Mind Interventions Ease Skin Conditions

Psoriasis and atopic dermatitis can be prevented using psychological interventions

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Mind over matter can certainly have an effect on the body. Relaxation techniques, habit reversal, and cognitive behavioral therapy can now help beyond stress control and anxiety.

Those techniques and other psychological interventions have been shown to prevent various skin conditions, a new study has found.

"Ask your dermatologist about mind interventions for skin conditions."

The study led by Andrew Thompson, a clinical psychology professor at the University of Sheffield, combined results of 22 previous studies involving 900 patients. The studies had to include a psychological intervention designed to improve skin conditions, be written in English, and have been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Although the number of skin conditions included in the study was small, the authors note, the researchers found that psychological interventions benefit patients with psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and some others in the growing 'psychodermatology' field.

The interventions most affected skin conditions that cause itching and scratching. To a lesser but still important degree, the interventions changed patients' thoughts on their condition and its severity.

Habit reversal, which is a behavior treatment that reduces repetitive behaviors, was the most effective intervention. The second most effective was cognitive behavior therapy, a type of mental health counseling.

The age of the patient however factors into how effective the treatments work. The older patients' were, the less effective the psychological intervention was.

"It may, therefore, indicate that interventions require tailoring to address older patients’ needs," Thompson said in the report.

How well the interventions' worked was also influenced by the type of intervention, the severity of the skin condition, and the time between the end of the intervention and follow-up. Psychological interventions had less effect on skin conditions accompanied by pain.

The time between the end of the intervention and the follow-up was more important than the time patients actually underwent the treatment. Longer follow-up periods were associated with smaller effects, which suggests booster sessions may be needed.

Lastly, group therapies appeared to be as useful as one-on-one sessions.

"Short-term, group-based interventions may provide cost-effective options warranting further evaluation," Thompson said. 

For future studies, the authors note they should focus on specific interventions and evaluate how effective they are, particularly over longer follow-up periods and a wider range of skin conditions.

The study was published Aug. 27 in the British Journal of Dermatology. The authors report no conflicts of interest. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 28, 2012
Last Updated:
August 30, 2012