Psychological effects of atopic dermatitis

Authors: Brian Wu, MD candidate, Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, USA. DermNet New Zealand Editor in Chief: Hon A/Prof Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand. Copy editor: Maria McGivern. March 2017.


Atopic dermatitis, also known as atopic eczema, is a chronic or relapsing skin condition characterised by intense pruritus (itch) and disfiguring rashes. It is the most common skin disorder of childhood. Around 50% of people affected by atopic dermatitis during childhood continue to have it as adults.

Atopic dermatitis can lead to negative psychological effects such as social isolation and low self-esteem.

What are the psychological effects of atopic dermatitis?

The psychosocial effects of atopic dermatitis can be profound.

Assessing the impact of atopic dermatitis

The Dermatitis Family Impact (DFI) questionnaire can be used to assess the impact of atopic dermatitis on the patient and their family. It evaluates:

At least one study has found that the impact of having children with dermatitis is similar to the family impact of having children with diabetes or asthma in regard to the cost of care, the changes that the family must make to cope with the disease, and the strain on family relationships.

Atopic dermatitis and depression

Patients with severe atopic dermatitis have high levels of depression.

Where can individuals go for help?

Treatment for atopic dermatitis may require collaboration between a dermatologist and a psychologist or psychiatrist to deal with both the physical and psychological effects of the disease.

Treatment for the psychological components of the disorder can include:

Related information

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