We’ve all had an itch that we’ve needed to scratch, but many people don’t realize that itchy skin can be a symptom of a number of health conditions, some of which are very serious, like psychogenic itch.
Described as an excessive impulse to scratch, gouge, or pick at normal skin, psychogenic itch is related to psychological abnormalities. It is typically diagnosed only after other possible causes are eliminated and the patient has tested negative in screenings for skin disorders or diseases. Itchy spots are often found in easy-to-scratch parts of the body such as face, arms, and legs.
Some studies say depression may be the root cause of psychogenic itch, but this condition is also associated with obsessive-compulsive disorders, mania, and even substance abuse. Additionally, stressful life events such as loss of a job or a loved one and relocation can play a role. Although the prevalence of psychogenic itch is unknown, a study published in Dermatology Therapy notes that approximately 2 percent of patients (predominately women between the ages of 30 and 45) seen at dermatology clinics are diagnosed with psychogenic itch.
Data also shows a significant correlation between mental stress and itch and pain. Although limited data are available on the treatment of psychogenic itch, medications used to treat chronic pain caused by damage to the nervous system, depression, and anxiety have proven to be effective in helping to control the sensation.
Source: G, Yosipovitch. Neuropathic and Psychogenic Itch. Dermatology Therapy. 2008. 2.1:32-41. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1529-8019.2008.00167.x/epdf
Source: S., Jain. Current Psychiatry. Problematic pruritus: Seeking a cure for psychogenic itch. 2015. http://www.currentpsychiatry.com/articles/pearls/article/problematic-pruritus-seeking-a-cure-for-psychogenic-itch/aa9549f0c20448041cb5a75723273625.html
Photo by Helga Weber
“Every day my patients ask me how they can prevent wrinkles and brown spots. My advice is to first and foremost protect yourself from the sun and UV rays.” –Dr. Gigler