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Tangerine

Emotional Problems are Causing Your Acne

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Maybe not completely, but if nothing works for you, think about this.

Acne is a result of a bunch of lifestyle insults causing damage to your body... to the point where it can't repair itself and your weakest link snaps and you get symptoms, and unfortunately for us... that's our skin! :(

So, there are a lot of things that contribute to this weakening of the body, but have you ever considered that emotional problems is a major one? I've never seen anything about it in this forum.

It's estimated that more than 50% of skin diseases have a heavy psychological component, and dealing with this clears your skin easier and faster. If you think about it, your skin is especially intimate with your brain and emotions because it is the organ that gathers all the information from the outside world. It is covered with nerve endings.

When negative thoughts and emotions and limiting beliefs (which acne victims are obviously just chalk full of) generate in the brain, they get turned into neuropeptides, which are chemical messengers. There is a particular neuropeptide called Substance P that is active in the skin and is associated heavily with anxiety, depression, and stress. <--- see the connection?

It's not just obvious stress either... it's often repressed emotions, like self esteem problems, that get regenerated over and over and cause a lot of damage. Since this gets translated to chemicals and the stress hormone... well...any negative toxic chemical that circulates through you over and over again is going to be damaging, right?

Everyone should download and read the free Ebook, Skin Deep by Ted Grossbart (you can google it, I never know if I'm allowed to link to anything). It's written by a Harvard Psychologist about the link between the mind and skin diseases and it's really amazing. It'll probably ring a lot of bells for you.

Anyway... take this seriously. A lot of people don't, because they don't think it could possibly have a role in their acne. Hey... I thought the same thing. My skin got a lot better after I accepted it and worked through it.

If you're someone who's tried everything, including diet changes, and nothing works, what is there to lose?

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I don't know. I tend to think it's an inflammatory condition that is caused by and causes a feedback loop between inflammation, oil production, infection, and more inflammation (repeat) that self-perpetuates and positively increases itself. It might be triggered or aggravated by allergies, stress, or some underlying medical condition related to hormones. But I always liked the Catherin Keener line in Being John Malkovich about unrequited love being bad for one's complexion. A blemish for every thought of unrequited love and lust? Either go for it, or get over it. Make a move. Make ‘em decide. Don’t sweat it.

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I was working with this musician for six months who had narcissistic personality disorder....I was SOOO stressed out/emotional around that time and I began to develop all kinds of health problems, including horrible acne. I had the worst inflamed cystic/nodular acne I've ever seen in my life, including other problems (irritable bowel syndrome)

As soon as I completely cut ties with this this guy and my stress levels dropped, pretty much all of my health issues vanished... now I have perfect skin. It's very strange, but I think some people are more sensitive or susceptible to stress and it causes them problems.

Edited by melvaughn
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Do you emotional problems or stress "cause" skin hyperkeratinization (excessive and uneven skin cell shedding within pores, potentially blocking them), which is the fundamental underlying defect in people with acne? No they do not.

Emotional problems and stress may certainly exacerbate acne, but they not one of the physical abnormalities already present in people with acne.

If people with acne had normal keratinization then no matter how oily (or dry) their skin was, no matter how stressed they got, no matter how much acne bacteria they had on their face/body, no matter what they ate - they would never get 1 pimple on their face or body.

Of course, normalising keratinization is the probably the hardest thing to do.

Edited by jimmy188
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Do you emotional problems or stress "cause" skin hyperkeratinization (excessive and uneven skin cell shedding within pores, potentially blocking them), which is the fundamental underlying defect in people with acne? No they do not.

Emotional problems and stress may certainly exacerbate acne, but they not one of the physical abnormalities already present in people with acne.

If people with acne had normal keratinization then no matter how oily (or dry) their skin was, no matter how stressed they got, no matter how much acne bacteria they had on their face/body, no matter what they ate - they would never get 1 pimple on their face or body.

Of course, normalising keratinization is the probably the hardest thing to do.

I didn't actually mean that it was the cause of acne... it was just supposed to be an intriguing headline. That's why I said "Maybe not completely, but if nothing works for you, think about this." at the beginning of the post.

People have genetic differentiation, I'm not disputing that... there are those who have genetic predisposition to acne and abnormal keratinization and those who don't - who can do anything they want and never get a pimple, as you said.

