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Youths with Skin Disorders Targeted by Bullies

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I was reading through a recent issue of Dermascope Magazine, one of the leading industry publications in the aesthetics and skin care industry, and came across an article that troubled me. “Bullying Linked to Psoriasis” was based on a recent survey conducted by the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF).

I visited the NPF’s website, and was saddened by the statistics, which were quite alarming. According to this survey, nearly half (44%) of the children had endured some form of physical or emotional bullying. Thirty-eight percent of the respondents who were bullied reported that the abuse resulted directly from his/her psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. As a result of the bullying, these kids suffered a great deal of emotional distress, and reported increased anxiety, crying, difficulty sleeping, lower grades in school, and avoiding group activities for fear of being bullied.

I remembered reading something in another recent issue of Dermascope about how adolescents with acne are at an increased risk of suicidal thoughts. I delved into this issue a little more, and discovered a recent Norwegian study showing that teens with acne are almost twice as likely to report suicidal thoughts as teens who have little or no acne. These thoughts can be brought on by the emotional effects of the acne itself, which are similar to the effects experienced by other sufferers of skin care disorders like psoriasis, rosacea, or eczema; but also by bullying.

Why do kids get bullied?

Any child could potentially be a victim of bullying. However, bullies typically target kids who have something that makes them different from what the bully considers to be socially acceptable. This could be any characteristic: height, weight, sexual orientation, disability, religion, ethnicity, race, parents’ income, etc. An identifying characteristic like acne breakouts or large patches of the red, scaly lesions caused by psoriasis can make a child a walking target.

How can parents help their children NOT get bullied?

Despite efforts taken by schools and parents to educate kids about bullying (especially after the recent teen suicide tragedies), bullying still happens. The schools have to do their part, but they can only do so much. I urge all parents to do all they can to educate their children at home, not just about bullying others, but about what to do if they feel they are the target of abuse. These kids need to know that they are not alone, and that help is easily and safely accessible. Furthermore, parents need to work on building their child’s self-esteem at home. Kids who are happy and comfortable in their own skins are less likely to be the aggressors or victims of bullying.

These disorders are treatable.

Finally, parents of children with these skin disorders need to step up and take the necessary steps to treat the disorders. Acne, rosacea, and eczema can be reduced or even eliminated by incorporating proper nutritional habits, adequate hydration, good hygiene, and a proper skin care regimen with clinical (not over-the-counter) products; and if all else fails, a visit to a dermatologist.

Psoriasis is a little different, because rather than just being a bacterial infection like acne, or an inflammatory condition like rosacea or eczema, it is an autoimmune disease, which not only manifests as red, scaly lesions on the skin, but also as psoriatic arthritis. However, flare-ups can be prevented and treated by many means, holistically and medically. These kids do not need to suffer.

If the parents do their research and consider all of the available treatments, they can significantly reduce the physical and emotional effects of these skin disorders. If the children physically have fewer breakouts or flare-ups, they will look and feel much better about themselves; and this will reduce their risk of being targeted by bullies.

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About Rachael Pontillo