four-young-people-serious-in-playing-table football in campus

Coping with the mental health impact of atopic eczema

5 min read
03 March 2022

Having a skin condition can have a big impact on your body image. Aimee, 17, shares her experience with atopic eczema, as well as her tips for coping.

I have atopic eczema all over my body. Some places are worse than others, but my entire skin constantly feels dry and cracked, which can sometimes mean even small movements strain my skin and cause pain.

Living with eczema, or any skin condition, can be an extremely challenging - and often isolating - experience. It can be difficult to come to terms with the fact that there is no definitive cure, only ways to cope with the relentless scratching and mental toll any skin condition can bring.

I have atopic eczema all over my body. Some places are worse than others, but my entire skin constantly feels dry and cracked, which can sometimes mean even small movements strain my skin and cause pain. This can make me feel extremely self-conscious as well. I’ve had many comments made about my skin, which erode away at my self-esteem, leaving me feeling embarrassed about something that I should not have to hide. Many people struggle with body image and confidence, and having a condition like this really doesn’t help.

Many people struggle with body image and confidence, and having a condition like this really doesn’t help.

There are times it gets to the point where I feel dirty. No matter how much I try to wash it off, I don’t feel clean with red and puffy skin. I hate wearing long-sleeved clothes, because I feel trapped and claustrophobic. So many times I’ve had to wash clothes and bedsheets before they need washing because of the blood staining them. I get disgusted looking at the state of them, and this adds to the embarrassment and shame that clouds over me so much. It feels like a constant battle: If my skin is good, I have to put loads of cream on to make sure it doesn’t get to that horrible state again, which takes up lots of time and isn’t as simple as it might sound. If it’s bad, I feel embarrassed and try not to look anyone in the eye, in case they see my inflamed and red face.

The hard days, when my skin is most inflamed and itchy, are so difficult that there have been times I’ve wanted to skip school because I was so ashamed. I saw all the other girls my age wearing make-up and having clear skin, and all I wanted was to look like them, but I couldn’t because make-up would irritate my skin and make it worse. If I went to sleep feeling itchy and dry, I knew when I looked in the mirror the next morning I would be faced with someone who only remotely looked like me.

There are definitely times that are better than others, and I’m trying to be proud of who I am, even if my skin doesn’t look ‘normal’. I want everyone with a skin condition to know that you’re not alone, and things will get better. I know it’s difficult to feel confident when the way your skin feels makes you want to hide away, but it’s so important to be happy and proud of who you are. Your conditions don’t define you. Your body doesn’t define you. It doesn’t matter if you have one or two cuts, or a whole body full of spots, scratches and rashes, what’s important is that you try your best to embrace it, because it is all a part of the beautiful you. You shine from the inside out, so let your heart and mind tell you that you are amazing and your body will prove it.

The hard days, when my skin is most inflamed and itchy, are so difficult that there have been times I’ve wanted to skip school because I was so ashamed.

Body confidence tips

Here are some tips for improving body confidence that have helped me, which I hope can help you too.

  • Own your flaws

    This is much easier said than done, but it’s so easy to get caught up in the things that are wrong with how we look. When listing things we love about ourselves (which I’d also highly recommend), how often do we think of things that aren’t necessarily ‘perfect’? Everyone has flaws, parts of ourselves we don’t like or worry what others will think of them, but they’re as part of us as the things we love. Even when my eczema has cleared, I always have scars, but I love them, because they represent the struggle I had that was a part of my story. Every imperfection tells a story.

  • Wear something that makes you feel confident

    We all have that one outfit, that one jumper or hairstyle, that makes us feel comfortable and confident. Don’t save it for special occasions, and certainly don’t worry what other people are thinking. Or, if you can’t think of anything that makes you feel like this, go out and treat yourself to something new if you can afford it. Try a new look, a new outfit, even a new hair colour! Whatever you want to try, go for it, because it might just be what you’ve been looking for.

  • Dance

    It might sound random, but I find this really helps me. Putting on a good song and just dancing around the room makes me feel confident in all aspects of myself - inside and out. It’s also a great stress reliever, and no one’s watching, so just go for it!

  • Don't do other people, do you!

    Yes, some people have bodies we envy - good for them. But they’re doing them, and if you looked more like them, you wouldn’t really be you. That little thing you have, that signature look, is only part of what makes you, you!

Everyone has flaws, parts of ourselves we don’t like or worry what others will think of them, but they’re as part of us as the things we love.

More information and advice

We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.

Where to get help

However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.

Thanks for sharing your story Aimee, 17

Become a YoungMinds blogger Find out more

Spread the word