We all know that acne a very emotionally painful condition. It can certainly be physically painful as well, but it is usually nothing compared to the frustration, shame, and sadness that this rollercoaster of a disease can lock a person into.

Unfortunately, acne is an absolute champ at triggering some serious mental health issues – there is no question there. Most people blame their emotional problems on the acne itself, and therefore believe that as soon as the acne is gone, the depression and anxiety will go too. I believe strongly that acne may be the trigger and the justifier but not the cause of the emotional distress itself.

I believe that it comes from within and could have just as easily been triggered and justified by something else.

As a consequence of this, mental health issues can quickly get out of hand and not be realized by those expressing the symptoms. Because the blame is constantly put onto the acne, a long hard look at oneself is usually brushed aside. I’m not saying that you are to blame either, but that awareness is the first step to recovery.

The following mental health diseases can be strongly linked with acne. Most people will not have full blown versions of these, but often bits and pieces of each (which was the case with me). The purpose of this post is bring to light some disconcerting tendencies that you may not have realized you were displaying – before things start to get out of control.

  1. Depression. It’s characterized by feeling sad, unworthy, guilty, and helpless. Those with depression usually lack energy and motivation, and feel quite fatigued most of the time. They lose interest in normal activities and spending time with friends. It can also be hard to concentrate and they may have suicidal thoughts. Remember that everyone gets down sometimes but actual depression is when these feelings last more than a couple of weeks at a time.
  2. Anxiety. It’s characterized by excessive worry, fear, and apprehension over real or imagined situations – sometimes it manifests as a dark, ominous feeling with no real basis. Those with anxiety disorders can have uncontrollable excessive thoughts, repeated flashbacks to traumatic experiences, nightmares, sleep disturbances, jitteriness, digestive problems, and muscular tension.
  3. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD is a subset of anxiety. It’s characterized by developing strict, repetitive rituals and routines in order to deal with fears and anxieties, and those with OCD fear severe consequences if the rituals are broken. What’s worse is that they often realize the rituals are irrational – which can cause a lot of distress – but they just. can’t. stop. Classic rituals for OCD sufferers usually include things like obsessive hand washing, counting objects, and checking 20 times that the stove is really off. For those with acne, it can manifest in excessive skin picking and preening, obsessive face washing and topical application, and completely unreasonable fears and routines revolving around food.
  4. Orthorexia Nervosa. It is an anxiety disorder related to anorexia. Orthorexia is characterized by an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating, to the point where it severely interferes with normal life. It can even lead to malnourishment and death in severe cases. Much in the way that those with anorexia use their weight as an emotional scapegoat and limit food in order to feel in control, those with orthorexia are fixated on eating “pure” and “correct” foods in order to deal with emotions triggered by a variety of things (perhaps acne). They feel in complete control when they eat perfectly, and extremely guilty, shameful, and fearful when they don’t.
  5. Body Dysmoprhic Disorder, and more specifically, Acne Dysmorphic Disorder. It is characterized by a serious preoccupation with a real or imaginary physical flaw. There is excessive anxiety and stress over the perceived flaw and the person with BDD spends an unreasonable amount of time focusing on it, picking at it, excessively checking their appearance in a mirror, hiding the imperfection, comparing it with others, grooming, constantly seeking reassurance from others about it, and even getting repeated cosmetic surgery. With acne dysmorphic disorder, the perceived flaw is acne, blemishes, and scarring. Often the sufferer has mild acne but when they look at themselves in the mirror, the acne appears to them to be a hundred times worse than the reality.

Has this post thrown up some red flags for you? Are you dealing with the seeds of any of these mental health issues alongside your acne?

photo by Meredith_Farmer