Suggestions on how to psychologically cope with a skin condition?
July 21, 2007 3:01 PM   Subscribe

Need suggestions on how to psychologically cope with a skin condition.

I am a 32-year-old single male, and I was recently diagnosed with Rosacea. I am still in the mild stage of it, and I am working with doctors to do everything I possibly can to keep it under control. I understand there are many treatment options, and I am willing to spend the time and money exhausting any and all of those if necessary.

However, I am finding that as it gradually gets a bit worse week by week, I am getting very anxious about how it will effect the way I look. It’s also compounding my fears of ending up alone. I feel like the women that I now share a mutual attraction with won’t be attracted to me any more if this continues.

So my question is, if this does continue to get worse, what are some suggestions of how to cope with it, both with how I see myself and how the opposite sex sees me.

Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've got psoriasis, and in the winter I grow this dessert-plate sized patch on my head that feeds off the cold air. Just knowing it's there is depressing enough, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't self-conscious about it, wondering what sort of revulsion people might be experiencing - literally - behind my back. (And don't get me started about the pseudo-leprosy rotting my fingernails to shit...)

One suggestion I can make is to take pride in the rest of your appearance. Wear clean, unwrinkled clothes that fit, shoes that aren't beat up, and carry yourself with confidence. You're going to hear umpteen people tell you that if someone is seeing you for your skin, they're not seeing you for you. It's not just a platitude.

Do what you can do for yourself to feel good physically too. Accept that you can only do so much to ease your condition, and spend those tied-up emotions doing something to fix something else.

Just because you can't control this condition to your satisfaction doesn't mean there aren't other things you can do to increase your ability to attract and retain a woman.

(There's a certain amount of pot/kettle, or "those who can't do, teach" here, but I am completely comfortable in both my ill-fitting shirts and my hypocrisy.)
posted by peacecorn at 4:26 PM on July 21, 2007

As peacecorn mentioned it is definitely to your psychological benefit to focus on the positive.

Throughout my teens, I had horrible acne. I was an oozing, dripping, scarred mess. I was totally horrified, but you know what? It was OK. The only real difficulty was in my own head. It was tough dealing with fear and shame about something that I had no control over. So I let it go and went on with my life. I just had to say "fuck it".

I'm still all scarred up and actually kinda ugly. But life is good and I wish that for you too! Hang in there!
posted by snsranch at 5:13 PM on July 21, 2007

Another psoriasis sufferer here, from a family where almost everyone was also a sufferer.

Luckily, my case is fairly mild, but it's occasionally pretty obvious. I don't have the large scaly patches on elbows, etc. but I do have flaky dry skin on my face, splotchiness, and occasionally look like a freshly-created zombie.

It was this way in high school, all through my 20's, and I'm now well into my 30s. It's still not as easy as "screw the people who don't like my genetic inheritance", but it's easier to handle mentally as I've gotten older. I still check my appearance often and take care of minimizing the appearance.

Now, I realize you don't have the same condition and you can't take care of things the way I do. But hopefully commiseration helps a little and you can realize that while you may never completely get past the way you think that other people think of you, you can accept it and be "comfortable in your own skin
" so to speak.
posted by Kickstart70 at 5:27 PM on July 21, 2007

Vitamin A supplements, and keeping out of the sun until it cleared up, got rid of my rosacea. The plural of anecdote is not data, but Vitamin A is cheap, and safe as long as you don't go stupidly hog-wild with it (I just took enough to assure me of the recommended daily intake x2).
posted by flabdablet at 7:10 PM on July 21, 2007

I have watched my brother suffer for decades with very bad eczema. It has been so tough for him that there were some weeks where he would not want to leave the house and would break down crying because he was so upset by how he looked physically, how different that was from how he thought of himself, and by how he thought other people--particularly women--saw him. I think anti-depressants would have helped him at times, but from what I understand they were contraindicated from the many medications he was on. His darkest times were when he was single, and didn't want to be, and his skin was bad and he was convinced he would always be alone because of it.

He has an extraordinary personality, though, and it comes through to almost everyone he interacts with, from the hotdog vendor to the attractive woman next to him at the bar. It's not that he's cocky or super confident, but he's interesting, interested in other people and lots of things, is fun, smart, and lives in a way where you can tell from across the room that he's the type who's bursting through into life. He doesn't do this strategically or even realize it, but he doesn't give you a chance to have his skin be the thing you remember about him. And he has a healthy history of relationships with hot, funny, intelligent women to prove it.

