A dermatologist talks about the emotional problems of young people and their relation to acne. This is what is known about the cause of acne.
Puberty was a point in your life that marked the end of childhood and the beginning of adolescence. It occurred when you were between the ages of 12 and 14.
Physical changes in puberty
At this time a change occurred in the activity and function of your sexual glands. As a result, during the years that followed, your body gradually assumed a more mature appearance. These changes will continue slowly until you have reached adulthood.
Every part of the body in some way feels the influence of this glandular activity. The oil glands of the skin are no exception. To judge from the way they feverishly start manufacturing and pumping oil, it would seem as though they were trying to make up for their years of sluggishness.
There is nothing the body can do with this large amount of oil except carry it to the surface of the skin. This produces the oily appearance so typical of acne.
Medical science is trying to find out just what it is about the function of the sexual glands that causes this surge of oil. So far, there is not too much that is certain.
There are also other activities going on in the body which affect your acne The way your tissues, including the skin, grow and maintain their health depends upon a complex series of reactions within the body.
These vital reactions are called the metabolism of the body. The food you eat plays an important role in these reactions.
Because some foods are important for you, you should not eliminate foods at the risk of depriving yourself of a well-balanced diet, unless you have been convinced beyond any doubt that they make your acne worse.
A lack of iodine in the body causes a disturbance of the thyroid gland. The thyroid is another one of the hormone-secreting glands. It regulates the speed or rate of our metabolism. If the thyroid isn’t going full force, it affects all the other internal glands.
The importance of infected teeth, tonsils, and sinuses in the cause of acne have been exaggerated. Some dermatologists, however, feel strongly that such a source of “focus’” of infection in the body makes acne worse, or at least keeps it going.
There are some working conditions which have been found to make acne worse.
On some jobs there are dust, heat, and humidity to contend with and personal hygiene is poor. Some types of work require rough or woolen clothing, which can irritate the skin or rub bacteria into the follicle openings.
The question arises – what does your general health have to do with acne? Are you likely lo have more colds or other infections than a person free from acne? Are your pep and energy below average?
Dermatologists and many acne patients have noticed that their acne is worse in the winter and better in the summer. Perhaps this is because in the winter resistance is lower than in the summer. In the winter vitality is lower. During the summer everyone seems to feel better.
The explanation of these observations may have something to do with the greater amount of sunshine everyone is exposed to in the summer. Sunlight helps manufacture Vitamin D in the body and this vitamin is very important to good health. Summer foods are richer in vitamins and other essentials to good nutrition.
The expression “athlete’s acne” is used by dermatologists because acne is sometimes very severe in young men who are extremely active in sports.
Physical conditioning and training are an accepted part of an athlete’s life. You assume that athletes are perfect physical specimens who would never have acne.
However, a well-trained athlete is like a racehorse in the sense that every effort has been made to bring to perfection all his special capabilities. In doing this, great stress is put on the body as a whole, causing excessive fatigue, and this may explain the frequency of acne in athletes.
We have noticed the same thing in women who are professional dancers.
Besides the physical strain on your body which has just been mentioned, you are under another type of strain or, to use another word, tension.
The development taking place in your growing body has already been discussed. But so far no mention has been made of another type of change that is occurring.
This is the change in your attitude towards yourself and those about you. These changes are the ones that affect your emotional life.
Acne usually starts during a period in your life which is filled with new experiences. High school is one of the first of these. Early business ventures, with longer working hours and greater responsibility, are another.
It may well be that the emotional stress and strain which result from these and similar new needs for adjustment are partly to blame for the overactivity of your oil glands.
Always remember that acne is not the result of one single cause.
One of the biggest battles that doctors have to fight today is the way our bodies suffer from the hectic lives we lead. Almost everyone suffers some emotional tension from the fact that the world we live in has become complicated and uncertain.
Young people are no exception, and the ways in which emotional tension can arise are legion. Of course, just as with the treatment of the skin lesions oí acne, there is no one solution to emotional problems.
Taking things in stride will help you through a good many disturbing situations. The events of everyday life which cause worry and anxiety should be reconsidered in regard to their real importance to you. They should not be allowed to dominate your life.
Another characteristic of adolescence is its sexual life. Now, quite suddenly members of the opposite sex become desirable and attractive.
Our customs have played a mean trick in a sense because nature has made you sexually mature before you are ready for marriage. Even though you are considered too young to get married, there are strong sexual impulses within you which always make their presence felt.
Scientifically, this is perfectly understandable. You may remember from biology or hygiene studies that there are strong forces at work within us called “instincts.” One of these is the “sex instinct.”
The sexual instinct starts much earlier than most of us think. Starting from childhood many try to satisfy the sex instinct by masturbation.
This has been falsely considered everything from sinful to the cause of acne. Acne is not the result of masturbation.
There is another way to handle the incompletely satisfied emotions created by sex instincts.
Physical activity in the form of recreation serves as an excellent means for the expression of pent-up emotions. Any of the popular games, such as tennis, golf, or swimming, provide a very good way to divert the energy derived from the sexual instinct.
Some of these sexual energy can be expended also in hobbies and crafts. Similarly, dramatics, art, and music have a stimulation of their own and make worthwhile diversions for young people.
Since emotional tension is a drain on your energy and health, and since it may well play a part in your acne, all sources of such tension should be uncovered and eliminated.
If it is due to problems at school or on the job, these problems should be discussed with someone capable of advising on such matters or with interested friends.
If the tension seems to arise from more intimate or personal matters, causing vague feelings of unhappiness (the reason for which you cannot quite seem to put your finger on), talk it over with an older, understanding person or with your doctor.
Everyone is self-conscious about something. But sensitiveness about one’s appearance is likely to be particularly strong in young people.
Because of what they consider an unsightly appearance, young men and women with acne develop feelings of self-consciousness which are greater than they might have ordinarily. These feelings are so common that you can be sure that everyone with acne has experienced them.
Generally speaking, the amount of self-consciousness that one has with acne depends on one’s frame of mind. You know that when you are worried and unhappy about something you are irritable and easily upset by trivial things. These same things would not bother you at all under happier circumstances.