Rubbing cream onto eczema sufferer's hand

Can stress cause eczema?

Stress is a broad term that encompasses a number of different emotions such as anxiety, low mood, depression, even panic, resulting in a general feeling of negativity. It can manifest itself in different ways and can, without you wanting it to, spill over into every aspect of your life. And not only can stress affect you mentally and emotionally, it can also affect you physically.

Man scratching his elbow

If you or a member of your family already has eczema there is no doubt that psychological factors can exacerbate it, [G] triggering flare-ups and outbreaks of severe itchiness. The stress hormone cortisol affects the immune system, which may lead to these flare ups. Additionally, some studies have indicated that some stress can negatively affect your skin’s barrier functions, therefore affecting skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema, as well as skin allergies. [G1]

Top causes of stress in adults include:

  • Work pressures or job loss
  • Bereavement
  • Moving house
  • Money worries

Top causes of stress in children include:

  • Social pressures e.g. bullying
  • Studying for exams [H]
  • Parental divorce or bereavement [I]

In times of stress, be sure to take extra care with your skin and try to avoid physical irritants. Some steps you can take include:

  • Shower regularly with gentle and fragrance-free soaps
  • If you prefer baths, only bathe for a maximum of 10 minutes
  • When showering and bathing, use warm (not hot) water
  • Wear loose fitting, cotton clothing

Top stress-busting tips

Everyone reacts to stress differently, but here are some tips that may help you get a handle on your stress:

Woman kicking a ball
  • Identify your stress triggers, so you can learn to develop habits or strategies to prepare yourself and deal with them
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help you manage periods of high stress
  • Be active, getting outside for some fresh air and exercise
  • Ensure you’re getting enough sleep
  • Make sure you’re eating healthily and drinking enough water
  • Me time – make sure you make some time in your day to relax and spend time doing the things that really make you happy
  • Set yourself goals – having challenges or conquering new skills or experiences can raise your self-esteem, empower you and give you a feeling of wellbeing and accomplishment
  • Volunteer – helping others is can often be the perfect antidote to thinking about your own worries