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"It affected my marriage, my mental state, and some days were so difficult, I thought I was going to die."Divya Soneji, Digital Creator, Chicago
Skin problems and diseases can take a significant toll on an individual's physical and mental health, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
FIT spoke to several women about what their experience of battling with a skin disease was like. We also reached out to experts to understand what causes severe skin diseases.
Affects Life Way Beyond Just Physical Pain
When Divya was 30, she experienced a number of side effects as she was taking anti-inflammatory drugs.
It started with a tingling itchy sensation in her toes that kept her up for nights and eventually spread from her ankles to her legs progressing to - Leukocytoclastic Vasculitis.
"It (Leukocytoclastic Vasculitis) is a type of skin inflammation that affects small blood vessels in the skin. This happens immune system attacks the blood vessels in the skin, leading to inflammation and damage."Dr Soumya Jagadeesan, Associate Professor, Dermatology, Amrita Hospital, Kochi
This affected Divya's life way beyond just physical pain.
"I was a newlywed who had just moved to America. I felt so lonely and depressed about my body getting bigger because of steroids, and I even started losing hair because of which I decided to cut it short."Divya Soneji
She shares that her confidence took a huge hit post this, something that she still struggles with.
"Even after recovering I could not wear dresses where my legs were visible for around six years, but I started wearing short dresses finally in 2022," she adds.
Self Esteem, Confidence Takes A Hit
Most people consider skin and hair to be a fundamental part of their identity, and both play a crucial role in shaping their self-confidence.
Jyoti Sinha, a 30-year old fashion designer and entrepreneur, says that she always had dandruff problems. But when she moved to London, she got psoriasis on her scalp.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin condition that causes the buildup of thick, scaly patches on the surface of the skin.
"I am a fashion designer and I love to dress up but because of psoriasis I thought I'll probably never be able to dress up again the way I used to. It affected my self-esteem so much that was I was ashamed of telling people about my condition."Jyoti Sinha
According to a study published in the American Psychological Association, there's a deep connection between skin health and psychology.
Maya Sharma, a psychologist, explains that when our skin or hair doesn't look how we desire it to, especially because of a medical condition, "it can impact our self-esteem and how we present ourselves to the world."
Sharma adds that it may make us want to avoid social situations or make us feel conscious about how we look. It can also lead to:
Urge to isolate oneself
Stress Could Also Lead To Skin Diseases
Stress can majorly impact our health, including that of our skin's.
"When we experience stress, our body's natural response is to produce cortisol, a hormone that can trigger inflammation and exacerbate existing skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne," Dr Manoj, a Jamshedpur-based psychiatrist tells FIT.
In 2020, right in the middle of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Prerna Mullick, a law student, got diagnosed with pemphigus vulgaris, a rare autoimmune disease. It causes painful blisters on the skin and mucous membranes.
"For someone like me who is obsessed with their skin, it did take a huge toll on my mental health, and the root cause of my disease? Stress."Prerna Mullick
At one point, Prerna had to take painkillers multiple times a day just to be able to function.
"My wounds healed and left marks behind and I had lost most of my hair because I of the huge blisters on my scalp. I thought I’d never get my hair back, but eventually I did."Prerna Mullick
Prerna goes on to say that she frequently thought of ending her life while struggling with pemphigus vulgaris.
Coping, Acceptance, & Support
The treatment options for severe skin problems can be limited, leading to despair.
Dr Manoj says "coping strategies, such as seeking support from mental health professionals, practicing self-care, and joining support groups, can help individuals manage the emotional toll of skin problems."
For Divya, coping became easier when she joined a Facebook support group where she could speak about and relate with others with the same condition.
"I have come a long way from understanding the disease to battling the mental health issues it caused. I have accepted that this will be something I have live with and today I have a much healthier lifestyle balance to manage it."Jyoti Sinha
(There are many reasons why you shouldn't ignore your largest organ – the skin! Join Dr Simal Soin, one of India's leading cosmetic dermatologists, for a for a members-only Ask Me Anything on 23 May. Become a member to get your invite now: http://bit.ly/3JrSMlM)