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

How gardening can help people with PTSD

How gardening can help people with PTSD Avid gardeners will tell you that growing things from seeds or saplings, or simply keeping their lawns and borders looking healthy, brings a wonderful sense of satisfaction. The joy to be found in

Read More »

The Link Between Chronic Pain and PTSD

There are many people living with chronic pain throughout the UK and the impact on their lives can be profound. From being unable to work anymore to finding everyday tasks too challenging, struggling with the difficulty of the condition to

Read More »

How crafting can help people with PTSD

How crafting can help people with PTSD The therapeutic values of arts and crafts projects are well known. For centuries, people of all ages have found it relaxing to focus on using their hands and imaginations to create both practical

Read More »

How running can help people with PTSD

How running can help people with PTSD The physical and mental benefits of everything from gentle jogging to serious running are well known and exercise (particularly running) can help reduce the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Research from the University

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.