Atopic Dermatitis Can Affect Many Areas of Your Life

You’ve likely been taking steps to manage the type of eczema you have, called atopic dermatitis—and that's important.

Atopic dermatitis is a noncontagious, long-lasting (chronic) disease that causes itchy and inflamed skin and often requires daily attention. Atopic dermatitis can affect your life in many different ways. Understanding the impact of atopic dermatitis can help you identify areas of concern.

One way to realize the full effect atopic dermatitis can have on your life is with the Wellness Wheel. Think of your life as a circle, or wheel, divided into sections. Each section represents a different part of your life, from your physical health to your relationships. Together, they make up your overall wellness. Rating how satisfied you are with each part of your life determines its size. Viewed as a whole, your wheel shows which areas of your life are going particularly well and which areas could be improved.

Seeing the effects of atopic dermatitis

Draw a large circle and divide it into 6 equal sections, similar to a pie chart. Label these sections as Physical health, Emotional health, Personal growth, Career, Relationships and Time for you.

Thinking about the past 2 weeks, rate how happy or satisfied you are with your physical health by colouring in the section from the centre of the circle outwards. The more you colour in, the more satisfied you are. After you finish all of the sections, view your completed Wellness Wheel to see the full role atopic dermatitis plays in your life.

Below is an example of what your Wellness Wheel may look like.

 
 
Wellness Wheel
Created
 

Physical health is how medically fit you feel you are—and includes any steps you are actively taking toward making improvements.

Emotional health is how well you think you are managing love, stress and overall happiness.

Personal growth is an estimate of your day-to-day efforts to learn new things, solve problems and reach your goals.

Career is your satisfaction with your current job, the level of challenge it offers, your financial compensation, your work environment and your coworkers.

Relationships is your satisfaction with your involvement with friends, family and other people you interact with day to day.

Time for you is your current level of participation in activities you enjoy, including hobbies, volunteering and socializing.

Combating the Emotional Impact of Atopic Dermatitis

Living with atopic dermatitis can be difficult

The effects of atopic dermatitis can impact many areas of your life. From the unpredictability of flares to disrupted sleep and feelings of self-consciousness, it’s not surprising that people with atopic dermatitis are more likely to struggle with negative emotions. But stress itself can lead to increased itchiness and scratching and may even trigger the flare-ups you’re trying to avoid. So how can you help break the cycle?

Practicing self-compassion may help

One place to start is by developing more self-compassion. Self-compassion means treating yourself with kindness and understanding, rather than criticism. Unlike self-esteem, which is a measure of how positively you view yourself, self-compassion is about caring for yourself without judgment or criticism. It’s an important skill to develop, because research has shown that an increase in self-compassion can lead to decreased self-criticism, depression and anxiety.

Talking to Your Friends & Family

Help others understand what you’re going through

Emotional support from friends and family can make it easier to manage the ups and downs of living with atopic dermatitis. But sometimes even the people you love don't completely understand your experience. Although it would be easier sometimes if they understood what it's like to walk in your shoes, you may find it difficult to talk about how you feel. Because your atopic dermatitis is visible to everyone around you, you may also encounter questions from coworkers and even strangers. In all of these situations, it can be tough to know how to respond, especially in the moment. Planning how you want to talk about atopic dermatitis can help you feel more prepared to respond to questions in the future.

Choose your words

The following are examples of the types of questions you may be asked. Select each question to reveal a possible response. Your individual experience with atopic dermatitis is unique, so use these as a starting point to help you find an explanation that is right for you.


  • What's wrong with your skin – is that contagious?

    What's wrong with your skin – is that contagious?

    It’s a disease called atopic dermatitis. And no, you can’t catch it. My immune system overreacts to triggers and produces substances that cause inflammation. This inflammation causes my skin to become red, itchy and have this uncomfortable rash. Even when I don’t have a rash, the inflammation is still there.

  • You haven't had a rash in a few weeks now. Does that mean you're cured?

    You haven't had a rash in a few weeks now. Does that mean you're cured?

    Atopic dermatitis is chronic and has no cure. So even if you can't see it, my immune system is still overreacting, causing inflammation inside my skin. While there are some things I can do to help prevent flare-ups, they can still happen at any time.

  • Why are you tired all of the time?

    Why are you tired all of the time?

    My rash is really itchy and painful. It's worse at night, especially when I'm trying to sleep, so I spend a lot of time tossing and turning, and I don't get much rest. Even when I don't have a rash, my atopic dermatitis doesn't go away and my skin is still itchy.

  • Why can't you go jogging with me?

    Why can't you go jogging with me?

    I have atopic dermatitis and I try to stay away from activities that get me overheated or make me sweat, because that can cause me to break out in a really itchy, painful rash. Could we go for a walk instead?

  • It’s just a rash.
    Why can’t you work?

    It’s just a rash.
    Why can’t you work?

    It's not just a rash. I have atopic dermatitis, which can be intensely itchy, especially at night, and I was up all night last night suffering from it, which is why I am calling in sick. Atopic dermatitis is a chronic disease that makes my immune system overreact to triggers. It causes inflammation inside my body and flare-ups of really itchy, painful rashes.

  • Why do you always make such a big deal about it? It's just eczema.

    Why do you always make such a big deal about it? It's just eczema.

    Atopic dermatitis is a chronic disease that involves an overactive immune system that makes my skin react from the inside out. It causes constant inflammation inside the layers of my skin – even when I don’t have a rash. And it’s disruptive enough to my life that even when I don’t have a visible flare-up, I’m always worried about when the next one will come.