But this genetic weakness wouldn't express itself in acne if it weren't for aggravating factors.... diet, lifestyle....... and emotions and stress.

This was the point of the post. I'm trying to bring it to the attention of some people as food for thought that emotions and stress may play a much bigger role in their acne than they realized. It's not usually something people pay much attention to. They focus too much on topical treatment, or just diet and it doesn't always work. Maybe they'd have a revelation when they read this thread that they were neglecting their emotional health and maybe they should think about that.

No one seems that interested though. Oh well.

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Up until a couple of weeks ago, I'd never once considered that emotional problems and stress could contribute. Then it occurred to me that whatever amount of stress I've caused myself because of acne hasn't helped matters either.

If nothing else, I think the stress of it all can lead to actions which make it worse, such as picking. So although I'm yet to prove to myself that stress and emotions are a direct factor, I certainly think that removing the stress would stop me from acting in way which make my skin worse, so it's the same kind of thing, in a roundabout sort of way.

And I'd guess, given that the topic's been viewed over 180 times, that people are interested. It's just that for every blanket statement of, "Acne is caused by stress", there's sure to be just as many to the tune of, "It's not stress related", so people get caught up in it and, without necessarily having any true and factual knowledge on it, perhaps don't feel qualified to contribute.

Personally, I'll contribute on the basis that I'm eager to explore my options and would probably look for alternatives to antibiotics. My hand's kind of forced on that matter as my doctor won't refer me to a dermatologist and tells me that the medication I take will eventually work. It's 9 months since I started taking it and I wouldn't say it's working all that great. Someone I know who was on the same medication was told by their doctor that medications should work after 4 months at the most and if it hasn't kicked in by then it's time to change. So we're even getting contradicting information from medical professionals.

It seems my GP is happy enough for me to keep popping pills for the rest of my life, putting money in his pocket, of course. While I'm happy to do the course, there surely has to be a point where it's just a waste of money and the body it totally used to it. You could give me a whole rainbow of different coloured pills but it wouldn't alter things in terms of what I put into my body, how the body responds and how the acne manifests itself. That surely is all down to diet and lifestyle and, with that in mind, I would suggest it's more logical that an altogether holistic approach would be more beneficial in the long term compared to medication.

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It's funny (ok not funny kinda sad) I was in my Dermo's office the other week yet again for more painful coritisone injections to shrink up several whopper painful deep under the skin cysts. I went in completely bare faced, no make up or concealer. All of my red scars from a bad recent flare were showing along with about 6 active inflammed raised cysts.

Mind you I am 41 y/o and still dealing with this crap. been going to see the same derm for the last 20 years and they are frustrated that nothing they give me works so we're down to injections now.

She took one look at me and said, "ok what are you doing to yourself?"

As if this is something I would INTENTIONALLY cause!!! when in reality I drop to my knees every night and pray to god to take away this awful disease.

then she says, "how much stress are you under right now?"

My answer was a lot of stress. Yes, life is stressful. My dog died, my boss told me he'd probably have to lay me off, that means I probably can't pay my mortgage and will lose my house.. I'm 41 years old and still want a child desperately but time is running out and I have no prospects for a mate because I am too afraid to leave my house and go on dates with men the way that I look.

So, yea...a little bit stressed out. But she was implying that that the STRESS may be causing the acne (since they don't have any other solution for me).

I looked at her and very calmly and truthfully replied, "you know what dr. B, I'm pretty sure it's not stress causing my acne....it's my ACNE that's causing the STRESS."

And boy is that true. With all of the other problems I have going on in my life. I can deal with them and manage my stress fine. But every time I look in the mirror and my acne is bad, like now. I completely lose it. depression, anger, sadness, fear. mostly just wanting to be alone and isolate until my skin clears....which it never does :(

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It's funny (ok not funny kinda sad) I was in my Dermo's office the other week yet again for more painful coritisone injections to shrink up several whopper painful deep under the skin cysts. I went in completely bare faced, no make up or concealer. All of my red scars from a bad recent flare were showing along with about 6 active inflammed raised cysts.

Mind you I am 41 y/o and still dealing with this crap. been going to see the same derm for the last 20 years and they are frustrated that nothing they give me works so we're down to injections now.

