life when they let their skin condition get in the way. More times than not, when dealing with a breakout, anxiety kicks in and can lead to a constriction of activities. Missing school or work, skipping hanging out with friends or a big date, difficulty succeeding in the workforce due to confidence issues, social phobia, and even becoming hesitant to start new relationships with others due to fear of mocking are a few different anxieties that can negatively affect someone’s QOL.
All of these things can affect an acne sufferer's quality of life, or how much they enjoy life and feel satisfied with their wellbeing. Anxiety, depression, and constriction of activities can deeply affect one's quality of life.
What to do: Don’t let acne stand in your way! Make a promise to yourself that you will go on that date or go out with friends- regardless of what your skin looks like! Don’t miss out on social events, and work on boosting your confidence by keeping eye contact when you talk with people. Another great way to improve your QOL is by making new friends. Improving your quality of life all starts with improving your view on acne and building a positive, loving relationship with yourself.
It’s no surprise that having acne can lead to a lack of self-confidence, which can have a serious impact on your self-esteem (how you view yourself). You may feel that because of your acne you are less than or not worthy compared to those who have clear skin. You might even negative-self talk yourself when you feel bad about your skin.
What to do: The best way to deal with poor self-esteem or self-image starts by changing your mindset. Silence your inner critic and have compassion for yourself while you deal with breakouts. Instead of telling yourself you aren’t good enough, show yourself kindness and remember that everyone struggles with things that make them feel insecure. Work on building up your self-esteem by focusing on other things you are confident about- whether that be cooking, painting, gardening, or work!
Although it might be frightening for some, it may even be helpful to run errands or go outside without makeup. You’ll quickly see that no one else is bothered by your skin (like you might think) and you’ll be able to build self-confidence regardless of the quality of your skin. You’ll see both that your skin doesn’t define you and that there’s nothing to be afraid of.
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