Does stress trigger seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is most common in people who are genetically predisposed to it and often lasts for years without any cure. There is growing evidence that stress can worsen seborrheic dermatitis.

People with SD often have high levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. Cortisol may weaken the immune system, worsen inflammation and increase oil production, aggravating seborrheic dermatitis. To make matters worse, seborrheic dermatitis may cause anxiety and depression. A vicious cycle can be created with the disease contributing to stress, and stress making seborrheic dermatitis worse. 

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Let’s take a deep dive:

What is stress?

We all know the feeling. Whether it’s from a looming deadline at work, family drama, or money troubles, stress is something that we all experience at some point in our lives. But what exactly is stress?

In the simplest terms, stress is your body’s reaction to a demanding situation. It can be caused by anything that puts pressure on you – from physical and emotional challenges like chronic anxiety to environmental factors like noise or pollution. You may even be spiritually stressed. And while everyone experiences stress differently, it causes predictable changes in our body and immune system.

Stress can be difficult to manage because it’s not always obvious what the underlying cause is. In fact, all of us will admit that having seborrheic dermatitis itself is stressful. A vicious cycle can be created with the disease contributing to stress, and stress making SD worse.

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Is seborrheic dermatitis related to stress?

No one really knows what causes seborrheic dermatitis in some people but not in others. This usually means there’s a multitude of factors involved. When stacked on top of each other in the one person, it causes seborrheic dermatitis.

There’s debate over whether stress triggers seborrheic dermatitis or if it’s just an aggravating factor. What we do know is that there is some kind of relationship between the two. People with seborrheic dermatitis often find that stress exacerbates their condition.

Among other things, stress stimulates an increase in cortisol levels which in turn, increases sebum production. We all know what happens when our skin gets oily. Malassezia has more food to feed on and they grow like crazy. While Malassezia is not the sole cause of seborrheic dermatitis, we know it plays a major role in this condition.

Seborrheic dermatitis also aggravates stress. For people who have chronic skin diseases like SD, feelings of anxiety and depression are common. In fact, studies have shown that seborrheic dermatitis has a significant impact on quality of life. You may feel embarrassed about your appearance and may not be able to fully enjoy yourselves.

The emotional and mental impact of seborrheic dermatitis can be significant, leading to feelings of self-consciousness or low self-esteem. The visible nature of the condition can lead to increased levels of stress, making it a difficult cycle to break.

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Further reading: Can anxiety cause seborrheic dermatitis?

Impact of stress on the body

When people think of stress, they usually think about the psychological effects it has on them. However, did you know that stress can also have a physical impact on the body? In fact, there are a number of different ways in which stress can manifest itself.

For some people, stress may cause them to become more anxious or irritable. Others may experience changes in their appetite or weight, while others may find that they cannot sleep as well as they used to. Additionally, stress can also lead to health problems such as heart disease and high blood pressure.

Stress has also been shown to affect the immune system. This is because stress hormones, such as cortisol, can interfere with the production of immunity-boosting cells. Stress can increase the risk of catching a cold or the flu, cause inflammation and disrupt the body’s natural defenses.

Chronic stress may also cause the immune system to over-react or respond abnormally to triggers and this supports the development of immune-related diseases like seborrheic dermatitis.

Impact of high cortisol on the body

Stress is a normal response to difficult or challenging situations. However, when stress becomes constant and overwhelming, it can have negative impacts on our health. One of the most common ways that stress can affect our health is by increasing cortisol levels.

Cortisol will help the body cope with stress by releasing energy and putting us on alert – our ‘fight or flight’ response. However, a chronically high level of cortisol can cause havoc on our bodies.

It can lead to weight gain, especially in the abdominal area, increased blood pressure, and a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Cortisol can also weaken the immune system and make people more susceptible to infections and auto-immune disorders like SD.

High cortisol also causes imbalance in other hormones and increase sebum production, triggering acne breakouts and seborrheic dermatitis flares.

Learn to manage your stress

We all know that stress can be a huge problem for seborrheic dermatitis. Being able to manage your stress response may be the answer to ‘curing’ seborrheic dermatitis. However, stress is a difficult beast to manage. But there are plenty of ways you can try to deal with stress and keep it from taking over your life.

The most common methods for managing stress are sport, relaxation and psychological support. Sport is a great way to let off some steam and relax after a long day at work.

Relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation can help you clear your mind and ease the tension in your body. Using aromatherapy and inhaling the scent of essential oils like soothing chamomile may also calm the mind.   skin care, natural, cosmetics-1205766.jpgControl your emotional stress. Learning how to deal with strong emotions in a healthy way is key for reducing stress levels. Get plenty of rest. When we’re tired, it’s harder to cope with stress. Make sure you get enough sleep every night.

Get a small doses (10 to 15 minutes) of sunshine every day. Sunshine helps the body produce vitamin D, which has been shown to improve mood. The sun may also reduce Malassezia on the skin and improve seborrheic dermatitis.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, talking to someone about it can be really helpful- whether that’s a friend, family member or therapist. If you are not comfortable spilling your heart out to another person, try journaling. I find writing down my thoughts help me to clear my head and get to the root of my mullings.

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Managing stress is critical for people with seborrheic dermatitis, as stress is a known trigger of SD flares. No one method of managing stress will work for everyone so try out different things until you find what works best for you. Keep in mind that it may take some time to find what works, but it’s definitely worth the effort!

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To wrap up

It is evident that stress worsens seborrheic dermatitis. This skin condition can cause a great deal of discomfort, and it’s important to do what we can to manage our stress levels. There are many methods of stress management that can be tailored to fit your individual needs.

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