Douglas Della Toffalo, Harvard Medical School Skin Psychologist Offers a Quick Quiz<br><br><p>Emotional factors can trigger skin problems, or they may worsen
symptoms. While heredity, bacteria, viruses, hormones, and chemical
irritants play a clear role in many skin problems, mind and body always
do an intricate dance together. If your skin condition doesn't seem to
be improving, it may be time to determine the role that emotions are
playing in your acne, psoriasis, rosacea, or whatever skin condition
you're experiencing.</p><p>How important is the emotional factor in your illness?</p><p>Ask yourself:</p><p>1. Do your symptoms get worse--or better--with emotional turmoil?</p><p>2. Is your condition more stubborn, severe, or recurrent than your doctor expects?
</p><p>3. Are usually effective treatments not working for you?</p><p>4. Do most treatments work but not for long?</p><p>5. Is each disappearing symptom quickly replaced with another?</p><p>6. Do your symptoms get better or worse in a very erratic, seemingly nonsensical way?
Do you see striking ups and downs in your symptoms with changes in your
social environment: vacations, hospitalizations, business trips, or the
comings of family members or bosses?</p><p>8. Do people find you strikingly stoic, unruffled, or computer like in the face of stressful life events?</p><p>9. Is your level of distress and concern about your problem strikingly high or conspicuously absent?
</p><p>10. Is your skin worse in the morning, suggesting that you rub or scratch unintentionally at night?</p><p>11. Do you have trouble following your health care provider's instructions?</p><p>12.
Do you do things you know will hurt your skin, such as picking or
scratching, squeezing pimples, or overexposing yourself to sunlight?</p><p>13.
Do you feel excessively dependent on your dermatologist or excessively
angry with him or her? (Even if the faults are real, are you
overreacting?)</p><p>14. Does it seem that others notice improvements
in your skin before you do? Is it hard for you to acknowledge when your
skin has improved?</p><p>The more of these questions you answered
positively, the more likely you can helped by such psychological tools
as relaxation, imaging, focused psychotherapy, biofeedback, and
hypnosis and self-hypnosis. There is a substantial body of research,
including many well-controlled studies, documenting how helpful these
techniques can be. Mainstream doctors are more and more receptive as
the newer research documents not only these tools' effectiveness, but
the specific physiological mechanism that allow the techniques to work.
Enhanced bloodflow, various immune system mechanisms, and stress
hormones are often involved.</p><p>Emotional stress can keep the most
effective medical treatment from working. Yet the same mind-body link,
when it is working FOR you, can produce dramatic improvements.</p><p>SIDEBAR:</p><p>Which problems are psychological techniques most effective for?</p><p>- acne<br>
- allergies of the skin<br>
- alopecia <br>
- canker sores <br>
- eczema <br>
- herpes (oral and genital) <br>
- hives <br>
- pain <br>
- picking <br>
- rosacea <br>
- scratching <br>
- shingles <br>
- vitiligo <br>