Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 4-25-2022

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Laura J. Dixon

Second Advisor

Aaron A. Lee

Third Advisor

Laura R. Johnson

Relational Format



Previous research has demonstrated associations between stress and physical health conditions, including skin disease. The stress cycle, including its associated hormonal responses and stress behaviors, contributes to more severe skin disease symptoms. Psychological stress and anxiety-disorder symptoms are known to be associated with skin disease severity; however, research has yet to examine the relationships between stress disorders and skin disease severity. Therefore, stress disorders (e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD]) are hypothesized to have a similar relationship with skin disease severity, wherein greater severity of PTSD-related symptoms would be positively associated with skin disease severity. Participants from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (N = 450) were screened for the presence of a dermatological condition in the past year. Participants (n = 311) who endorsed skin disease symptoms completed online self-report measures of skin disease characteristics and symptom severity, exposure to potentially traumatic events, PTSD-related symptoms, perceived stress, and demographic information. The sample was 68.2% white and 59.2% female, with a mean age of 33.9 years (SD = 11.0). Overall, participants reported moderate perceived stress (M = 18.9, SD = 6.6), and subthreshold symptoms of PTSD (M = 30.7, SD = 22). Bivariate correlations indicated significant positive associations between perceived stress and PTSD symptoms (r = .644, p < .01), and PTSD symptom clusters (r = .560-.677, p < .01). Skin disease severity was positively associated with perceived stress (r = .257, p < .01), PTSD symptoms (r = .435, p < .01), and all PTSD symptom clusters, with alterations in arousal and reactivity demonstrating the strongest relationship to skin disease severity (r = .428, p < .01). Consistent with prior work among dermatological samples, findings indicate skin disease severity was positively, significantly correlated with perceived stress, PTSD symptoms, and PTSD symptom clusters. These results contribute to the existing literature on stress and posttraumatic stress in dermatological populations. Future research directions may include additional dimensions of stress and stressful life events, as well as clinician-rated evaluation of PTSD symptoms and skin conditions. Additionally, longitudinal research examining the temporal relationship between PTSD symptoms, stress, and skin disease is warranted.

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