When you are first diagnosed with vitiligo, it is a shock. It may be difficult to get information about the disease and if you search on the Internet you will find a disconcerting abundance of sites, all promising a cure. Your anxiety grows as you discover there is no certainty of a cure, and you have to cope on a daily basis with intrusive staring if your vitiligo is noticeable. Some find they are stared at, teased or bullied. Moreover, no-one seems able to reassure you about whether it will spread or not. Some people find themselves withdrawing from activities, or they may find it hard to form or maintain relationships. Body image is affected and many people lose some of their sense of self-esteem. These psychological effects do not seem to be related to how widespread or visible the vitiligo is.
The psychological effect of skin diseases is now much better recognised and understood by psychologists, doctors and dermatologists. There has been some research into the effects of counselling on patients` ability to cope and learn to live with their vitiligo.
Counselling can be helpful in coming to terms with these issues and studies using cognitive behavioural therapy have shown promising outcomes, but more research is needed.
Your GP has access to a counsellor but there may be a long wait.
It is also possible to go privately but this can cost anything from £30 to £70 per session. The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy offers advice about finding the right counsellor. (www.bacp.co.uk)
Changing Faces, a charity who offer services for children and adults in the UK who are living with conditions, marks or scars that affect their appearance, whether on the face or body, offer one-to-one sessions in person, via telephone and online. Please do get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to talk more about this.