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J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2006 Aug;20(7):810-7.

Prevalence and predictors of psychosocial morbidity in patients with chronic pruritic skin diseases.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands.



Itch is a major symptom of many skin diseases and causes patients considerable distress, adversely affecting quality of life. Feelings of helplessness and lack of control can influence the perceived itch and psychosocial complaints.


To determine the prevalence of psychosocial morbidity among patients with pruritic skin diseases, and the influence of itch-related variables, coping strategies, and demographic variables on psychosocial morbidity.


One hundred and sixty-eight patients with pruritic skin diseases from five hospitals in the Netherlands participated in the study. Skin-related psychosocial morbidity was measured with the Adjustment to Chronic Skin Diseases questionnaire (ACS); general psychosocial morbidity was measured with the Symptom Checklist-90 (SCL-90). The frequency and intensity of itching and scratching was recorded in diaries. Itch-related coping was measured with the Itching Cognitions Questionnaire (ICQ). Multiple regression analyses were used.


Patients with pruritic skin diseases had higher SCL-90 scores than a healthy Dutch population. All patients had psychosocial complaints as measured with the ACS. Thirty-nine per cent of the variance in skin-related psychosocial morbidity was explained by 'catastrophizing and helpless coping'; another 11% was explained by itching and scratching. Age and sex together explained another 10%. The frequency of itching and scratching (11%), 'catastrophizing and helpless coping' (19%) and skin-related psychosocial morbidity (10%) explained the variance in general psychosocial morbidity.


Patients with a pruritic skin disease have a high level of psychosocial morbidity. Catastrophizing and helpless coping are the most important predictors of psychosocial morbidity, with itching, scratching and demographic variables having a limited influence.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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