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How can acne impact your mental health

May 28, 2024
Kate Tilbury

Acne can affect more than just our skin; as many as one in four people who experience acne will see a change to their mental state.  

With social media filters and edited images becoming the norm, there’s an increasing amount of pressure on how we look. Generally, we don’t see acne represented in the media, which can make someone experiencing acne feel as though they’re the only one, or that there’s something wrong with them. However, in actual fact, up to 95% of people aged 11 to 30 in western industrialised countries are affected by acne to some extent.

Another issue that those experiencing acne may face is that it’s often misunderstood; people might presume that acne is a consequence of poor hygiene, but this isn’t accurate and there’s no evidence to support this. We also tend to associate acne with teenagers, but adults can develop acne, too. A lack of information around acne can lead to stigma, which contributes towards people feeling ashamed of their skin.  

Acne will impact everyone differently, but some of the ways that it can affect your mental health include:  

Self-esteem and confidence

There are a lot of difficult feelings that come with acne. You might feel unattractive, inadequate, ashamed or embarrassed. You might constantly worry about what the people around you are thinking and assume that they’re judging you based on your skin. The more that these feelings pile up, the more exhausting they can be.  

It’s easy for negative thoughts like these to warp your inner-voice, causing you to become self-critical; you may tell yourself that you’re not good enough or no one could find you attractive. This can lead to feelings of worthlessness, which can chip away at your mental health.  

Remember, your worth is not dependent on your appearance and it’s very unlikely that anyone notices your acne as much as you do. Think about how you’d talk to a friend if they were in this situation - what would you say to them? Then try to speak to yourself with that same level of empathy. Read more about how to be kinder to yourself here.  

Loneliness and isolation

Acne can have an impact on your behaviour and the way that you live your life. You may start avoiding social situations where you feel judged based on your appearance, which might include social, personal, and professional engagements. Some people will even stop going to work or seeing their closest friends and family members.

You may also find that you’re constantly putting things off until your skin ‘gets better’. This could mean cancelling immediate plans with friends because you’ve had a break out, or missing out on big life experiences, like taking a trip, looking for a new job, meeting new people or dating. You might feel like you can’t enjoy your life until your acne is gone.

Mental health disorders

Many people who experience acne struggle with their mental health. Research says that those with acne have a higher risk of developing major depression, while another study found that 20% of people with acne have thought about or attempted to take their own life.

If you’re struggling with your mental health as a result of acne, it’s important to talk to someone about how you feel. You might feel embarrassed about your skin, but bottling things up can make you feel worse. Don’t suffer in silence - talk to someone you trust, like a friend or family member. There’s a good feeling that comes from getting something out in the open and being listened to.

Your GP might suggest cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)which is an effective way to manage anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. CBT helps you to challenge negative thoughts and behaviours and gives you the tools to manage them. At ieso, we offer typed CBT, where the patient and therapist ‘speak’ by typing back and forward, plus video call sessions in some areas. Our service is flexible, remote and free for some NHS patients. Find out if you’re eligible here.

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.

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