Background Psychodermatology has focused primarily on depression and anxiety in eczema. Skin symptoms are listed among many others for the ICD-10 diagnosis of somatization disorder. Somatization (unexplained somatic symptoms) is highly prevalent in the general population, but its association with eczema is yet to be empirically investigated.
Objectives We therefore explored the association between somatization and eczema by examining the extent of somatization in eczema compared with allergic rhinitis, and by examining if eczema was more strongly associated with somatization than with anxiety and depression. Finally, we aimed to examine the relationship between the site of eczema and somatization for individual somatic symptoms and for somatic symptoms as a whole.
Methods For this population-based cross-sectional study we employed data from the Hordaland Health Study (HUSK) with 15 225 participants aged 41–48 years. Information on nonspecific eczema, allergic rhinitis, somatization, anxiety, depression and other covariates was obtained by self-report.
Results The association between nonspecific eczema and somatization was strong and followed a dose–response pattern, as did all somatic symptoms in our index of somatization when analysed separately. The association between nonspecific eczema and somatization was stronger than that between rhinitis and somatization, and also the association between nonspecific eczema and anxiety and depression. In multivariate models, somatization accounted for most of the association between nonspecific eczema and anxiety/depression. In contrast, the association between nonspecific eczema and somatization was robust for adjustment for anxiety/depression.
Conclusions Somatization was strongly associated with nonspecific eczema. This applies to a whole range of somatic symptoms constituting the construct of somatization. There is hardly any mention of somatization in leading dermatological journals, in contrast to anxiety and depression which are frequently reported in eczema. We speculate that this under-recognition of somatization in the dermatological literature may correspond to under-recognition of this factor also in clinical practice.