Vitiligo psychology: what psychological implications does this pathology have?
Vitiligo is a disease that occurs with loss of skin pigment. So it objectively involves the appearance of white patches all over the skin. These then progressively expand until they affect, in more advanced cases, the entire skin surface. The subject, therefore, changes the phototype which becomes like that of an albino.
Generally, the evolution of the disease is gradual. But, certainly, it represents one of the skin diseases that have a very high psychological impact.
Vitiligo and psychological impact
Vitiligo is a disorder that has an external manifestation. It is, therefore, clearly and objectively visible to all. This entails a strong psychological discomfort for the patient experiencing this dysmorphism, as there is a significant impairment of the aesthetic image of the subject himself.
This means that the subject suffering from vitiligo many times, due to this negative psychological impact, is forced to give up what is normally called a “daily lifestyle”.
Therefore, one often hears, when talking to a patient suffering from vitiligo, that, for example, exposure to the sun during the summer is a form of pleasure that the subject renounces. This happens due to the fact that this would involve an aggravation, that is, living in an even more painful way, the feeling of being exposed with this defect of one’s own aesthetic image towards others.
Vitiligo psychology: social anxiety
This pathology, therefore, has psychological implications for those who suffer from it (Lansdown, Rumsey, Bradbury, Carr & Partridge, 1997; Thompson & Kent, 2001).
Indeed, people with vitiligo often develop social anxiety related to people’s judgment. Additionally, a study showed that this anxiety is no longer high in Vitiligo sufferers on exposed areas, such as the face and neck.
This malaise therefore leads to a worsening of the quality of life. Worsening which can become depression and which risks worsening the course of the disease.
In fact, people with vitiligo, due to social anxiety, tend to isolate themselves and escape social situations that could make them feel judged.
Many studies have been done on the relationship between vitiligo, psychological well-being and quality of life. One of these showed that those who accepted the disease and had learned to live with it, lived life in a better way.
Vitiligo and cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy
To improve the quality of life of those suffering from vitiligo, it may be useful to undertake a course of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy. In this way, the subject can overcome the psychological difficulties that he faces due to the pathology.
The positive and functional cognitive strategies achieved thanks to appropriate psychological support are:
- acquisition of external locus of control (ie “it is not I who have a problem but it is others who do not understand)
- seek reassurance and encouragement from others
For an individual with Vitiligo, the best thing to do to improve their quality of life is to accept their condition. The psychotherapeutic path, combined with family and social support, can help the patient improve the perception of their body and increase self-esteem.
Our article “Psychology Vitiligo” ends here. For a consultation or for more information, do not hesitate to contact our Vitiligo Center in Milan.