You may have experienced it in some form yourself or watched helplessly as someone you know suffers from its hideous symptoms.
You might still be going through this, feeling that familiar irritation as you seek comfort and relief from that never-ending itch. If so, you are by no means alone.
“There are already studies showing evidence of a correlation between itch and mental health problems in general, and in specific skin disorders, but there is a lack of a cross-sectional study across chronic skin diseases,” says dermatologist Florence J. Dalgard from Lund University in Sweden.
In patients with skin conditions who reported itching, the prevalence of depression was 14.1 percent. This lowered to 5.7 percent in patients who didn’t itch.
Patients with itch further reported experiencing more negative life events than the patients without itch did (38.2 percent compared to 32.4 percent respectively), and the patients who experienced itching were also likely to experience more economic problems.
While the team acknowledge their data can prove nothing about causation one way or the other (and submit that mental health suffering could potentially induce itch to some degree), they suggest it is much more likely that skin diseases are the cause of itching, which then leads to mental health effects.
While more research is needed to explore the hypothesis, for now at least, the link between itching and depression looks more firmly established than ever.
And that, the researchers say, should be reflected in how we treat patients with skin conditions – with a multidisciplinary team of physicians to help support these people, and everything they may be dealing with.
At the same time, preventative programs might be able to play a role in helping to ease itching and maybe reducing the development of the serious psychological symptoms that appear to stem from it.