Background Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a skin disease associated with an increased anxiety level. Psychotherapy studies of AD patients report improvement in anxiety level and skin condition after psychotherapy.
Methods This psychotherapy study investigated 32 adult AD patients with mild to severe AD. Sixteen participants received 6 months of brief dynamic psychotherapy, while 16 were controls. The participants were compared using Spielberger's State–Trait Anxiety Index (STAI) and Severity Scoring of Atopic Dermatitis Index (SCORAD) pre- and post-therapy, and at follow-up after 12 months.
Results Initially, no outcome differences were found between the two groups; however, a post hoc multiple regression analysis indicated that AD patients with a higher intake level of trait anxiety (TA) showed greater improvement after psychotherapy, in terms of anxiety level and skin condition, than did AD patients with a low intake level of TA. Atopic dermatitis patients with a higher anxiety level, in the no-treatment group, were more likely to discontinue the program.
Conclusions The results suggest that AD patients with a higher anxiety level are more likely to improve their psychologic and dermatologic condition after psychotherapy, but are more vulnerable to nonadherence when no adequate psychologic treatment is offered. The results underscore the importance of proper psychologic assessment and treatment in addition to dermatologic treatment.