Vitiligo changes the appearance of the skin, often noticeably, and some people with the skin condition may deal with poor body image and low self-esteem — it can be frustrating to feel different because of vitiligo.
There is so much beauty in being different. But vitiligo is not who you are, it’s merely a condition you have. Be proud of who you are, including your skin.
What Is Vitiligo
Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition that causes progressive loss of pigmentation in the skin. It is characterized by patches of lighter skin that develop and that may change over a person’s lifetime. These lighter patches, which tend to first appear on the hands, feet, and face, are generally more noticeable the darker a person’s complexion is.
This skin condition affects approximately 1 to 2 percent of the global population. The condition usually appears before age 20 but can develop at any age. It is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There is no cure, though various treatments exist.
The Emotional Impact of Vitiligo
While vitiligo is a condition that affects the skin, it’s also known to have an emotional impact on the people living with the condition. Living with vitiligo can result in psychological distress, including low self esteem and low confidence, anxiety, depression, and relationship issues.
One study found that 70 percent of women and 54 percent of men experienced self-esteem issues as a result of their vitiligo.
Finding Pride in Your Skin
Vitiligo shouldn’t keep you from loving the skin you’re in. If you have vitiligo, there are steps you can take to help you cope with the challenges you face and unpack any misperceptions about your appearance and worth.
Find out as much as you can about vitiligo. Learn what your treatment options are so you’re empowered to make informed decisions and take control of your own health. If you understand how vitiligo affects you, you’re more likely to feel more in control and more confident in making choices about your healthcare.
Build a Community of Support
Having a support system that you can turn to when you’re feeling down is important. Confide in loved ones. Seek support from your family, friends, and others that understand you and some of the challenges you’ve faced. Your doctor is also an important part of your support system. Talk to them about any negativity you may be feeling surrounding your vitiligo so that they can help support you. Your doctor can also refer you to a counselor if that would help.
Talking with other people who are living with vitiligo may also be helpful in overcoming some of your challenges. Remember that you are not alone. Vitiligo is a common condition that affects millions of people. Even some famous stars live well with vitiligo.
People with this skin condition cope better with their feelings when they undergo cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), research has shown. CBT is a form of therapy focused on addressing negative thoughts and behaviors that have an undesirable impact on a person’s well-being. CBT can significantly improve confidence and overall emotional health. What’s more, people with higher self esteem have been shown to cope better with their vitiligo than those with lower self image.
By Nyaka Mwanza: Nyaka is a freelance writer for MyHealthTeams. She completed a B.A. in Communications: Visual Media from American University and undertook post-baccalaureate studies in Health/Behavioral Communications and Marketing at Johns Hopkins University.