The Emotional Toll of Eczema
Does this sound familiar:
- You cover your skin even though it’s a hot, sticky summer day?
- You notice people refusing to shake your hand or hug you because they think eczema is contagious or just plain, gross?
- You catch strangers, friends and family grimace when they see your skin?
- You receive continual unsolicited advice as if you haven’t read about or tried EVERYTHING to make this horrendous looking disease go away?
Yes, eczema can throw a real monkey wrench into a person’s self-esteem. Not only can the constant judgment, questions and advice of others make you feel bad but it’s often hard to look in the mirror and feel good about what you see. As superficial as it is, our culture still puts a lot of weight into appearances and looks. As a result, people with eczema often get short shrift for something they cannot control and also cannot hide.
Eczema can lead to extreme levels of anxiety and depression because it tends to flare often and suddenly without warning, turning one’s life upside down in a matter of minutes. Patients can be forced to drop everything to tend to their extremely uncomfortable symptoms. When flares occur enough times, patients start living life waiting for the next shoe to drop. As eczema becomes advanced with time or intensity, the flares can be triggered by seemingly almost anything, any time. Food ingredients and environmental particles that were once benign can randomly become a cause for a flare. Because of all this uncertainty and absolute randomness, it’s not surprising that many patients develop high levels of anxiety and become scared of the future. Without any semblance of control over their skin and lives, it’s hard not to sink into despair.
Sometimes when there is too much in one’s life that is out of control, we cling to the things we CAN control. Some eczema patients will become hypervigilant about eating or not eating certain foods, keeping up certain complex routines or rituals, avoiding any situation or things that have the slightest possibility of tipping their seemingly very fragile scale out of whack. It’s not unusual for these behaviors to become all-consuming and extreme. Unfortunately, this then perpetuates alienation from others who don’t understand, sometimes isolation, and just plain loneliness. It is not an emotionally satisfying road.
FEAR OF TRYING SOMETHING NEW
Lastly, eczema patients can develop a fear of believing in a solution. They have tried everything they can read and learn about from Dr. Google. Many solutions have either failed them, exacerbated symptoms or brought about new, unwanted side effects. When that happens enough times, patients start to buffer themselves against any hopes of a solution because the continued disappointment is exhausting.
HOW TCM CAN HELP
Many patients find me at this point in their eczema journey. Depending upon the severity of their symptoms or length of suffering, some prospective patients bombard me with questions during the complimentary consult. Consciously or unconsciously, they try to uncover the one fact that proves that herbal medicine won’t work for them in an effort to spare themselves from another failed attempt at healing and the associated disappointment.
I totally understand.
When you spend a good portion of life feeling like you’ve been burned, you quickly build walls to fortify yourself from getting hurt yet again.
I lived through a lot of these emotions when I had eczema. So, I know, as a practitioner, how much it means to be offered the time and space to ask EVERY question and to be given the opportunity to share how your eczema story has affected you, deep inside, not just your skin. During in office or video conference call appointments, it’s not unusual for patients to break down and cry because so few practitioners have listened and seen them beyond their skin…and cares about all of it. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) understands that emotions are part of your overall health. We treat the whole person because as we see it, it’s all related.
Healing from eczema is most definitely an emotional journey. But with the right practitioner to provide guidance, nurturing and customized herbal medicine, TCM can be the final leg of the emotional rollercoaster and begin a new and improved life.
Amethyst sees people in our Chicago office and via video conference call so we can treat anyone in the contiguous United States. If you have questions about your eczema condition, feel free to set-up a Complimentary Consultation.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Olivia Hsu Friedman is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and sees patients all over the nation in person and via video conferencing. She holds a TCM Dermatology Diploma and a position on the internationally recognized Register of Chinese Medicine Dermatology (RCMDerm). Additionally, she received a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine (Dipl.OM) from the National Certification Commission of Oriental Medicine and is a licensed Illinois acupuncturist (LAc). Olivia earned a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine (MSOM) from National University of Health Sciences, graduated Summa Cum Laude and was awarded the Joseph Janse Outstanding Graduate Award.
Outside of the office, Olivia serves as the Vice President of the Illinois Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and is also one of two Illinois delegates to the American Society of Acupuncturists.