When Rick Fried, MD, PhD, gave a talk at a dermatology conference seven years ago on the relationship between psychological and
dermatological problems, at least one dermatologist in the
audience was skeptical about the mind/body connection.
Then another dermatologist stepped to Fried’s defense, telling
her colleague that before he attacked Fried he should at least
make sure his zipper was up. The skeptic’s fly wasn’t really
down, but his deep blush vividly illustrated the impact that
emotions have on the body’s largest organ — the skin.
“How amazing is it that a simple cognition — ‘I said or
By Rebecca A. Clay
did something foolish’ — can cause virtually every blood
vessel in the skin to instantaneously open up, causing a blush
or flush?” asks Fried, a psychologist turned dermatologist
who is the clinical director of Yardley Dermatology Associates
and Yardley Clinical Research Associates in Yardley,
Pennsylvania. “That’s pretty amazing evidence that the mind
and body are linked.”
These days, dermatologists are much more accepting of
the field now known as psychodermatology, and psychologists
are getting more involved in helping dermatology patients.
They’re investigating the role that stress and other
psychological issues play in acne, psoriasis, eczema, itching,
hives and other skin problems. They’re treating the social
anxiety, depression and other psychological issues that
can arise when people have skin conditions. They’re also
developing interventions, whether to help dermatology
patients deal with psychological issues or to help people avoid
melanoma and other skin problems in the first place.
How psychologists are helping patients
with dermatological problems.