A person with Vitiligo must cope with more than a skin disease. The change in appearance caused by Vitiligo can affect a person's emotional and psychological well-being. Vitiligo is frequently experienced as a stigma. Stigma in this case is defined as “characterized or branded as disgraceful or ignominious”. Stigmatization is a huge social problem. There are values in society that lead to stigmatisation of people who look different.
Social categorisation and assumptions about appearance contribute to the above mentioned situation in regard to Vitiligo. This include the perception of any image altering condition as a stigma. Stigmatization may play a significant role in the way Vitiligo is perceived. It is important the degree to which a person with Vitiligo has internalized these stereotypes (ex. importance of appearance). They can be related to fear of negative evaluation, anxiety, and depression. As a result, everyday activities may be affected.
Among the most important aspects that determine the psychological impact of Vitiligo are:
Level of self-esteem
Fear of negative evaluation
Importance of appearance
Commonly two mechanisms of adjustment may occur: 1) the person changes her/his perceptions of the world and their condition with time, and/or 2) over time the person strengthen self-esteem and develops a useful repertoire of coping behaviors. Please click here to see several steps that help develop appropriate strategies.
Individuals who cope well with Vitiligo have been shown to have higher self-esteem than a matched control group without the disorder . Those who cope poorly have significantly lower self-esteem, and younger patients and those individuals in the lower socioeconomic groups show particularly lower capacity for adjustment . In general, young adults, those with severe vitiligo, and those for whom appearance is very important have more difficulty coping with the disease.
Dark skin individual are under particular emotional stress from vitiligo, due to enhanced visibility of vitiligo on dark skin. Education of society and support of people with Vitiligo in discovering and using effective coping techniques and strategies are both important. Professional advice should be obtained, if necessary. For more information on how to cope with stress click here
 Porter J; Beuf AH; Nordlund JJ; Lerner AB. Psychological reaction to chronic skin disorders: a study of patients with vitiligo. Gen Hosp Psychiatry 1979 Apr;1(1):73-7