Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease known for causing a loss of pigment-making skin cells called melanocytes, leading to patches of color loss. It may develop at any age, usually starting before you are 20 years old.

Experts classify it as a chronic skin condition, but there are also mental health aspects to consider. Research confirms an impact on self-esteem and quality of life, including side effects such as anxiety and depression.

Supporting your mental health can help manage vitiligo. Not sure how to get started? Consider these steps.

While scientists are still unsure what causes vitiligo exactly, there’s a lot about this autoimmune skin disease that we do know, including triggers, symptoms, and treatment options.

It can be challenging to navigate the amount of information, but the more you learn about vitiligo, the more you may feel in control of the situation. This can help create a more positive mindset while reducing stress and anxiety over vitiligo.

Autoimmune diseases like vitiligo involve an overreaction of the immune system, when it mistakenly attacks healthy tissues. While stress doesn’t directly cause autoimmune diseases, it can worsen the symptoms.

To reduce stress with vitiligo, take regular intervals in your day to relax. You can meditate, use guided imagery, or enjoy a relaxing hobby, such as reading or painting. The key to stress management is taking this time consistently — even if it’s just for 15 minutes at a time.

In simple terms, mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and self-aware. Mindfulness can help support stress reduction as part of your vitiligo self-care plan by reducing the physical and psychological effects of stress and low self-confidence.

One research review also points to a reduction in depression symptoms in individuals with chronic conditions who practice mindfulness. However, more targeted studies on mindfulness and vitiligo are currently lacking.

Regular exercise not only promotes physical well-being, but it may also help reduce stress and help you feel better when you’re experiencing an autoimmune disease. An exercise program could also potentially help improve self-esteem over time.

Find an exercise you enjoy. That way, you might make it a routine habit. Depending on your preferences, this may include walking, biking, or yoga. You’ll also want to talk with a doctor if you’re new to exercise, so they can help you come up with a gradual plan.

Getting enough sleep is difficult sometimes, but prioritizing rest is especially important in autoimmune diseases because it allows your tissues to repair. Plus, not getting enough sleep can worsen related stress, subsequently impacting your mental health.

As a rule of thumb, try to aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Establishing a regular nighttime routine can also help you gain this much-needed rest. For example, consider removing electronic devices from your bedroom and going to bed at the same time every night.

While there isn’t a specific vitiligo diet, focusing on balanced meals can support both your mental health and physical well-being.

One eating plan is the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on seafood, vegetables, and fruits, as well as nuts and olive oil. The Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.

Focusing on fruits and vegetables can help you gain antioxidants, which can support immune function. A healthy eating plan for autoimmune diseases may also limit sugar, salt, and animal fats.

Additionally, researchers are investigating whether treating certain nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamins A, B12, C, and zinc may help play a role in vitiligo management. You may consider talking with a doctor about possible supplementation in these cases.

If you find it difficult to cope with daily stressors due to vitiligo, you may consider getting help from a mental health professional, who can help improve quality of life through strategies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

While research on the emotional burden of vitiligo is limited, some research shows that CBT and counseling can help improve quality of life and body image for people with vitiligo.

A literature review of several studies surrounding psychosocial treatments for vitiligo showed that, in addition to regular care, various research shows the benefit of self-help groups and group therapy for people with vitiligo.

In some cases, doctors may also recommend medication if you have an underlying mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety disorders.

In addition to getting help from a mental health professional, you may also find it helpful to connect with others who are going through similar experiences.

Ask your care team about vitiligo support groups that may be in your area. You may also consider online support groups, too.

Some researchers consider the skin a “sensory organ,” with its visibility directly influencing emotions. This is one reason why chronic skin diseases like vitiligo may impact mental health.

But rather than focusing only on treatment, experts suggest balancing skin condition management techniques with an empowering mindset that focuses on body positivity and acceptance. Doing so can help support your mental health and help you self-advocate at the doctor’s office.

While vitiligo is a chronic condition that impacts the skin, there can be mental health effects, too. Tactics such as taking steps to reduce stress, practicing moderate exercise, joining a support group, and working on a body-positive mindset can help manage these concurring symptoms.

Talk with your doctor or care team to decide what steps work best for you on your vitiligo treatment journey.