Your question: Why do I feel anxious about my acne?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. Through this blog, I would like to talk about the feeling of anxiety related to acne, which I understand can be very upsetting and overwhelming with your own body image, and give you some strategies to deal with that feeling.

Approximately 9.4% of the world’s population suffers from acne (1), a medical condition of the pilosebaceous units, which mainly affects the face and upper trunk. Its prevalence is highest in adolescence, where the individual counteracts various psychosocial changes. People with acne tend to experience depression and anxiety for various reasons.

Although the slogan is often propagated that no one should judge others by their physique, we live in a society that places excessive importance on aesthetics and the hegemony of beauty standards. Acne has social and psychological effects due to a double stigma. First, that of the person suffering from acne, who feels “ugly” and undesirable, and second, the people around them who reject them and make fun of their acne.

This occurs mainly in adolescence. Between 12 and 25 are the most common ages for acne, periods of life in which you seek to socialize and interact with others, and the perception of others about your image becomes important. Not fitting into what society considers “beautiful” generates anxiety and distress, because it gives you the feeling of isolation and misunderstanding.

Does anxiety make your acne worse?

Anxiety itself does not cause acne, but it can make it worse. This is because during episodes of anxiety and chronic stress, your body increases the production of oil and hormones (2) which aggravates acne. Anxiety is psychosomatic, which means that you experience emotional and physical symptoms. Our body becomes dysregulated when you are anxious, and unpleasant sensations are inevitable.

Likewise, there is a correlation between having acne and having anxiety problems. A 2010 study (3) showed that people with acne are almost twice as likely to feel anxiety and depression as people who do not have acne. Some people with acne may develop social anxiety disorder due to fear of rejection by others.

What can you do?

While it is true that acne can and should be treated medically when it is excessive, in most cases, the approach should be related to working on the self-esteem and body image of the person suffering from acne. Therefore, it is important that you first work on your anxious thoughts related to acne, and build security around your body image so that others’ comments about acne do not affect your emotions as much. Here are some things I recommend you do:

Get used to your image

Many people with acne feel a rejection and dislike towards their face and body, to the point that they avoid looking at themselves in mirrors or taking pictures. Habituating your brain to something is always the first step to make changes in life. Don’t reject mirrors and take pictures of yourself, you can do it in private, look closely at your image, it will habituate you to your body.

Keep a record of your anxiety episodes

In a diary you can write in your daily life what are the situations or people that cause the most anxiety in your life. In addition, you can record how intense a particular anxiety episode is (from 1 to 10), since not all have the same intensity. This way, when you start making changes, you will notice that the number of anxiety intensity will decrease.

Say helpful things to yourself

You must work on the voice in your head that is used to telling you negative things about yourself and your body image. Acne does not make you ugly or disgusting, it does not define you as a person, and it has medical treatments that you can resort to in order to diminish it in time. These are phrases that you can repeat to yourself mentally to calm the anguish that acne generates.

Choose your friends carefully

Bullies are annoying, they will always find something to pick on you for. Whether we are teenagers or adults, bullies will be present in your life, and you may not always be able to deal with them the way you would like to. Therefore, the best thing you can do for your mental health is to surround yourself with people who bring happiness to your lives, and who will not judge you for something as trivial as acne.

In my experience…

It is important not to self-medicate. Reading alternative remedies on the Internet to cure acne almost always has negative consequences. It is best to see a dermatologist who will prescribe a special treatment for your type of acne. Trying to control anxiety levels can help reduce acne.

I hope that with these suggestions you can improve. I recognize and applaud you for seeking professional counseling, because it shows that you want to feel better and you are on the right path to change the things that make you feel bad. I believe that you have the capacity to improve, although sometimes your mind makes you believe that you have no solution. Apply the techniques at your own pace and I am confident that you will gradually improve. It was a pleasure to write to you. 

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