So. If you're the type who might get depressed, think about your approach to that, and what will be available to you medically if it gets bad enough to address it that way. Put out some feelers to friends to let them know you may get down and what that might look like, how they can help you or try to cheer you up. Pick up or dive deeper into a hobby. There may be times you really don't want to face the world and if you can do that in a way where you're turning toward something interesting instead of away from something frightening it'll help. Have a friend or two who you trust to tell you what you look like. Probably 90% of the time you look better than you think and you need to hear that from someone you believe. Spend some time reviewing and acknowledging your strengths (I recommend input from friends here, too). Pick a time when you are feeling extra confident and write them down, then post them on the door so you can see them on your way out of the house. If you're not in a relationship, it'll be easy to blame your skin--hell, if your skin's that bad it'll be easy to blame it for almost anything--but consider that it's more likely that, like half of humanity you just haven't met anyone fantastic in the last couple of months. Basically (and I know this sounds corny) start living like you know you're more than your looks.
posted by cocoagirl at 8:07 PM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

My family has been plagued with semi-serious skin conditions (rosacea, psoriasis, acne, skin lesions, large moles, etc.) for generations. Some dealt with it better than others, but some had more severe symptoms. From what I have both noticed and heard from other family members, the ones who stay in the house when they have outbreaks end up being much lonely, depressed, defeated, and self-conscious.

People who have those conditions can give you advice on how to deal with the symptoms. On the dating front, I'd say that you should really concentrate on developing your personality and physique. (Many people are attracted to money, so if you can get a well-paying job then that will also help. Shallow, but true) Look confident, look like you are fun to be around, and hopefully women will take notice. Maybe they will, maybe they won't--but at least you'll have a better chance. You're lucky that you're a man because many more women than men seem to be able to look past physical appearance and appreciate what's on the inside. Also, make lots of female friends. They will be able to tell their friends how great your personality is set you up on dates. If you can get a woman's friends to like you, you're in.

If you stay at home when your skin condition is severe, you'll look back on your life and regret not living it. That would be a terrible way to reflect on your life.
posted by HotPatatta at 11:10 PM on July 21, 2007

One more thing: if you judge people by their looks, try to stop. The more you judge others, the more you feel that the world is judging you. It will make you more paranoid.

Read The Four Agreements.
posted by HotPatatta at 11:13 PM on July 21, 2007

On the medical side of things, I have found that dermatologists tend to focus on symptom control (cortisone, etc). Despite what some of them say, however, keep in mind that your diet, lifestyle, and stress levels do affect your symptoms quite a bit (and that changes in any of those will take a long time to propagate to your skin -- it will be difficult to figure out how to minimize your symptoms, but keep at it). By the way, that means that the additional stress you experience from worrying about your condition may worsen it. Learn to say "fuck it," for your own sake.

Also, from what I know, rosacea is cyclical. Try focusing on the fact that a relapse is always on the way.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:26 PM on July 21, 2007

This may seem pithy, but one little nugget of wisdom I've learned in my short life is that self-confidence is always attractive. Always. And I guess the converse would be true, too: lack of confidence is always unattractive, even if you're a physically attractive person.

I teach jr. high and high school kids, so I can regularly get a representation of society just within my classrooms. The beautiful kids, the ones who really shine, lead the class, laugh easily, listen and talk, stand out--the kids I simply like as people--are the confident ones. They're not always physically attractive, but it doesn't matter. Indeed, some kids who are attractive are extremely awkward or have a crap attitude, which overrides everything. They don't make a mark. Think of Paris Hilton--physically beautiful but no kind of personality.

Have confidence in yourself, and people will take notice, I guarantee.
posted by zardoz at 1:20 AM on July 22, 2007

I was also recently diagnosed with rosacea. What I have been doing is avoiding getting any sun on my face, by wearing both hats and sunblock (the kind that has zinc oxide or titanium dioxide), and things seem to be in a holding pattern.

