Oct 20, 2000

The reader of this article is cautioned to bear in mind that the information contained here in is to be used only for informational and educational purposes. It is not meant in any way to be a substitute for an evaluation by a qualified mental health professional or physician. After reading this, parents who have any concerns regarding their children are strongly recommended to seek a professional diagnostic evaluation, and if deemed necessary, to seek appropriate intervention and treatment by qualified, licensed professionals.

Stress is endemic in our society, and it's negative effects can take a meaningful toll on our children. Excess stress can lead to poor school performance, difficulties in attending, focusing and concentrating, school dropout, conduct disorder, delinquency, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, phobias, panic disorder, eating disorders, excessive risk taking behavior, anxiety, depression, violence, suicide, and the list goes on.

In many cases, children and their parents are not aware of the severity of the stress that a child may be experiencing. The younger a child is, the more difficult it is for them to understand their feelings, and to put a label to them. The younger a child is, the harder it is for them to be able to translate their feelings into thoughts, beliefs, ideas, and cognitions. Consequently, it is more difficult for younger children to be able to organize and to express their feelings and cognitions in words. Of course, this is not a problem that is only found in young children. I am sure that you are also aware of the fact that there are many adults who have trouble labeling their emotions, putting them into words, and expressing their feelings.

It has long been believed in the mental health field that unverbalized conflicts or problems may be somatized. That is to say, that unverbalized conflicts may seek to be expressed via a somatic or bodily reaction, such as the appearance of a physical symptom. The skin is an organ of the body that perhaps most easily betrays the psychological effects of stress.

The following is a list of the "Top 10 Stress Related Skin Disorders in Children:

1) Cold Sores, as manifested by the appearance of painful blisters on the lips or in the mouth.

2) Pruritus, a chronic itching or the skin, that can result in sores or wound marks from incessant scratching. These wounds can sometimes become infected.

3) Dandruff, a frequently seen scalp condition marked by dry or scaly skin.

4) Eczema, a skin condition marked by redness, itching, tiny pimples, and scaly or crusted scabs or lesions. These signs may occur alone in in combination.

5) Psoriasis, a skin condition marked by inflammation or redness, itching, and thick patches of dry skin with a crusty, scaly appearance.

6) Hyperhydrosis, as manifested by clammy hands and excessive sweating.

7) Alopecia, a skin condition associated with hair loss, typically in the form or circular bald spots, usually on the scalp.

8) Uticaria, more commonly known as Hives, as manifested by itchy raised welts which may also resemble a rash on the body.

9) Shingles, a disorder caused by a virus, but which may appear or be exacerbated by stress, and which is marked by an inflammation in one or more nerve ganglia, resulting in skin eruptions and pain, usually along the course of a single nerve.

10) Rosacea, as manifested by an inflammation of the skin, usually on the face, that resembles a red rash or a blushing of the skin. It can also manifest itself as thin red lines, which are enlarged blood vessels, and somewhat less commonly as tiny pimples or red lumps on the nose.

A few words of caution. The above list of symptoms should not be taken to be inclusive, nor should the appearance of any of these symptoms be taken to mean that your child is experiencing a stress reaction. There may be many other possible explanations. For example, what looks like Rosacea could be a simple heat rash. What looks like Pruritus could actually be the result of insect bites, such as fleas (especially if your child's pet sleeps in close proximity to their bed). What looks like Hives, might be Poison Ivy, etc.

Do not try to make a medical diagnosis of a condition yourself. Seek the opinion of your child's Pediatrician. If your child's Doctor is unable to find any physical causes for these, or for any other symptoms that your child may be experiencing, it is a prudent time to consult with a mental health professional, before the problem can get potentially worse. Remember, it is easier to fix a problem when it is small.

As was stated in the opening paragraph of this informational piece, parents who have any concerns regarding the effects of stress or any other mental health or emotional problem are directed to seek guidance and help from qualified mental health professionals. The purpose of this article is to help parents recognize some of the possible signs and symptoms of stress in children. It is not in any way meant to be a substitute for an evaluation by a qualified mental health professional, or physician. If after reading this, you have concerns about your child, seek professional guidance. Sincerest best wishes, and good luck.

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