Recognizing the mental health impact of chronic skin disease

How we’re elevating the standard of care by highlighting the emotional, mental and psychosocial impact of immune-mediated skin conditions.

Skin disease is rarely just ‘skin deep’

With more than 31 million Americans impacted by eczema,1 and over 7.5 million adults with psoriasis,2 chances are most people know someone impacted by an immune-mediated skin condition. For these patients, the impact of skin disease is rarely just skin deep. They can often come with mental health issues, impacting a patient’s life in more ways than the intense itch, rash and dry skin often associated with skin conditions.

For patients with immune-mediated skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis and hidradenitis suppurativa, not having control over the publicly visible symptoms and chronic nature of these diseases can greatly affect a patient’s mental and emotional well-being. AbbVie is working with healthcare providers and patient advocacy organizations to shed light on this topic so patients and caregivers can recognize and communicate the full impact of their disease to receive better support to live their lives unhindered by their skin condition.

AbbVie recently hosted its third “Science of Skin” event, bringing together a diverse panel of patients, physicians and patient advocates in dermatology to discuss the psychosocial impact of immune-mediated skin conditions and elevate care expectations – ultimately inspiring patients to have meaningful conversations with their healthcare provider.

At times a patient may think their skin disease is under control because they have seen improvement in rash. However, there are impacts beyond the physical, such as stress, emotional wellbeing, difficulty sleeping, and overall quality of life that patients may not realize are connected to their skin disease.

Nduaka Chudi headshot
Chudy Nduaka DVM., PhD., DABT
Therapeutic Area Head, Dermatology Medical Affairs, AbbVie

Recognizing the symptoms beneath the surface

For patients diagnosed with chronic, inflammatory skin disease, recognizing the symptoms beneath the surface is the first step to finding a care plan that works best for them. As President & CEO of the National Psoriasis Foundation, Leah Howard explains, “We talk about psoriasis as a systemic disease that exists beneath the skin. What we see on the surface is a symptom – a presentation of what’s below.” Research shows that:

Managing the mental health effects on top of the physical symptoms can feel like an endless loop for patients. It is common for stress to trigger disease symptoms like flare ups, and those disease symptoms can trigger more stress.

According to one eczema patient on the Science of Skin panel, “I always felt very alone in my eczema journey. I didn’t know anyone else was going through what I was going through. This had an impact on my mental health in many ways. I experienced a lack of sleep because the itching kept me up all night. That affected my mood, and I kept falling asleep during class. I also found myself missing out on the things I loved because of my symptoms.”

To define the full impact of their disease, patients should consider the mental, emotional and social ways their disease shows up in their lives.

Better conversations for better care outcomes

It’s important that patients can recognize their symptoms and feel confident communicating the outcomes they desire with their healthcare provider. Howard, who also lives with psoriasis shared, “As soon as I fully understood what was happening both on the surface of my skin and below, I decided to focus on work that I knew would make an impact – improving the outcomes for others in my community living with chronic disease”.

It can be difficult to introduce this topic with a healthcare provider for the first time, so it may be helpful to use a journal to document ways in which patients notice their disease symptoms limiting the way they feel and behave. Honest discussions with a healthcare provider could bring patients closer to a fulfilling life with controlled skin disease.

No matter how living with a skin disease makes a patient feel, it is important for them to remember they are not alone. By doing the work to understand their symptoms, patients can become a better advocate for themselves.

AbbVie has curated resources to provide information on a variety of immune-mediated skin conditions and resources that can help to support patients.

Visit for additional resources on chronic skin conditions


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