Psychodermatology: How skin communicates unconscious conflicts

May 30, 2024


Art Credit: Jano Tantongco, jano.tantongco@gmail.com


How do skin conditions give voice to silent suffering in our souls?

Our exploration into the connections between skin and psyche reveals striking insights. Often, our skin acts as a mirror to our internal emotional states, in essence our skin communicates unconscious conflicts. By delving into this mystery, we can understand hidden unconscious dynamics that shape our body and our feelings.

By studying skin and mind, we uncover the relationship between our dermal layers and psychological states. Skin conditions frequently manifest as physical symbols of deeper psychological conflicts. Through reactions such as blushing, sweating, and turning pale, our skin betrays our innermost emotions. This undeniable link between mental state and skin is deeply rooted in our physiology. Each reaction is a testament to the connection between our emotions and skin. Phrases like “skin deep” and “thick-skinned” highlight how ingrained this relationship is in our language and understanding. Our skin vividly reflects our emotional turmoil.

Acting as a boundary, our skin delineates our inner selves from the external world. This protective barrier also serves as a canvas for displaying psychological conflicts. Conditions such as eczema and psoriasis often symbolize more profound emotional struggles, like stress, anxiety, and unresolved conflicts. The state of our skin frequently mirrors the turmoil within us.

Self-inflicted skin lesions, such as those seen in dermatitis artefacta, represent inner turmoil that individuals manifest in an attempt to make psychological pain visible. They serve as a cry for help. The skin reveals what words often cannot. Understanding these cries can guide effective interventions. The skin’s call for help must be heard.

Analytic treatments focus on exploring the symbolic meanings behind these conditions provides a better understanding of the patient’s inner world. Psoriasis can indicate a sense of divided loyalties or an internal conflict. This often manifests in different parts of the body. Alopecia might symbolize areas of one’s life that feel empty or void. The return of hair can represent a healing process. Our skin conditions often narrate our life’s emotional journey.

We are often instinctively drawn to symbolic gestures of healing. Using products like creams and mud baths can symbolize a desire to manage or cover psychological issues. Substances like mud represent a return to primal elements. Our perceptions of time and space impact our skin conditions. The notion of a condition spreading or receding can symbolize the tidal movements of libido that shape our destiny.

Recognizing the deep connection between our skin and psyche can enhance the transcendent function and facilitate communication between the ego and the unconscious. Cultivating a symbolic attitude can reveal meaning written in nature. That same understanding can help us read the secrets written on our skin.


“I am walking through a labyrinth in the dark. I’m feeling my way along old cobblestone walls until a woman carrying a torch finds me. The woman is someone I knew once; we were friends until I was callous towards her in an argument, and we stopped talking. When she found me, I was filled with guilt, and I apologized to her; she replied, “All was forgiven.” She took my hand and guided me through the labyrinth. We eventually reach a staircase going to the surface. We walk out into the light and look upon a barren red landscape, like the surface of Mars. She moves out, and I follow, but when I look to my right, the sky is overshadowed by a massive planet, as though Jupiter sits above my head. It stretched across the horizon. I tried to avert my eyes, and my friend kept telling me that we needed to walk, but I was stumbling and falling. I was nauseated to the point of vomiting. She kept calling out for me, but I fell face-first into the dirt, waking from the dream.”


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