Navigating the landscape of atopic dermatitis goes beyond managing physical symptoms, as self-stigma can affect emotional and mental health. This article explores practical strategies that patients with atopic dermatitis can use to help reduce self-stigma and improve quality of life.
- Self-stigma significantly influences feelings of depression, anxiety, and overall quality of life in individuals with atopic dermatitis.
- Self-stigma occurs most frequently in women and girls, and those who have undergone extensive treatments, those who have involvement of sensitive body areas.
- Anti-stigma interventions and social support can help mitigate the psychosocial impact of the disease.
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is more than just a skin condition. It’s a chronic disease that impacts both physical and mental wellbeing. Self-stigma, in which a person with AD internalizes stereotypes about the condition, leading to negative beliefs about oneself, plays a considerable role. Self-stigma can lead to decreased self-esteem, along with feelings of depression and anxiety, and can affect relationships and daily life, all of which have a negative impact on the quality of life of people living with AD.
Predictors of Self-Stigma
According to a study published in the journal Acta Dermato-Venereologica, understanding the factors contributing to self-stigma may be the first step in addressing them. If you’ve been through numerous treatments without success, if your AD affects sensitive body areas, or if you’re a woman (as women often face higher societal pressures regarding appearance), you may be more likely to experience self-stigma. Noticing these factors may help you make sense of your feelings and pave the way towards seeking help and implementing self-compassion practices.
Coping Strategies and Interventions
Tackling self-stigma may involve various interventions and coping strategies. Intrapersonal interventions such as cognitive behavior therapy and building coping skills and strategies to reinforce self-esteem and self-efficacy and to change attitudes, implicit beliefs, and behavior responses could also be beneficial.
Another area to explore is the effects of guilt and shame, which may often be linked to atopic dermatitis. It can be helpful to remind yourself that you are not your disease; it’s something you have, not something you are.
The Role of Social Support
Social support can also be a valuable and effective part of overcoming self-stigma. Sharing experiences, feelings, and thoughts with supportive friends, family, or professional therapists may act as a psychological buffer against self-stigma. Joining support groups, either in person or online, can also provide a sense of community and shared understanding. Remember that you are not alone in this journey, and reaching out can make a significant difference.
If you’re struggling with self-stigma due to atopic dermatitis, know that help is available. Routine screenings during dermatological visits can help you and your doctor identify related issues such as depression and anxiety at an early stage so that you can get access to appropriate care. Above all, remember to treat yourself with kindness and compassion and understand that your experience is valid and shared by many others.
Schlachter, S., Sommer, R., Augustin, M., Tsianakas, A., & Westphal, L. (2023). A Comparative Analysis of the Predictors, Extent and Impacts of Self-stigma in Patients with Psoriasis and Atopic Dermatitis. Acta Dermato-Venereologica, 103, adv3962. https://doi.org/10.2340/actadv.v103.3962