Everyone has dealt with acne at some point in their lives Those menacing red bumps have plagued almost every teenager on the planet. Yet, for some, the effects of acne do not only appear on the face. For them, acne is also a plague of the mind. For years, experts have speculated on the correlation between acne and mental health. Can acne really cause mental health issues?
Some experts believe that acne has a damaging effect on the mental health of most teens. Their argument is that since teens are at a precarious stage in their lives as well as their brain development, the appearance of acne clashes with their idea of beauty and acceptance, leaving behind a sense of unattractiveness and creating self-consciousness. Furthermore, many claim that this idea of "ugliness" is what makes self-esteem and self-image so fragile.
So, does acne cause low self-esteem and damaged self-image, thus leading to anxiety and possible depression?
It has been a long-proven fact that teenage brain development has a great deal of impact on the thinking and reactions of teens. Adolescence is a crucial time in an individual’s life as these are the years in which the brain continues to develop to maturity. Couple that with social expectations and it is clear that the average teenager has a lot on his or her plate.
So, where does the problem lie? The teenage brain is believed to develop starting at the base of the brain and moving up and forward. This transformation allows the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotions including fear, aggression, and anxiety to be developed before the ever-important prefrontal cortex.
The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that is responsible for decision making and reasoning. According to this movement of growth, a teen is much sooner to react emotionally than to think something through. This is what experts use as evidence when determining how teens process certain situations, including dealing with acne on a social level.
While acne is a medical condition, it has long been labeled a social condition as well. We humans put a lot of stock into our physical appearances – the way we dress, how we style our hair, and yes, how unflawed our skin is. Socially speaking, acne is thought to be a sign of unattractiveness. Teens are at a point in their lives where they believe looks are everything. According to them, the way you look says everything about your character. Having acne is in direct contrast to what is seen as acceptable in modern society. Teens act on this. From bullying to name-calling, having persistent acne can be an ordeal.
Thanks to the amygdala and underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, teens will not react based on cognitive reasoning, but will instead react to acne (something unacceptable by society) based solely on emotion. If that emotion is anxiety or sadness, the individual could easily be on the road to depression or anxiety.
Based on what we just learned, it is possible for the appearance of acne to lead to issues regarding mental health. For this to be true, then it also must be true that the treatment of acne has a positive effect on mental health.
While this hypothesis focuses mainly on the teenage reaction to acne, the same societal expectations and fears apply to adults as well. Adults may not have an underdeveloped brained to explain the emotional suffering caused by acne, but it is still present and should be addressed.
At The Dermatology Group, our experts understand the need for acne treatment and its effects on mental health. If you are in Cincinnati, Ohio or the surrounding area and are in need of tips, resources, or treatment, please don’t hesitate to give us a call today.