Atopic dermatitis (AD), also known as eczema, is a chronic skin condition that causes the skin to become red, itchy, and scaly. The skin often cracks or swells, and can become sensitive and painful from scratching.1 Because AD is uncomfortable and so visible, the condition is often associated with accompanying emotional or psychological problems.2,3 The chronic, untreatable nature of AD has a large impact on a patient’s quality of life, affecting relationships, day-to-day activities, and emotional well-being.4 Anxiety and depression are common in patients with AD.2 In some cases, the emotional burden can lead to suicidality in patients with AD.4
Suicidality: Know the signs
Suicidality means that a person is at risk of taking his or her own life. Symptoms of suicidality include5:
Wanting to die or kill oneself
Feelings of hopelessness or having no reason to live
Feeling trapped or in pain
Feeling like a burden to others
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Anxious or reckless behavior
Changes in sleep habits
Withdrawing from others
Increased anger or rate
If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it is important to get help immediately.5
Prevalence of suicidality in AD
It is already well understood that patients with AD are at greater risk for depression.6,7 In fact, a recent study by the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology found that one in five patients with AD also suffered from depression.6 Because of the increased risk for depression, it stands to reason that AD is also associated with an increased risk for suicidality. Studies have examined the connection and have found that patients with AD are more likely to experience suicidality than those without AD.3,8 In fact, one recent study concluded that patients with AD were 44% more likely to experience suicidality.3 And, the likelihood for actually attempting suicide was also found to be increased among AD patients, with the same study showing a 36% increase in suicide attempts among patients with AD versus those without AD.3,8
Because suicidality can frequently occur in patients with AD, it is important to be on the look out for signs and symptoms. Healthcare providers should be aware of the signs and symptoms and check in with patients to assess risk.4 Similarly, if you or someone you know suffers from AD. It is important to notice symptoms of anxiety or depression, and suicide risk factors. Don’t ignore these symptoms. Get help right away.5
Mayo Clinic. Atopic dermatitis (eczema). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atopic-dermatitis-eczema/symptoms-causes/syc-20353273. Accessed 3/11/19.
Lyles A. Medpage Today. Suicidal thoughts, attempts common with atopic dermatitis. https://www.medpagetoday.com/dermatology/atopy/76878. Accessed 3/11/19.
Sandhu JK, Wu KK, Bui T, et al. Association between atopic dermatitis and suicidality: a systemic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Dermatol. 2019;155(2):178-187. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/article-abstract/2717582. Accessed 3/11/19.
Campos ALB, Moreira de Arajo, F, Lopes dos Santos MA, et al. Impact of atopic dermatitis on the quality of life of pediatric patients and their guardians. Rev Paul Pediatr. 2017;35(1):5-10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5417799/. Accessed 3/11/19.
Thyssen JP, Hamann CR, Linneberg A, et al. Atopic dermatitis is associated with anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation, but not with psychiatric hospitalization or suicide. Allergy. 2018;73(1):214-220. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28632893. Accessed 3/12/19.
Pulmonology Advisor. Increased risk of depression, suicide in atopic dermatitis. https://www.pulmonologyadvisor.com/home/meetings/acaai-2018/increased-risk-of-depression-suicide-in-atopic-dermatitis/. Accessed 3/12/19.
Ronnstad ATM, Halling-Overgaard AS, Hamann CR, et al. Association of stopic dermatitis with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation in children and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2018;79(3):440-456. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30119868. Accessed 3/12/19.