Adult patients who experience stress in the form of “anxiety sensitivity” are more likely to develop psychodermatological conditions than those that are not psychodermatological, a cross-sectional study of 115 participants shows.

“The results suggest that [anxiety sensitivity] interventions combined with dermatology treatments may be beneficial for psychodermatological patients,” wrote Laura J. Dixon, PhD, of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, and her associates. “There is strong evidence that cognitive-behavioral therapy significantly reduces [anxiety sensitivity] through strategies such as psychoeducation, interoceptive exposure, and cognitive therapy.”

Dr. Dixon and her associates recruited 123 dermatologic patients aged 18-83 years over 30 weeks through three outpatient university dermatology clinics in Central Mississippi. Sixty-five percent of the participants were white, 33% were black, 1% were Asian, and 1% were Native American; 65% were female. Most of the patients were married and living with their spouses. The final sample of participants comprised 63 psychodermatological patients and 52 nonpsychodermatological patients ( Psychosomatics. 2016;57:498-504 ).

The investigators assessed general anxiety symptoms using the 7-item depression, anxiety, and stress subscale ( DASS-A ) from the 21-item version of the questionnaire (DASS-21). Anxiety sensitivity – which refers to the “extent of beliefs that anxiety symptoms or arousal can have harmful consequences” ( Turk Psikiyatri Derg. 2011 Fall;22[3]:187-93 ) – was measured using the Anxiety Sensitivity Index–3 ( ASI-3 , an 18-item self-report instrument that assesses physical manifestations of anxiety, such as blushing and fast heart beating.

Psychodermatological conditions were classified as disorders that might be rooted in or made worse by psychological, behavioral, or stress-related factors. Conditions in this category include acne, alopecia, atopic dermatitis, eczema, hidradenitis, prurigo, psoriasis, and rosacea. Dermatologic conditions not tied to psychological factors and classified as biologically based include brittle fingernails, cysts, keloids, rashes, skin cancer, skin lesions, spider veins, and warts, reported Dr. Dixon.

No significant differences were observed on the DASS-A scores between the two groups.

The mean scores of psychodermatological patients on the ASI-3 were significantly higher than the scores of patients with nonpsychodermatological conditions (21.1 vs. 13.7; P = .013). In fact, Dr. Dixon and her associates found that “each 1-unit increment in the ASI-3 social subscale score was associated with a 12.7% increased odds of patients having a psychodermatological condition.”

“Taken together, these results are supported by existing theoretical models of psychodermatological disorders that highlight the importance of stress among patients with certain dermatological conditions,” the researchers wrote.

One of the authors, dermatologist Robert T. Brodell, disclosed receiving honoraria from Allergan, Galderma Laboratories, and PharmaDerm; he also disclosed receiving consultant fees and performing clinical trials for other pharmaceutical companies. Neither Dr. Dixon nor any of the other authors declared relevant financial disclosures.

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