(Photo:Flickr/Dan Zen)

As stressful as it can be to manage chronic, inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, rosacea and psoriasis, dermatologists have found that worrying about them actually causes flare-ups for sufferers.

At the American Academy of Dermatology’s Summer Academy Meeting in New York last week, dermatologist and clinical psychologist Richard G. Fried said managing stress can help control outbreaks of these chronic skin conditions and that it is important for patients to consider adding stress-management techniques into their dermatological routinesalong with medicines and face washes prescribed by their doctors. Fried recommended strategies such as psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, hypnosis, tai chi, yoga, antidepressants and beta blockers as ways for patients with chronic, inflammatory skin conditions to manage stress.

In an interview with the American Academy of Dermatology, Fried said in a news release that knowing the body’s reaction to stress is key to understanding why stress management is so important in helping to reduce flare-ups of chronic, inflammatory skin conditions:

“Neuropeptides, the chemicals released by the skin’s nerve endings, are the skin’s first line of defense from infection and trauma. When responding to protect the skin, neuropeptides can create inflammation and an uncomfortable skin sensation, such as numbness, itching, sensitivity or tingling. However, Dr. Fried explained that stressful situations can cause neuropeptides to be inappropriately released, which can lead to a flare of skin conditions.

‘Until recently, it was thought that neuropeptides only stayed in the skin when they were released,’ said Dr. Fried. ‘But we now know that they travel to the brain and ultimately increase the reuptake of neurotransmitters — meaning that stress depletes the chemicals that regulate our emotions, such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. For example, when psoriasis patients feel stressed about their condition, it can aggravate their symptoms and lead to a further decline in their emotional state, which becomes a vicious cycle.'”