Is There a Scientific Link Between Acne and Depression?
Have you been feeling under the weather lately? You’re not alone: According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. In 2016 alone, 16.2 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. While depression can be caused by a whole list of triggers and factors, there’s a newfound link that most of us probably didn’t think about: acne.
The truth is in the science: a recent study out of the British Journal of Dermatology found that men and women with acne have an increased risk of developing depression. Over the 15-year study period—which tracked the health of nearly 2 million people in the U.K.—the probability of patients with acne developing depression was 18.5 percent, and 12 percent in those without. While the reason behind these findings is unclear, it shows that acne is much more than skin deep.
Ask The Expert: Can Acne Cause Depression?
The Link Between Our Skin and Mental Health
Dr. Schmid wasn’t surprised by the study’s findings, agreeing that our pimples can have a big impact on our mental health, especially during our teenage years. “In the teenage years, self-esteem is deeply connected to appearance before one can even realize it,” he says. “These underlying insecurities often carry into adult years.”
Dr. Schmid also noted that he has seen acne sufferers struggle from a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety. “If one is suffering from frequent mild to moderate or severe breakouts, it may affect how he or she handles themselves in social situations,” he said. “I have clinically observed that they suffer not only physically but emotionally, and may harbor deep feelings of anxiety, fear, depression, insecurity, and more.”
The Acne Positivity Movement
On the one hand, acne for many people is a sensitive and very personal subject. Some choose to hide their faces in public or camouflage blemishes with high-coverage makeup. On the other hand, scores of teens and adults around the globe are boldly posting pictures of their unedited, blemished skin on social media.
While Dr. Schmid is in favor of embracing your skin, he also believes that showing yourself true love is through taking care of your skin properly, rather than fully neglecting it. “Depending upon how the message is articulated, celebrities and influencers who ‘embrace’ their breakouts as a normal part of life may send a positive message to those who suffer,” he says. “However, the reality is that many individuals afflicted with acne carry a tremendous physical and mental burden. If left unaddressed, acne can perpetuate and result in permanent facial and body scars and possibly serious emotional wounds.”
Dr. Schmid’s Acne Care Tips
It’s important to make the distinction between embracing your perceived skin “flaws” and caring for your skin. You can embrace your acne—meaning you won’t go out of your way to hide it from the public or pretend it’s not there—but that doesn’t mean you should neglect a proper skin care routine to help keep blemishes at bay. Those who wish to address their acne when it crops up—especially if it causes mental distress—have the resources and products to do so. Here’s how.
Educate Yourself On Acne
The first step to improving the appearance of your acne? Build up your acne education. “Parents of teens and those who deal with adult acne should be educated on the underlying cause of their acne, be that hormonal shifts, genetic predisposition, lifestyle, habits and diet,” Dr. Schmid says. “Modifications in lifestyle and habits may help to improve one’s skin appearance and lessen the frequency of breakouts.”
Dr. Schmid also recommends driving education about proper skin care tactics as early as possible for a healthier looking complexion. “It is important for parents to teach good habits for skin beginning in childhood,” he says. “Children and teens who develop the habit of washing their faces with a quality product may help prevent some of these unwanted breakouts. Furthermore, these good habits tend to carry into the adult years and foster overall better looking skin.”