She took one look at me and said, "ok what are you doing to yourself?"

As if this is something I would INTENTIONALLY cause!!! when in reality I drop to my knees every night and pray to god to take away this awful disease.

then she says, "how much stress are you under right now?"

My answer was a lot of stress. Yes, life is stressful. My dog died, my boss told me he'd probably have to lay me off, that means I probably can't pay my mortgage and will lose my house.. I'm 41 years old and still want a child desperately but time is running out and I have no prospects for a mate because I am too afraid to leave my house and go on dates with men the way that I look.

So, yea...a little bit stressed out. But she was implying that that the STRESS may be causing the acne (since they don't have any other solution for me).

I looked at her and very calmly and truthfully replied, "you know what dr. B, I'm pretty sure it's not stress causing my acne....it's my ACNE that's causing the STRESS."

And boy is that true. With all of the other problems I have going on in my life. I can deal with them and manage my stress fine. But every time I look in the mirror and my acne is bad, like now. I completely lose it. depression, anger, sadness, fear. mostly just wanting to be alone and isolate until my skin clears....which it never does :(

First of all.... I'm so sorry to hear about all the stuff you're going through! Definitely sending some love your way!

This is the thing I'm trying to get people to see... almost everyone thinks that it's the acne causing the stress. But in reality, a lot of people harbour negative views about themselves and problems with self esteem whether they have acne or not.

Subconsciously, you use acne to justify those feelings of low self esteem and fear.

For example, when I came down with severe acne, I had a boyfriend who was kind of critical of the way we made love.

I thought I had great self esteem, but it turned out that I actually had a fragile ego, terrified of criticism. I came down with severe acne as a way to shield my heart from the boyfriend's critcisms.... my body was using acne as a way to go 'hey woah, it's not me who isn't sexy, it's my acne".

That's an example to illustrate my point.

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Subconsciously, you use acne to justify those feelings of low self esteem and fear.

I've said the very same thing about myself twice today.

If I took away the acne, I'd still have the lack of confidence, lack of self esteem and lack of social skills. Only, I wouldn't have anything to use which would help me justify them.

I'm starting to think that this influences a lot of my behaviour, and it's usually negative actions.

If my skin's starting to clear up, I'll go looking for problems. And I will find them, or worse, create them. Then, job done, I can go back to justifying the way I feel and I can justify why I shut myself away.

It's plain as day to be honest, and when I think about it, that's pretty screwed up. :wall:

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Subconsciously, you use acne to justify those feelings of low self esteem and fear.

I've said the very same thing about myself twice today.

If I took away the acne, I'd still have the lack of confidence, lack of self esteem and lack of social skills. Only, I wouldn't have anything to use which would help me justify them.

I'm starting to think that this influences a lot of my behaviour, and it's usually negative actions.

If my skin's starting to clear up, I'll go looking for problems. And I will find them, or worse, create them. Then, job done, I can go back to justifying the way I feel and I can justify why I shut myself away.

It's plain as day to be honest, and when I think about it, that's pretty screwed up. :wall:

Yeah, it's crazy when you think about how obvious it is! And even once you know what you're doing, it's not like it's easy to stop... but awareness is definitely a step in the right direction.

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Back again ;)

I've felt good about myself over the last few weeks and I've spent time around people as a result. Enjoyed being in the company of other people and they've enjoyed my company too. So there's a nice little cycle of enjoyment going on. :lol:

All this means less stress and a better mood. No stress means not picking. Two weeks into this happy accident and my skin is great. My face hasn't looked this good for about four years. The only reason it looked good back then was because I was taking a decent amount of medication as per my GP.

Granted, while I am still taking antibiotics at the moment, they don't cure all and it was always going to be a losing battle if I was picking and popping the hell out of everything in sight. My focus has shifted from "curing" it with antibiotics to drinking more water, eating better, fitness, making sure I get more vitamins and generally treating my skin better.

It's only been two weeks and I don't think I would have expected this to happen so fast or for the results to be so good, which leaves me wondering if there could be a degree of coincidence to it, but I'm not complaining and I'll just carry on what I've started.

I feel totally different because I look so much better. It's not even that I've gone back to the old me. It's more like I've found a new me, and that's way better.

