Social media accounts demonstrate that for some people living with rosacea can be related to significant levels of distress. That said, many people cope well with this long-term condition, yet understandably at times they may still experience anxiety, depression, and feelings of embarrassment, which can impact negatively on quality of life. In some cases, there might be a long-term impact on quality of life typically in the form of avoidance of everyday activities. This can have a negative effect on social and/or occupational opportunities, and possibly also upon relationships.
Several studies have investigated the type of distress that people living with rosacea might experience and the relationship of this to the condition itself. For example, a recent interview-based study conducted by myself and colleagues found that self-consciousness was often reported. This was usually associated with worry about being judged as a result of the common myths and misunderstandings linked with rosacea (such as others mistakenly thinking it’s a result of heavy use of alcohol). This study also identified that unhelpful coping strategies such as avoidance, concealment, and hiding emotions were not uncommonly employed in response to managing these fears or in managing the general appearance-related worry that can be present. The study also indicated that some people had encountered a degree of dismissiveness when seeking treatment. This is unfortunate because it is really important to be open with your doctor about your needs, not least because there is support available that may make a difference to the rosacea itself and to the impact that it’s having. If you don’t succeed in getting support when you first ask, do persevere and ask again.
As well as the secondary impact on mood that having rosacea can have, stress and worry have also been reported to act as triggers for the condition flaring up for some people. This can result in vicious cycles being set up, whereby a flare-up triggers stress and this triggers a further exacerbation of the flare-up. So developing strategies to manage stress may well have a direct impact on the condition itself.
Organisations such as the British Skin Foundation are actively seeking to challenge the myths associated with skin conditions such as rosacea and social media champions can also play a role in raising awareness. The talkhealth partnership has lots of helpful information about physical treatment, and additionally provides access to a useful forum, and has accounts of people living with rosacea that can provide reassurance and a sense of community for people living with this visible skin condition.
In short, people should certainly seek help from their doctor if they are getting distressed by the condition. The British Association of Dermatologists provides some access to guided support, and in some areas of the UK there is also access to skin-specific NHS wellbeing services (see here for an example of the service available for people living in Sheffield). Where skin-specific psychological services are not available support can still be accessed through mainstream services. The waiting times for such services are now generally short and people can access not only recognised one-to-one psychological therapies but also gain access to online guided self-help and attendance on courses aimed at developing stress management techniques.
Dr Andrew R Thompson