Physical scars from PTSD stress symptoms

Physical scars from PTSD stress symptoms

A large number of skin diseases including dermatitis and psoriasis, appear to be caused by, or exacerbated by, psychological stress, and scientists have long confirmed the role that the stress hormone, cortisol, plays in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – however the natural body stress response and deranged levels of this hormone can cause some surprising skin related symptoms to sufferers

Easy bruising, and dry skin, are some common symptoms of high cortisol levels, alongside poor wound healing.

But how can a psychological condition such as PTSD cause physical scarring?

PTSD is often as described as being ‘trapped in the fight, flight or freeze bodily response’.  At the time someone is exposed to an intensely fearful situation, their mind ‘suspends’ normal operations and it copes as well as it can in order to survive – unfortunately, the body can find it very difficult to recognise that the danger has passed, so retains many of the stress responses in the long term.Scarring from PTSD

This stress response has shown to affect sufferers skin by:

  • drawing water away from the outer layers of skin, as a way to keep hydrated in an emergency situation.
  • inhibiting inflammatory cytokine expression during the healing process.
  • activating vasoconstriction, thereby ‘reducing oxygen levels in tissues, which can damage reparative cells’

As a result of this, the stress reactions in the body prolong the inflammatory phase of healing, reduces overall capacity for healing, and delays wound closure.

The prolonged stress response of a PTSD sufferer increases the likelihood of a reduced ability for your skin to repair and regenerate itself correctly, and so is a large factor in the likelihood of being left with a scar, even from a small cut.

More information on symptoms from PTSD here and on physical symptoms too.


SOURCES: ShapePsychological Stress Perturbs Epidermal Permeability Barrier Homeostasis Implications for the Pathogenesis of Stress-Associated Skin Disorders, Amit Garg, BA; Mary-Margaret Chren, MD; Laura P. Sands, PhD; Mary S. Matsui, PhD; Kenneth D. Marenus, PhD; Kenneth R. Feingold, MD; Peter M. Elias, MD Arch Dermatol. 2001;137(1):53-59. doi:10.1001/archderm.137.1.53., Neuroimmunology of the Skin: Basic Science to Clinical Practice, edited by Richard D. Granstein, Thomas A. Luge, 

IMAGE: Lava Scars by Pascal

Ice baths, Wim Hof and PTSD

Ice baths, Wim Hof and PTSD Swimming has always been a popular sport in Britain, but in the last 18 months the hobby of ‘Wild swimming’ has been rediscovered – and people are really feeling the benefits of this (usually)

Read More »

London Winter Walk for PTSD UK

events | walk London winter walk HALF or FULL MARATHON Sign up now London Winter Walk The challenge A great event to walk off the Christmas celebrations, and to kick start your New Year fitness regime! There are Full Marathon

Read More »

Case Study: EMDR Treatment – Chris

Case Study: EMDR Treatment – Chris Chris developed severe PTSD after being struck from behind by a lorry while on duty as a Police Officer. Despite having no memory of the actual incident, Chris underwent an EMDR and rewind therapy

Read More »

London to Brighton Cycle for PTSD UK

events | Cycle London to brighton cycle Sign up now london to Brighton Cycle The challenge Join Team PTSD UK and thousands of fellow cyclists on this iconic London to Brighton Cycle Ride! Leave the buzz of the city behind

Read More »

Great Scottish Run 2022 for PTSD UK

events | RUN Great Scottish run: 10km and half marathon Sign up now Great Scottish Run 2022 The challenge Experience the inspiring atmosphere of Scotland’s biggest running event and achieve something great this autumn. This spectacular weekend of running is

Read More »

Are you looking to fundraise for PTSD UK?

THANK YOU!!  We are a small charity so our main goals at the moment are to increase awareness that we exist (so people can get the support and information they need) and to maximise fundraising to allow us to achieve our mission of supporting everyone in the UK affected by PTSD, no matter the trauma that caused it.