For many teens, acne is a much bigger problem than a facial blemish. New research finds that depression and other psychological disorders may be more prevalent in adolescent acne patients.
Steve Feldman, M.D., a professor of dermatology at from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, conducted a systematic review of the published research literature to arrive at this conclusion. They found that while most teenagers consider acne to be a cosmetic problem, many others report that acne has a significant impact on their self-esteem and quality of life, often leading to anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.
“With this study, we found that acne is more than skin deep for those aged 13 to 18,” Feldman said. “Depending on how the patient feels about it, acne can have a potentially large and negative impact on their lives or it can have a small affect.”
In a New Zealand study cited by the authors, for example, greater severity of acne correlated with more depressive symptoms. And problem acne was associated with an increase in frequency of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.
As a result, Feldman said the presence of these psychological disorders “should be considered in the treatment of acne patients when appropriate.”
Acne affects 85 percent of teenagers, and some adults. It doesn’t have to be viewed as a normal rite of passage that goes along with puberty, Feldman said. A strong physician-patient relationship and taking a thorough medical history may help to identify patients at risk for these adverse psychological effects, he added.
For teens who are successfully treated, symptoms of depression can be alleviated and their quality of life improved.
“Acne affects how we perceive ourselves. It affects how others perceive us. And it affects how we perceive how other people perceive us,” Feldman said.
The study appears in the Dermatology Online Journal.