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Stress, Skin Disease, and Quality of Life

Br J Dermatol; ePub 2017 Oct 27; Dixon, et al

Stress was linked to skin disease-related emotional and functional impairment associated with skin disease among individuals with high anxiety sensitivity (AS) social concerns, a recent study found. AS often manifests as the propensity to respond fearfully to anxiety-related sensations (eg, sweating, flushing) due to perceived social consequences (eg, rejection or humiliation). The results of this investigation highlight the potential for AS reduction interventions to break the vicious cycle of stress and skin disease symptoms and to improve psychosocial well-being in dermatology patients. Participants (n=237; 161 female; mean age=34.18, SD age=9.57) with active skin disease symptoms were recruited online and completed questionnaires assessing stress, AS social concerns, skin disease quality of life, and global skin disease symptom severity.

Researchers found:

  • AS social concerns moderated the association between stress and skin-related emotional and social functioning in adults with skin disease.
  • Stress was a significant predictor of the impairment associated with skin disease.


Dixon LJ, Witcraft SM, McCowan NK, Brodell RT. Stress and skin disease quality of life: The moderating role of anxiety sensitivity social concerns. [Published online ahead of print October 27, 2017]. Br J Dermatol. doi:10.1111/bjd.16082.


Stress can be associated with flares of various dermatologic diseases, including acne, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis. Suffering from these dermatoses can lead to high anxiety sensitivity (AS) concerns and functional and emotional impairment related to the social consequences of the symptoms and clinical presentations. Interventions to reduce AS may improve psychological symptoms and break the cycle of stress leading to flares, as well as subsequent worsening of stress. These may improve disease symptom severity, psychological well being, and subsequent quality of life. The importance of helping our patients with psychological and medical interventions should not be overlooked; research has always supported this modality in improving patients’ response to therapy and faster recovery in all facets of medicine, especially dermatology.

—Diane S. Berson, MD, FAAD

Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, NY
Assistant Attending Dermatologist, New-York Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY

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