The Connection between Hives and Loneliness

Hives and loneliness are often part of the same reality. This bothersome skin condition indicates difficulties in people's affective contact with others. It also speaks of the anxiety and sadness that this causes.
The Connection between Hives and Loneliness

Last update: 10 June, 2021

There’s a close connection between what happens with thoughts and emotions and skin conditions. Thus, there’s a connection between hives and loneliness. Although you may not know it, the skin is an innervated organ from beginning to end. In other words, it’s an organ directly related to the nervous system.

The relationship between the mind and the skin has given rise to a subspecialty called psychodermatology. Likewise, another subspecialty, psychoneuroimmunology, studies skin conditions. Specialists in these areas and psychoanalysts found a relationship between urticaria and loneliness.

From a psychoanalytic standpoint, skin and touch are the referents of emotional closeness or distance. Humans establish their first emotional contact with the world through the skin. This remains a barrier and a symbolic point of contact throughout life.

“Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they’ve tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.”

-Jodi Picoult-

A woman scratching her leg.

A revealing experiment

Dr. Nicolás Noriega is an allergist and immunologist with a master’s degree in psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrinology. He works in Villa María in Córdoba, Argentina, and conducted a study there. The purpose was to establish the links between psychological problems and allergies, including urticaria.

His study was based on the follow-up of 82 patients during one year. All of them had various types of allergies. The research team applied two criteria to select the individuals:

  1. They weren’t undergoing pharmacological treatment.
  2. They weren’t undergoing psychological treatment.

In the end, they established that 42 percent presented rhinosinusitis, 30 percent experienced hives, and 28 percent experienced dermatitis. The remaining percentage had other types of allergies. In fact, a series of tests on the emotional state of these patients revealed that 95 percent had two or more symptoms of anxiety. These usually indicate depression.

After this experiment and his clinical experience, Dr. Noriega believes that “Hives is one of the conditions in which stress, anxiety, and emotional problems acquire superlative importance. In some cases, there’s only one cause”.

Hives and loneliness

Hives is a disorder characterized by the appearance of red welts on the skin. Many consider it an allergic reaction. It’s usually episodical, meaning that it spontaneously appears and disappears. Only rarely does it become chronic.

The first to hint at the relationship between hives and loneliness were Freudian psychoanalysts. Although Freud addressed the subject himself, Didier Anzieu explored it further. Anzieu argues that skin reactions are more related to the symbolization of proximity or remoteness in contact with people who matter.

Thus, he states that allergic skin reactions, such as atopic dermatitis, eczema, and urticaria, represent a conflict in terms of proximity-distance.

A woman scratching her back.

The messages behind hives

Along the same lines, Joman Romero, author of the book ¿Qué Nos Quiere Decir el Cuerpo con la Enfermedad? (In English: Knowing Ourselves: What Does the Body Want to Tell Us with Diseases?) points out that urticaria and loneliness go hand in hand. He also refers to situations such as:

  • Separation conflicts. The person feels that someone is being taken away from them.
  • Love triangles. The presence of a third party prevents desired contact with a loved one.
  • Separation from oneself. Feeling a distance from one’s own desires. The impossibility of these to “come out to the skin”. In other words, to become concrete behaviors, instead of repressed longings.
  • Loneliness. They express the regret of not being able to contact others. Thus, hives and loneliness go hand in hand in their multiple facets.
  • Unconsciously rejected contact. Hives are also related to having contact with something or someone you may despise or reject. This is because people perceive this contact as dishonorable.
  • Feeling of mistreatment. The mark on the skin left by hives is similar to that of a blow. It can be a manifestation of perceived mistreatment and this is why it becomes visible.

Romero adds that people who experience hives tend to be insecure and maintain a passive attitude in their relationships with those they love. Likewise, they’re inclined to feel hurt in love relationships and find it difficult to identify what really bothers them. As you can see, hives and loneliness go hand-in-hand because the skin reveals emotional difficulties.

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  • Villa, R. S., Pérez, J. M. E., Bernardo, S. A., Iglesias, J. C., Vega, E. G., & Menéndez, A. G. (2000). Perfil psicológico y calidad de vida pacientes con enfermedades dermatológicas. Psicothema, 12(2), 30-34.