Of all the skin problems you are likely to experience in your lifetime, acne is certainly among the most common. It’s a skin problem that affects countless people right across the globe with varying degrees of severity.
Although different types of acne exist, most people are referring to a condition known as acne vulgaris when they mention it in conversation. Acne vulgaris has effectively had its name shortened for the sake of argument.
Now, acne is widely thought of as a problem affecting adolescents in the main. This is not entirely true. Acne often follows people from adolescence into adulthood and in some cases it affects them all their lives. For all that, adolescence is usually when the problems begin and those susceptible condition experience a spike in the severity of their acne during their teens, later growing out of it somewhat.
Adolescence is also the time when the non-physical effects of acne are arguably felt most keenly. That’s what this post is all about – the psychological impact of this frustrating and demoralising skin complaint at a time when people are often at their most sensitive.
Types of acne
Now, it’s important to distinguish acne from the appearance of the odd spot. Spots occur from time to time as individual instances. The anatomy essentially consists of a single hair follicle or pore that has become blocked and infected. This accounts for the redness, the swelling and the presence of pus. One spot every now and again is hardly something to fret over and occurrences can be limited by good personal hygiene, a good diet and the use of clean bedding and towels.
No, acne is more than the odd spot. It is a condition that affects a whole portion of skin and therefore a large number of pores and hair follicles. In its non-inflammatory form it involves the appearance of blackheads and whiteheads; in its inflammatory form pustules and macules make an appearance; and in its cystic form cysts and nodules appear which may cause permanent scarring.
Those forms of acne differ in the severity of their physical effects, but they also lead to more or less severe psychological effects.
Problems with social interaction and self-esteem
Acne is often responsible for problems with social interaction, particularly when it affects the face. This is because such a visible skin condition is perceived by the sufferer, sometimes on a conscious level, sometimes on a subconscious level, as a barrier to interacting with others. They fear being judged by the appearance of their skin are constantly aware of eyes on their imperfections, so to speak.
These problems with social interaction can have further consequences, such as low self-esteem that comes from being made something of an outsider by this visible physical sign. Acne can also lead to real problems with personal confidence.
Body image in the modern world
The pressures of the modern world make things even more difficult for teenage acne sufferers. They are constantly bombarded with images of bodily perfection on TV, in magazines, in films and in fashion photography. The consequently imagine that body image is everything, just as they are making their first forays into the world of romance and attraction. Acne therefore becomes a barrier to carrying off the right image and to acting on attractions and attachments to the people they like.
What this inevitably leads to is a sense of frustration: frustration at this barrier to normal communication; frustration at this barrier to physical relationships; frustration at this barrier to achieving comfort in one’s own skin, on top of the general physical discomfort of living with acne.
Effective and ineffective treatments
In the worst cases, teenage acne sufferers find that the combination of physical and psychological factors is tough to bear and they experience symptoms of depression and severe low moods. It doesn’t help, therefore, that certain acne medications have been linked with depression as a side effect, or that topical solutions, while helping some, don’t always work.
Teenagers really struggling to cope with the mental strain of living with acne vulgaris often derive little comfort from commonly used reassurances like, “appearances aren’t everything” and, “nobody is looking at your acne.” Some are much too sensitive to ignore the condition and hope to grow out of it; what they really want is a treatment that works.
That’s why laser acne treatment is thought of so highly among acne sufferers – it takes a different approach to those largely ineffective topical solutions and those arguably risky oral treatments. It is fast, comfortable, non-invasive and shows good results. For many, it is the best way to tackle the physical symptoms of acne that bring on the psychological complications outlined above.