I met a girl at the weekend and we got on great. Not once over the last 12 years with acne have I approached a girl I liked. I introduced myself and we talked for ages. We were looking at each other the whole time and she didn't seem to think anything of my skin and didn't really care either way because we were enjoying the conversation. I asked her out and she said yes, so we're going on a date this Saturday. First time I've tried it and it worked! Come to realise that the confidence is the main thing, and indeed that a lack of confidence could ultimately be far more unattractive to someone than acne could be. I paid her attention and showed I was interested. Seems that's all it takes to get things started. If only I had learnt this sooner! :lol:

I said in my last post how I was using the condition of my skin to justify the situation I was in. Before, I would have gone looking for problems and actively making my skin worse in order to justify the lack of confidence and so on. Not any more!

So, back to the original point: putting effort into removing the stress, feeling better about myself, having a higher opinion of myself and starting to remove the negative emotional problems is helping my skin. A lot. I guess I knew this could offer something all along and that I had it in me to make the change, but it just feels like a leap of faith because I was so used to only ever using products and things which manufacturers and doctors tell us will work eventually. That's blind faith as well I suppose so it's the same thing. I just wasn't brave enough to put my trust in my own body and make make it and my mind feel better from the inside. But I didn't really have anything to lose because the emotion effects of things could have gotten much worse. If it was a leap of faith, I'm glad I jumped because this happens to be working for me. And to be honest Tracy, I wouldn't have started this without hearing your story. :)

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My acne is/was always a response to certain foods. But before I knew that and what they were (mainly chocolate and peanut butter), those very foods were my stress relief foods of choice, and they caused acne in me for weeks after a single serving. Needless to say it made for a pretty vicious cycle.

I had quite bad acne all over my body for almost a decade before I became aware of the nutritional cause of mine. I tried so many things that just barely helped in that time. More recently, I discovered there was a amino acid supplement, acylcarnitine/acetyl-L-carnitine/ALCAR, that completely broke my dietary acne restrictions. It only takes 1-5 mg (a bit of powder the size of a match head!) taken within a few hours of those foods to prevent my acne response. Carnitine (w/o acetyl) works too, but slower and takes much more (100-500 mg). Though I do still tend to avoid my acne trigger foods because I figure they can't be very good for me to be able to cause acne. It completely eliminates skin oiliness and makes my pores tiny too.

But more relevant here, there's something in food that is very emotionally comforting: magnesium. Stress causes magnesium depletion. And low magnesium makes one very prone to stress. Chocolate craving is said to often be a response to low magnesium. I read that online and then a number of people have told me that they had chocolate craving all the time (esp. women) that went away when they started taking Mg regularly. (I've recommended Mg to a few women after they had miscarriages.) Magnesium is very relaxing. It's as calming as xanax or valium. And there's a lot of reason to think most people are quite deficient in it. It's an antioxidant at any level (unlike any other essential metal). And it prevents other metals from adversely accumulating and/or having toxic effects (Ca, Zn, Fe, Cu, et al.), but it does not accumulate so its constantly required in the diet. It helps allergies and many other conditions. However it's not the miraculous cure for acne that acyl/carnitine is. (Strangely, acylcarnitine seems to cause low Mg.) But I take Mg (malate--many other forms are too laxative to be much benefit) everyday though for its anti-anxiety effect, and it just makes me really happy with life in general.

I'm glad things are going well for all here. : )

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Interesting topic! I went to see a therapist after a bad cystic flare-up in December. I have to admit that at my age it was embarrassing to share how much acne bothers me but I've found it helpful to talk about it. I've also explored other things I didn't even realize I was upset about. I'm sure holding in difficult emotions and memories has contributed to stress and inflammation! Since I've been doing the tx regime below and going to counseling my skin has been basically clear...amazing!

Greeneyes44 --- sounds like it's time to switch dermatologists! I've been to a handful over the years and only two of them were sympathetic to what it's like to have cystic acne after age 30. And it was those two dermatologists who took the time to really figure out what upsets my skin. There are so many treatments out there in addition to shots...and at our age we need a tx regime that prevents breakouts because our skin doesn't heal as well. I'll be thinking of you and hope you can find a good derm!