As for the psychological aspect, while every time I look in the mirror I feel my condition has worsened, I've found most other people don't even notice or can't see those red patches I am seeing. I have to agree with Krrrlson's advice to learn to say "fuck it" - it just may not be as bad as one thinks it is.
posted by needled at 6:20 AM on July 22, 2007

Don't look in the mirror much. When I was young and watching myself in the mirror all the time, I managed to get really self-conscious about everything from the asymmetry of my nostrils to my hairline. If my own assessment of my looks was accurate, I'd never have had a lover, or a meal with friends because nobody would be able to stand sitting across from me.

One of the "gifts" of my body is two huge moles, almost symmetrically in front of each ear. Each mole has several long, coarse, black hairs growing out of it. Ewww. Somehow, I have managed over the years to almost forget they're there, by not paying attention to them. I have almost no self-consciousness about them. Sometimes when they're drawn to my attention, I realize I haven't thought about them in months. I don't know what other people think about my hideous moles; it really occupies almost no space in my mind.

It sounds like you're also borrowing trouble--projecting your fears into a future where your rosacea is much worse than it is now, so bad that it overrides your attractive qualities for women who currently find you attractive. That is never helpful, in my experience. Your rosacea may never get that bad; your other qualities may be so charming that many women easily overlook the rosacea; your self-confidence and mental health may be so robust that you easily live a happy life despite your rosacea.
posted by not that girl at 9:55 AM on July 22, 2007

I have had psoriasis since I was 14. I'm 32 now. My entire adult life I've had moderate to severe coverage. I've never had a lover I didn't have to have "that conversation" with. Some of you may know the conversation -- "Before we get undressed, I need to explain that I have psoriasis, please don't be afraid or run away when you see it, no you can't catch it, no it's not scabies or anything creepy or crawly or dirty, and please believe it's not disgusting that it's on my genitals even though I can't believe it myself." I would KILL for some time with completely normal skin so that I could walk around with confidence and never have this insecurity in the back of my head and never see the way people look at me when they can see patches on my legs or arms or face or wherever it is at the time.

I wish I could offer you something really constructive to help you -- I just haven't found it myself. I don't think the average person realises how emotionally devastating a skin disease can be. I guess all I can offer is that you have to remember you're not alone. I'm sure there are rosacea communities online -- seek those out for the times you just need someone to relate to.

And walk with confidence even when you're not feeling it. Take the attitude that there's something really WRONG with the people who give you weird looks. Especially when you're not feeling it. Give them a weird look right back.

To amuse myself I sometimes paraphrase the Seinfeld line, "It is not me that has been exposed, but you! For I have seen the psoriasis on your soul!!"
posted by loiseau at 5:47 PM on July 22, 2007

I was diagnosed with Rosacea (among other various skin issues) when I was 30. I tend to 'bloom' and have what looks like very rosy cheeks most of the time - A mild case, which has not progressed at all in five years.

Initially, it really bothered me - I also deal with a lot of moles and freckles, so the Rosacea isn't the worst of my problems, but it was enough to make me consult a dermatologist. I met my husband after I was diagnosed, so this is not something that is going to hold up your love life. Your partner will be interested in you for you, not your skin - We all have a multitude of flaws to manage. You have to understand that if you hold yourself or any potential partner up to the impossibility of perfection, you will never be anything but disappointed.

The greatest gift you can give your mind is perspective - I have a dear friend that just lost both of her legs at the knee due to an almost fatal bout with meningitis. It makes Rosacea look like a walk in the park. I have another friend that has such bad Psoriasis (all over her body) that she actually has resorted to chemotherapy to keep it at bay. Comparatively, I am blessed. My skin might rebel, but it's still healthy and serves it's purpose.

I treat it and I deal with it. My dermatologist treats my symptoms but I have had to do a lot of research myself on how to manage my own case of Rosacea. I stay away from or limit triggers (alcohol, sugar, hot spices, caffeine), stay hydrated, get rest, stay out of the sun, and have learned to not stress. I can tell you that I used to stress A LOT about everything. Definitely made a difference to learn to 'let go' and relax.

One benefit that you might appreciate - People that have Rosacea often age more gracefully because of the increased blood flow to the skin. I often am told that I look like I am in my mid twenties, which I love.

Good luck to you and take care!
posted by inquisitrix at 1:53 AM on July 23, 2007

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