‘Everybody goes through it': why acne is more serious than just a teen problem

Acne is not just something that all teenagers go through – for many, the memories and struggles they faced with acne can last well into adulthood. My own adult children have noticed what they call “post-traumatic stress” in some of their own friends who once suffered severe cases of acne. Once the acne was controlled, they noticed that even the thought of developing a pimple could trigger a high level of anxiety in their friends – almost as if they were living in fear, waiting for their acne to return.

Anxiety in acne is not uncommon, and as parents, it is incredibly important not to brush off your child’s stress triggered by pimples. As a dermatologist, I’ve witnessed how strongly some parents feel against their children taking oral medication to control their acne – and they may not realize the long-term effects of such decisions. For adolescents with severe acne, intervention is necessary to prevent deep scarring later in life and I hope parents will begin to understand how sensitive and detrimental the condition can become.

To support the severity of the matter, cross-sectional studies have reported associations between acne and anxiety, depression symptoms and contemplation of suicide compared to those with little or no acne. In addition, people with acne were more likely to have anxiety disorder and this increased rate of anxiety disorder persisted well into adulthood.

As such, I hope that having an awareness of this association between acne and mental health can help clinicians and family members recognize when an individual may need the appropriate psychiatric care. Do you know someone struggling with severe acne? Reach out and let them know that you care and understand – trust me, it can go a long way.

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