Edited by cvd
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Hi Tangerine

I like your outlook and insights --- thanks! I tried a totally natural approach for years but sadly it didn't work. Then several years ago I gave up and went the whole meds approach and now I'm getting more centered again with a balance between mainstream medicine and natural methods. It helps that my derm and my doctor endorse alternative methods too. Wish I had known them years ago!

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I have to say, after my Mom got really ill, my face started getting really bad again. My Mom died almost 8 months ago from Ovarian cancer, and the stress of knowing she was dying, taking care of her, and then actually grieving, really did a number on my face. I am still experiencing a little of issues due to being stressed, and to be honest...terribly depressed. I definitely think there is a link. When you are depressed, you can't fight off infection.

I bought the regimen last night, and I am anxious and scared to try it. My face has gotten so bad that I don't want to leave the house, or really be around people. To some it's mild, but when I look in the mirror, all I see is scars and bumps. Boo!

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i agree. i like what PaulH85 said about 'No stress means not picking'. i do think that my current outbreak is mainly due to stress, and its impossible not to feel any less stressful when u see one new nodule pop out no matter how through u had washed ur face. i even had trouble sleeping because i was feeling so depressed about it (i never had the experience of 7 to 9 nodules appearing on my face at once). its hard to describe this kind of feeling. and yes, sucidal thoughts did crossed my mind. it was just horrible. i wouldnt say it had gotten better now but at least there is a plan of attack in place now when i recently saw a derm and hes about to put me on accutance. i tried everything to remove that stress off myself, i killed myself working out and yet, i still have trouble sleeping because all i could think about is those damn acne.the stress is overwhelming, n it can only be harmful to my skin. wld be great if u guys can offer ur inputs on how i can take steps to mitigate this problem of mine.

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bephso - I can relate to what you were saying about feeling like a teenager. I never really thought about it until people I started meeting assumed I was about 16 or 17 years old. They wouldn't believe I was 25. It took me a little while to realise that the acne actually made me appear younger because it was something these people associated with teenagers.

It's nice to be seen as younger than you actually are I suppose, but only when you're actually getting older, and 25 isn't old! So it just felt patronising and a bit narrow-minded on their part.

I guess I do look kind of young to people anyway - yesterday, I shaved for the first time in 4 weeks and it feels like that's knocked a few of years off, if I were to break out too I'd feel about 14 again! ;):lol: Personally, I don't see that as a good thing because I do want to get older and experience the things others seem to experience. I guess I didn't enjoy the teenage years and so want to leave them and any reminders of them - including acne - far behind me.

chen - I really do believe the removal of stress is a big factor. I would have laughed at anyone who suggested that to me before I actually experienced it. This time last week, my skin was almost perfect, clearest it had been for years. To coincide with that, I was in a great mood and was the happiest I'd been for years. The key factor there is that the thing which made me happy actually came along the weekend. I do believe the good mood helped my skin. It certainly removed my stress which is what causes me to essentially abuse my skin.

The source of all that happiness was a girl I met. I asked her out on a date and she said yes. Sadly, she cancelled the date and pretty much ignored me since. I contacted her again today to see what was wrong as she hadn't replied to the last message I sent her, and she told me she met another guy and wants to see where it goes. I guess that's the real reason she cancelled last weekends date.

So all that happiness I felt - to a degree I haven't felt for years, and for a reason I have never experienced before - is gone. And for someone with low self-esteem anyway, the idea that this girl decided to toss me aside because she essentially found someone "better" really does hurt.

My concern now is that if I let this get the better of me, it will manifest itself as acne on my face and spoil the work I put in to not picking and taking care of my skin, etc. Certainly, I need to deal with the stress in any way other than picking. That's going to be crucial.

For you, it seems like your problem might be that you're stressing out about trying to not stress out. Know what I mean? If ever we actually try and relax, it doesn't happen. That because you're putting effort into it and effort requires concentration. Effort and concentration are pretty much the opposites of relaxing.

:)

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very true!

i have 3 nasty scars on my face related to breakouts and each scar i can say, happened during an emotional time, i have one from a close relative dying and the other 2 from bad break ups!

i totally relate to this! but just wish i could prevent it somehow!

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Hi Tangerine :]

This is completely true - your emotions affect your hormones and hormones affect all sorts of things, namely moods but also skin !

