Maybe after reading the headline, you were wondering if I had made a mistake. Eczema is a skin disease, after all, and you usually go to a dermatologist who prescribes ointments and scolds us for using the wrong cosmetics. But really? Is the cause of eczema the wrong choice of cosmetics that we have been using for several years and our skin has decided it has had enough? Maybe. In some cases. In others, we would find that our condition may be related to how we are doing mentally.

Atopic eczema, along with other skin diseases, as well as headaches, back pain, high blood pressure, allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, and others, is considered one of the most widespread so-called psychosomatic diseases. The word “psychosomatic” comes from Greek and refers to the interconnection of the soul (psyche) and body (soma). The duality of body and soul was already discussed by the prominent ancient Greek philosopher Plato and his student Aristotle. Plato considered the soul to be the essence of a person that, unlike the body, endures and rules over it. He also believed, however, that the body needs to be taken care of. Aristotle saw the body as a foundation that gives the soul form and connection between the soul and the body was considered as sense, power, and purpose.

The essence of the psychosomatic approach to the patient is a comprehensive view of health. This means that the cause of the disease is not considered directly as a physiological influence, but psychological and social influences are also taken into account. In our conditions, the prevailing approach to the patient is still when the primary focus of the doctor is to eliminate the physical symptoms of the disease with medication, which sometimes, even when prescribed repeatedly, does not work, but in the meantime, the side effects destroy the patients’ intestinal microflora and weaken their immunity. If the medication does not work, the patient undergoes time-consuming and psychologically demanding examinations with specialists, and a visit to a psychologist or psychiatrist is often one of the last options. Other professionals do not usually ask about the patient’s life situation and what they are currently going through, as if it were not related to their illness. Discussing the reasons for this state of healthcare could be the subject of another article; it is certainly not just about the doctors’ approach, but also the institutional framework of healthcare, where there is not enough time for the patient, and the boundaries of the patients’ intimate zone are related to their inability or unwillingness to share information from their privacy, and so on.

Body as the Voice of the Soul

Do you also experience that when you are doing well, going through a successful and joyful period, your skin improves, migraines subside, breathing becomes easier, you have more energy, and others tell you that you are glowing? Mental well-being is reflected in bodily functioning and overall radiance. Similarly, it is with mental discomfort. Psychiatrist Radkin Honzák says that “with stress and negative emotions, we end up in diseases and hospitals.”

According to him, emotional problems, whose roots are often laid in childhood, are often at the origin of physical illnesses. They are primarily related to the quality of the child’s relationship with the mother (or other person who cares for him) – you can find more information about attachment in our article.

Other factors contributing to the development of psychosomatic illnesses are, in addition to genetic predispositions, various stimuli that trigger negative emotions and the resulting negative reactions. These are usually related to not meeting our biological or psychosocial needs, and a significant factor is stress. Our lifestyle often has a very significant correlation with our illnesses, and to put it simply, what we put into our digestive tract. It’s not just about food, but also about the quality of water, air, and the amount of medication we take. Recent research findings indicate that about 70-90% of brain chemicals are formed in our gut. Gut bacteria produce so-called neurons (nerve cells) and neurotransmitters (chemical substances that transmit signals between neurons in the brain). The gut flora communicates with the brain through the vagus nerve. The level of neurotransmitters in the brain plays a crucial role in many mental disorders (such as depression).

Finnish scientists (Numenmaa L., Glerean E., Hari R., Hietanen J. K.) published a study in 2013 titled “Bodily maps of emotions” in which they used imaging techniques to come to the conclusion that we all have very similar bodily experiences associated with emotions (see image).

S ekzémom ku psychlógovi? | | O duši.

The first line: anger, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness, surprise, neutral state. The second line: anxiety, love, depression, contempt, pride, shame, anger.

Warm colors (orange, red) indicate areas of the body where a particular emotion is heightened, while cool colors (shades of blue) indicate areas where sensation is reduced during a particular emotion.

How to “de-somatize”?

What can we do to prevent our bodies from becoming ill when we feel bad internally? Czech doctor Jan Hnízdil says that every illness is information about who the person is and how they live, in what conditions, socially and within their family. From a psychosomatic perspective, illness is not something passive that simply happens to us out of the blue. A person plays a certain role in the process of illness through their actions, lifestyle, experience, and thinking. They need to understand it and start changing for better health themselves. It seems that we ourselves have a certain responsibility for our health or illness and can influence many circumstances and attitudes to feel better. We can ask ourselves what we are dissatisfied with and what we need. We can change the environment in which we live, actively communicate with loved ones and repair relationships, take a vacation from work, choose a healthier diet, exercise more, and so on.

Organs in the body have symbolic functions from a psychosomatic perspective, which can provide hypotheses or guidelines (symbolic functions are not exhaustive causes of psychosomatic disorders!) when considering what they are trying to convey to us when they are ill. For example, the skin is perceived as a certain boundary of the body that protects us from the environment. Eczema may indicate problems with the environment and relationships, or it may be a manifestation of something we are hiding or self-destructive thoughts.

How are you? What bothers you about the current situation and what suits you? What do you need to make things better? What can you do yourself? Or what has helped you in the past? If you feel like it, share your experiences and opinions in the discussion below the article.

Radkin Honzák humorously notes, “Let’s be good to each other! Buying twenty cream puffs and three cakes doesn’t mean we’re taking care of ourselves,” and formulates three tips that we can incorporate into our behavior and thus prevent illnesses:

Let go of the need to control everything. The need to have everything under control increases the feeling of danger and thus our discomfort. Stop rushing. Or learn to relax. You may be interested in some of these hobbies and interests. Maintain a quality sleep pattern. Sleep regularly, ideally at night, in the dark and for a sufficient amount of time. Sleep improves immunity, memory function, clears the brain, stabilizes metabolism and accelerates weight loss – which means that when we sleep, we lose weight :).

What is done with eczema in psychotherapy?

Psychotherapeutic work with patients who come with psychosomatic illness is based on its presumed causes, often from the aforementioned problems with early attachment to the mother. The therapist will be interested in the patient’s feelings, moods, social environment, their entire personality, and together they should gradually form a trusting relationship. A relationship in which the patient will feel safe and see certainty so that they can allow themselves to honestly experience their emotions. They will work together to find ways for the patient to be more in touch with themselves. The experience of a so-called corrective experience is assumed, that is, experiencing one’s old emotional patterns in a new environment with a person – the therapist – with whom the patient already has a good relationship, and so this experience “corrects” emotions from the past and the patient experiences a new experience, realizing that it can be different than before. As an adult, they have the opportunity to re-evaluate their emotions in a safe therapy environment.