Have you ever suffered an acne flare-up on the eve of a big test or an important job interview? You may have chalked it up to bad luck, but there is a connection between acne and increased stress levels.
It's not surprising, then, to learn that there is a relationship between acne and anxiety disorders where each condition effectively feeds off each other in a vicious cycle.
What is an anxiety disorder?
A certain amount of stress in everyday life is only natural. In fact, stress is one of the factors that actually drive improved performance levels. Anxiety disorders are present when stress, worry and fear do not diminish and often times escalate over time.
Anxiety disorders fall into three categories:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a constant level of stress that accompanies even the simplest daily activities. People with GAD often have difficulty concentrating and suffer from insomnia.
- Panic Disorder involves sudden attacks of fear that continue for several minutes. A person suffering a panic attack has a feeling of impending disaster and usually experiences physical symptoms like a pounding heart, upset stomach and dizziness.
- Social Phobia is an exaggerated fear of appearing inferior or inadequate to others. If a person has Social Phobia, she or he finds it hard to perform normal activities like eating in a restaurant, which usually results in a general avoidance of social situations.
Effects of stress on acne
Pimples are a result of clogged hair follicles that occur when an oil-like substance called sebum mixes with dead skin cells and bacteria to create a blockage. The cells that produce sebum have receptors for stress hormones, so they go into overdrive when hormone levels increase. The aggravating influence of stress on acne had been long suspected, but research over the last 15 years has demonstrated a clear link.
The two-way street of acne and anxiety disorders
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you're dealing with greater levels of stress than most people. With stress hormones working overtime, your skin will produce larger amounts of sebum, which in turn leads to increased breakouts.
The cycle intensifies when the frustration and unhappiness of dealing with acne raises your levels of stress even further. Some people develop a condition called acne excoriee, when compulsive picking at blemishes becomes an obsession that leads to damage and acne scarring.
Treating acne and anxiety disorders
While there is a definite connection between acne and anxiety disorders, they are two distinct and separate conditions. If you do have an anxiety disorder, it's important to get professional help and learn how to treat the disorder, but addressing your stress does not by itself relieve your acne. Preventing acne requires the consistent application of an effective skin-care treatment, anxiety disorder or not.
Acne plus an anxiety disorder might feel like a double-whammy, but you don't have to suffer helplessly. You can take a proactive approach to successfully dealing with both situations.