Experiences of appearance-related teasing and bullying in skin diseases and their psychological sequelae: results of a qualitative study

Scand J Caring Sci. 2008 Sep;22(3):430-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6712.2007.00547.x.


Acne, psoriasis and atopic eczema are common diseases and have been consistently associated with adverse psychological sequelae including stigmatization. Being teased on the basis of appearance has been associated with psychiatric morbidity in children and adolescents. The objective of this qualitative study was to explore the experiences of teasing and bullying in patients with acne, psoriasis and eczema, and the role of appearance-related teasing and bullying as mediators of psychological morbidity in these patients. Data collection consisted of 62 in-depth semi-structured interviews with patients with acne, psoriasis or atopic eczema recruited from both specialist dermatology and general practices. Data analysis was cumulative and concurrent throughout the data collection period reflecting a grounded theory approach. Analysis followed the analytic induction method, allowing themes to emerge from the data. Teasing, taunting or bullying was a considerable problem for a significant minority of acne, psoriasis and atopic eczema participants. Themes that emerged were the universally negative nature of the teasing, the use of teasing as an instrument of social exclusion, and as a means of establishing or enforcing power relationships, teasing related to contagion and fear, the emotional and psychological sequelae of teasing and the theme of 'insensate' teasing. For those who had suffered teasing or bullying, this was causally linked in respondents' accounts with psychological sequelae, especially self-consciousness and effects on self-image and self-esteem. Experiences of teasing and bullying were found to have principally occurred during the adolescence of participants and the perpetrators were other adolescents, but there were findings of respondents with psoriasis also having been subjected to ridicule or derogatory remarks by health professionals. Teasing, taunting and bullying may represent an underappreciated source of psychological morbidity in children and adolescents with these common skin diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Skin Diseases / psychology*
  • Violence*