I remember during my exams i started having really bad breakouts because i was getting so stressed so i made little changes like listening to the sounds of waves when i was studying, cutting back on caffeine and using dimmer lighting.

They do all add up and the benefits it had on me were unbelievable.

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Sorry, I'm a jerk - I took an acne.org sabbatical and forgot about this thread! I'm so glad to have come back to it and found some awesome stories (thanks Paul!) :)

To those wanting to know how one can deal with it... I really suggest reading the book The Emotion Code (if you google search "free ebook Emotion Code", you can find somewhere to download and red it for free), and using that to clear trapped emotions. I'd also suggest meditating, exercising, yoga, keeping a gratitude journal etc. Watching funny movies, and especially spending time with close friends. Becoming aware of the emotions and how they express themselves from you will help you to eventually ignore them, much easier than if you weren't aware of their existence. And one last thing - choosing happiness! It really is a choice. It's not easy to just choose to be happy, because obviously acne is a very painful thing - but I find we often want to stay in sour, stressed moods because it just feels easier to do nothing and feel sorry for ourselves.

Life is out there to be lived, and people really don't notice or look down on you for your skin like you think they do. Acne doesn't technically force us to do anything or miss out on anything, we do it to ourselves. If we can let it go and drift into the background of our lives, we'll automatically become happier and the acne will go as well.

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I absolutely agree. Anything that puts a stress on your body: bad diet, stress, emotions, drugs/alcohol, poor immune system/vitamin deficiency will affect your acne. I personally have a friend who gets cold sores whenever she gets stress out or run down. I on the other hand, get acne. I keep having to remind myself to chill out and to stop being so stressed out :)

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Subconsciously, you use acne to justify those feelings of low self esteem and fear.

I've said the very same thing about myself twice today.

If I took away the acne, I'd still have the lack of confidence, lack of self esteem and lack of social skills. Only, I wouldn't have anything to use which would help me justify them.

I'm starting to think that this influences a lot of my behaviour, and it's usually negative actions.

If my skin's starting to clear up, I'll go looking for problems. And I will find them, or worse, create them. Then, job done, I can go back to justifying the way I feel and I can justify why I shut myself away.

It's plain as day to be honest, and when I think about it, that's pretty screwed up. :wall:

I do it too. If Im having a bad day I'll finish it by looking in the mirror and saying 'AND I have acne.' It's brutal. I try and hide and not be as happy and outgoing as I could because I have acne and it only makes me more and more miserable.

I really do think stress and emotions are a key part. Diet has REALLY helped me, but I know that I can never be completely clear unless I gain some self confidence. It's such a cycle though, acne does a number on your confidence, when your confidence is low it makes your acne worse. Yikes!

I wonder if I ran away to a tropical island if my face would clear up??! :D

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I wonder if I ran away to a tropical island if my face would clear up??! :D

Sounds good, regardless of what it might do for your skin! :lol:

Funny that you should mention something like that, as I do feel like an actual escape from my current routines would help. My work life, my home life and the routines I have and built around those things are all part of it. I just feel like I need a completely clean break somewhere new.

I live with my parents and that's starting to get to me I think. Some routines I have are essentially the same as they were when I was a kid or in my teens because the dynamic of the family is the same.

Although I live with my parents like a child or a teenager might, and things are taken care of for me just like they might be for a child or a teenager, in terms of age, I left my teens behind years ago. So I just feel like I'd rather take care of myself and at least have a go at doing the things adults do for themselves. Like my sister, 4 years younger than me, who did all the "normal" stuff and got a place with her boyfriend a couple of years ago.

The negative way I feel about myself and my acne is strengthened by the feeling that I got left behind and the feelings of being isolated. That feeling of isolation is strengthened by the focus that I put on my acne and the focus I put on feeling like the odd one out because of my skin. So the negative thoughts just feed each other, going round and round, and the way I treat my skin is right in the middle of all that. The negative thoughts continue to feed each other, and they continue to feed the acne, so it all just keeps going.

With that in mind, a clean break somewhere new would probably be a good thing for me. I need to create a new me. I'm just scared to be honest.

It wouldn't have to be anywhere special I suppose, although a tropical island doesn't sound too bad! ;)

Edited by PaulH85
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