This was a fascinating conference. To see the psychological impact of hair and skin issues openly discussed and to see that clinicians not only understand this, but they are working together across different departments to involve the relevant psychiatrists and dermatologists as many of these more complicated cases may often fall through the cracks in the communication between one specialist to another.
There is so much research that links the severity of conditions to distress, such as autoimmune disorders, such as psoriasis but also heavily featured in the habitual picking and pulling disorders, with dissociation of behaviours where people aren’t aware of doing it. One theme that came across was the correlation of anxiety and depression was recognised between ‘disordered skin and disordered minds’ with meditation and mindfulness being shown to be really beneficial.
A technology to watch out for are an app due to be released in September 2019 to support habit reversal training to reduce unconscious damaging behaviours in atopic eczema. A great website was presented by the founder for families of those with eczema is the Eczema Outreach Support (http://www.eos.org.uk).There are an abundance of resources to support parents but also children coping with eczema and to empower, connect and provide hope to the sufferers.
Alopecia areata was discussed, with the findings presented that the ‘narrative’ the children with areata told of their account and feelings about the hair loss, mirrored the parents narrative and terminology. The more accepting the parents, the more accepting and less distressed the child… Could I have guessed that? Yes… but interesting to hear the evidence, not only as a Trichologist, but also a parent, on the impact that we have on our children’s emotional wellbeing. In terms of alopecia areata/totalis, some of the main concerns reported by parents is the guilt that maybe they have somehow caused the onset, feeling that social pressure for their children as they deal with covering disguising hair loss ready to face the world and also the poor general awareness of the condition with many sufferers get mistaken for having cancer. How, as a parent, can you not be anxious about something your child is going through and secondly, how do you not show it to them!? …Food for thought.