All that negative chatter dominating your mind can trickle down to your body. An anxious mind creates an anxious body, not to mention seriously frazzled skin. We’ve all noticed those ill-timed breakouts when we’re spread too thin. So what exactly happens to your skin when you’re just too tense?
Tick behaviours (think: the nail biter or the nervous person who picks apart her split ends) can cause serious skin problems. And sometimes those problems can be permanent. There are people who cause their own balding from pulling out their hair, which is a disorder called trichotillomania. Subconsciously, you might also pick, itch, or scratch your skin, which could lead to wounds and scars. And all this is more common than you think.
Eczema acting up or psoriasis flaring again? You might be stressed out, says Waldman. So what’s going on under the skin while you’re spiraling? A flood of the hormone cortisol can tank your immune system, a response that takes a toll on your skin and your Zen.
Stress and skin woes also have a bit of a cyclical relationship. Patients who have skin conditions have been shown to have higher instances of anxiety and social avoidance. It’s all interconnected in that stress and anxiety can impact skin conditions, and having skin issues can lead to anxiety and negatively affect someone. Skin freak-outs in tense times will clear up in due course.
Sallow, wrinkly face
Look a little worse for the wear on days when you’re particularly panicked? There’s a reason. Angst can cause your skin to look dull, your face to lose volume, and an uptick in fine lines and acne. Stress and anxiety can have a deleterious effect on DNA in the cells. Telomeres – which are caps at the end of each strand of DNA, kind of like the plastic tips on the end of shoelaces – that protect our chromosomes and affect how fast our cells age are shorter in people with stress. And as telomere length shortens, cells die off or become damaged.
Lack of sleep makes it worse
Research has shown that even small work stressors and anxieties can add up and negatively impact sleep. And unfortunately, skipping z’s doesn’t just result in wanting to take a nap under your desk at work. It can lead to swollen eyes, dark circles, and increased signs of aging.
A daily moisturizer with caffeine can help lighten and tighten the eye area. But there’s really no solution like getting a good eight hours of quality rest. Sleep is when our neurons recharge and our brain does its repair.
Telogen effluvium is a condition in which your hair falls out because you are stressed or sick. Normally, hair has a predictable pattern of growing and falling out. But in times of incredible unease, it doesn’t appear to follow that pattern. The cause is not completely understood, but doctors speculate that if your body is perceiving anxiety as a threat, it may not view growing hair as worth the energy.
Of course, on a less extreme scale, many of us have seen clumps of hair in the drain when we’re totally drained (then gone straight to WebMD and diagnosed ourselves with anemia or bubonic plague – or convinced ourselves we’re pregnant). But thinning and shedding hair can be normal when you’re experiencing bouts of anxiety or stress. Fortunately, the effect reverses itself in calmer times. To help with hair growth, make sure you’re eating at least 20 grams of protein daily.