Your skin can significantly influence your identity, self-esteem, and quality of life in more ways than you could imagine. That is why mental health matters a lot to people living with vitiligo and other skin conditions.
Research claims that vitiligo patients are at an increased risk for hospitalization due to multiple mental health conditions. High depression levels, social anxiety, low self-esteem, shame, social stigmatization, fear, and suicidal ideation are some of the cases reported linked to vitiligo.
Here are some ways vitiligo can affect your mental health and overall quality of life.
Low self-esteem is the lack of confidence in yourself, a sense of inferiority when you compare yourself to others, or negative thoughts about your capabilities, including your achievements. Most individuals suffer from low self-esteem due to a number of different factors, which are not limited to appearance, finances, employment, etc.
Vitiligo patients’ low self-esteem stems from emotions arising from one’s appearance. Even worse, one cannot predict the depigmentation process because the patches might remain the same for years or progress to cover the whole body, and they have no control over managing it.
Also, vitiligo patients might try to hide depigmentation with clothing, makeup, or tattoos to avoid unwanted attention or comments. These might cause stress and negatively impact self-esteem.
It is human nature to be normal or fit in society. Innocent looks or stares from others can bring about insecurities no matter the motivation or therapy.
Anxiety affects everyone differently. Some might suffer from mild anxiety that can be easily managed. Still, others might experience mental as well as physical effects that are overwhelming and debilitating. In most cases, certain events, situations, or experiences fuel these uncomfortable sensations in both the mind and body.
When it comes to vitiligo, the primary triggers of anxiety are difficulty finding or establishing social interactions and the feeling of lack of control over the condition. Some people experience crippling fear and panic attacks in an attempt to think or contemplate how or when their vitiligo condition will progress or come to an end.
For others, anxiety can largely affect their day-to-day life. For instance, it can influence one’s personal relationships, careers, hobbies, and more while personally struggling to manage the condition and reactions of other people.
Depression can bring about an overwhelming sense of sadness, lack of motivation, and difficulty concentrating on day-to-day activities, even in the completion of some tasks. Also, it is linked to some physical issues such as altered appetite, fatigue, difficulty with mental processing, weight fluctuations, and sleep disturbances.
Most people who struggle with depression and go through impairments on a daily basis are usually not able to identify the reason why. As a result, this makes the process of addressing one’s depression quite challenging.
The sense of feeling alone, isolated, and misunderstood is one of the most common triggers for depression, especially when living with vitiligo. Losing some pigment on parts of the body or the entire body can be misunderstood by family or friends. You might try to explain your condition or share your feelings with them, but they may be unable to offer the support that you are seeking.
Potential treatments for mental health for people with vitiligo
While low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression might be challenging to live with, they can be managed in various ways. Specific types of therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), can effectively improve mental health.
Proactive management can also help improve mental health for people with vitiligo. You will work with a professional to help you identify the early signs of anxiety and depression and prevent their progression.
Various medication options can be used to manage anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, including anxiolytics and antidepressants.
If you have this condition, know that you are not alone, and recognizing as well as acknowledging the mental impact of it on your life could be the first step to figuring out coping avenues.
The best thing you can do is look for support by speaking to a counselor or therapist. Plus, you can reach out to others with vitiligo by joining as many networks, forums, and communities as you can.
Do not forget to protect yourself from the sun by using sunscreen daily, protective clothing, seeking shade, safe skin coloring, among others.
2023: The Year Vitiligo Will be Beaten?
In 2023 vitiligo researcher David Paltrow has been hitting the news with his claim that the root cause of vitiligo has nothing to do with melanin (the skin pigment). Even bolder, he is claiming that by tackling this root cause, he is able to cure vitiligo in his patients without using any of the traditional therapies.
Although not everyone agrees with his claims, I do think his introductory video is worth a watch. Check it out below: