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Why Dermatologists Should Be Aware of Their Patients’ Mental Health

A new European study has found that patients with skin conditions often suffer from depression and anxiety. In a comprehensive analysis of patients across 13 countries in Europe, researchers found a strong correlation between skin disease and mood disorders.

Researchers surveyed 3,653 patients in dermatology outpatient clinics before their examination. They found that the “agreement between dermatologist and HADS [Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale] was poor to fair (lower than 0.4) for all diagnose categories.” Forty-four percent of dermatologists detected depression and 35.6 percent identified anxiety in their patients, determined by a HADS-value =11. Despite their lack of training in psychiatry, 56 percent of dermatologists didn’t diagnose depression in non-depressed patients and 64.4 percent refrained from diagnosing their non-anxious patients with anxiety disorder.

Certain psychophysiologic disorders can be exacerbated by certain skin problems. For example, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, psoriasis and eczema can get worse with emotional or psychological stress. In one 2010 study, researchers estimated that every year, 10,400 people are diagnosed with depression and also suffer from some degree of psoriasis. They found that for every 39 patients with severe psoriasis, one is diagnosed with depression.

These studies serve as a reminder for dermatologists to take their patient’s mental health into account when evaluating and treating skin disorders. Dermatologists are encouraged to not “underestimate mood disorders” and “improve their skills in diagnosing depression and anxiety.” 

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