Mind Over Matter

By Freedom 360

Medically reviewed by Freedom 360 Panel of Doctors

When most people think of psychology, they think of the treatment of serious mental disorders. However, psychological interventions can be used for a range of issues such as helping people change their behaviour, control their emotions and manage their feelingsi

Recent research has shown that psychological treatment can impact on more than just our mental state - it can have an impact on our physical state as well. One study in particular is of interest to people with psoriasis as it looks at whether psychological treatment can be used to help alleviate the physical aspects of skin disorders.

The research, published in the British Journal of Dermatologyii , found the symptoms of some of the most common skin diseases such as psoriasis can be improved through psychological interventions.

The study was conducted by a team at the Department of Psychology at the University of Sheffield and involved an analysis of 22 other studies involving more than 900 participants.

The research found psychological interventions did impact on the condition of the skin but that a number of different factors influenced how effective the intervention was. These other factors include the type of intervention, the time interval between the end of the intervention and follow up, and how the changes to the skin were measured, such as the reduction in itching and scratching. However, psychological interventions were found to have less effect on skin conditions that were accompanied by pain.

The number of skin conditions represented by the study was small but it did include patients with psoriasis as well as eczema.

There were four main intervention types covered in the study:

  • Habit reversal – where a patient is made aware of a specific behaviour and the preceding urge to perform the behaviour, and is then taught to replace it with another type of behaviouriii;
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy - a type of psychotherapy that helps people to change unhelpful or unhealthy thinking habits, feelings and behaviours such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, uncontrollable anger or substance abuseiv;
  • rousal Reduction – includes grounding, distraction, breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and exercisev
  • Combined Techniques – a combination of treatments

The research found age was a factor which prohibited the effectiveness of the psychological intervention. In other words, the older the person was, the less effective the psychological intervention was. The researchers suggested that interventions may require modification so as to be able to better address the needs of older patients.

So what conclusions and recommendations did the researchers make? Are they recommending that people with psoriasis should book in a session with a psychologist?

Their conclusion was that there is evidence that psychological interventions can help people with skin conditions and that they should be more commonly available within the scope of treatments offered by dermatology services.

However, it is important to note that the authors of the article qualified their findings by stating there were relatively few other studies in this area and only a narrow range of interventions have been developed and evaluated.

They also recommended further studies be done to evaluate the impact of psychological treatment on a wider range of skin conditions and with the use of more precise methods such as randomized and controlled trials.