The Surprising Correlation Between Acne and Mental Health

It was the summer of fifth grade when I got my first bump. The bump itself was big and red, creating a large abrasion on my previously clear skin. After that first bump, my acne never seemed to leave. From that day onward, my acne grew gradually worse. My parents paid for tubes and tubes of acne products, which worked initially, but after a couple years of using it, my skin resorted back to its old troublesome ways. Only in 9th grade did my mom finally take me to the dermatologist, who prescribed me an acne cream called Retin-A. This medication cleared my skin dramatically, and at many points my skin was 100% clear. I still use it today, and even though I still get an occasional breakout, my skin is still remarkably better than it was in 5th-9th grade. Looking back on the years where my acne was at its worst, I realized that acne had a profound psychological and emotional effect on me, even though it was just a temporary condition.

Looking back on my actions during my struggle with acne, I have come to realize that acne had begun to change who I was. I hated looking at myself in mirrors, and I would avoid pictures as much as I possibly could. I didn’t like people looking me in the eyes, because then that meant they would have to see the zits that covered my forehead. But the greatest change of all in me was I became really sad. I wasn’t depressed necessarily but I was pretty darn close. Growing up, I always had the nickname of “Little Miss Sunshine”, so me being sad was not a part of my nature. I didn’t always show this sadness, but deep down, acne hurt- literally and figuratively. As I grew up, I’ve realized I wasn’t the only one who was sad and unconfident because of acne. In fact, 71%-73% of adult females with acne were found to have experienced some degree of anxiety or depression, and 75% had lowered confidence and social withdrawal. In adolescents, a study found that 21% were negatively affected by acne in their school work and personal activities. Unfortunately, by many adults and other teens who have not struggled with acne, these struggles are either ignored or misunderstood, which leaves people suffering from acne feeling alone, further increasing the risk of depression.

There is a bright side of this story. Thankfully, acne is typically treatable. It may take a long time to see results, but they will eventually go away. Go to a doctor and get help if it is getting out of hand- don’t make the mistake I did and wait. And lastly- remember you aren’t the only one. Almost 50 million Americans have acne, and 95% of all people will have acne at some point in their lives.

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Christian Parham
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Christian is a 17 year old living in California. During her free time, you can probably catch her reading or writing.

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