Eczema is a chronic inflammatory condition that causes dry, itchy skin and other symptoms. The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis.
Symptoms of eczema may get worse during a flare. This can cause increased discomfort, difficulty sleeping, and emotional stress, which may negatively affect your physical and mental health.
Increased inflammation during a flare may also have negative effects on your physical and mental well-being.
“The more severe the eczema, the more likely someone is to have symptoms of anxiety and depression,” Jonathan Silverberg, MD, PhD, MPH, lead author of the study, tells Healthline. Silverberg is a professor of dermatology and director of clinical research at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC.
Managing symptoms of eczema may help reduce mental health symptoms in some people living with this condition, Silverberg says.
Some people may also benefit from mental health treatments, such as counseling with a mental health professional or medications such as antidepressants.
“If the [mental health] symptoms don’t get better with appropriate skin-directed therapy, then the next step would be to refer to a mental health specialist,” he says.
To manage symptoms of an eczema flare, it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommended treatment and skin care routine. Identifying and avoiding triggers that worsen your symptoms is also important.
Learn more about these strategies below.
Multiple treatments are available for eczema, including:
- topical treatments, such as medicated ointments, creams, and lotions
- systemic treatments, including oral and injected medications
- light therapy
Your recommended treatment will partly depend on how severe your symptoms are. For mild symptoms, topical therapies are often enough. Moderate to severe symptoms may require additional treatments.
If you’ve developed worse symptoms or your symptoms haven’t improved with treatment, let your doctor know. They might recommend changes to your treatment plan.
If you have eczema, a gentle skin care routine may help prevent and relieve flares.
For a gentle skin care routine:
- Wash your skin using lukewarm rather than hot water.
- Take short but regular baths and showers.
- Gently pat rather than rub your skin dry.
- Apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp.
It’s also important to avoid skin care products that contain irritating ingredients. Common irritants include fragrances, dyes, and alcohol. Some other ingredients may also irritate your skin.
To find skin care products that are free of common irritants:
- Ask your doctor if they have any recommendations.
- Search the National Eczema Association (NEA)’s product directory.
- Look for products labeled with the NEA’s seal of acceptance.
Applying makeup to the skin during a flare might make your symptoms worse.
Exposure to certain products or conditions might trigger a flare in your symptoms.
For example, common triggers include:
- dry skin
- skin infections
- friction against your skin
- irritants in some skin care, hygiene, or cleaning products
- emotional stress
Triggers can vary from one person to another. Your doctor can help you identify and learn to manage your triggers.
There’s a two-way relationship between eczema and stress: A flare in eczema symptoms may cause emotional stress. In turn, emotional stress may worsen your eczema symptoms.
Emotional stress may also raise your risk of mental health challenges.
Learn about strategies to manage stress below.
Identify and limit stressors
Eczema symptoms may not be the only source of stress in your life.
If other challenges add to your emotional stress, taking steps to limit or manage them may help improve your emotional well-being and mental health. Reducing stress may also help prevent or relieve eczema flares.
Consider taking time to reflect on sources of stress in your life and steps you can take to avoid or limit those stressors. In some cases, you might need to step back from some of your commitments or ask others for help with some of your responsibilities.
Make time for self-care
Scheduling time for self-care may help you meet your physical, emotional, and mental health needs.
Self-care habits include:
- getting enough sleep
- getting physical activity
- eating a well-balanced diet
Taking part in activities you enjoy and spending time with people that you care about may also help reduce stress and improve your emotional well-being.
You might also find it helpful to practice relaxation techniques, such as:
- deep breathing exercises
- tai chi
Sometimes people turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with stress, but this can negatively affect your physical and mental health. If you’re finding it hard to avoid using alcohol or drugs, let your doctor know. They may recommend substance use counseling or other support resources.
Reach out for support
Asking other people for support may help you manage the challenges of coping with an eczema flare. Potential sources of support include your doctor and other members of your community.
For you example, talking with friends and family members about the challenges you’re facing may help relieve some of your stress. You might also them for help with day-to-day responsibilities, such as child care. This may free up time in your schedule for medical appointments and self-care practices.
If you can afford to outsource some of your routine responsibilities to a babysitter, housecleaner, or other paid support worker, that may also help reduce stress.
Connecting with other people who have eczema may also be beneficial. Consider joining an eczema support group or reaching out to others through social media.
In some cases, you may benefit from speaking with a mental health professional who has experience supporting people with eczema or other chronic health conditions. They can help you develop coping strategies.
If you think you might be experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges, let your doctor know. Treating symptoms of eczema may help relieve some mental health symptoms. It’s also possible that you have an underlying mental health condition that requires treatment.
Your doctor may refer you to a mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment.
A flare in eczema symptoms may be physically uncomfortable and emotionally distressing. The more severe your symptoms, the higher your risk of mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression.
Taking steps to manage eczema symptoms may not only reduce itching and discomfort but also relieve stress. It’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations for treatment, skin care, and trigger avoidance. Let them know if your symptoms get worse or don’t improve.
Limiting sources of stress, making time for self-care, and reaching out to others for support may also help you maintain good physical and mental health while managing an eczema flare.
In some cases, you might benefit from professional counseling or other mental health treatments.