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Sylvia van Beugen wins award for publication on psychodermatology

Sylvia van Beugen has won the Herman Musaph Literature award 2016 for the best publication about psychodermatology. Her publication describes the importance of body awareness in chronic skin conditions, such as psoriasis.

The importance of body awareness in chronic skin conditions

Body awareness refers to an attentional focus on, and awareness of, body sensations. In the case of a skin condition these sensations can be, for example, itch or dry skin. Because the treatment of chronic skin conditions often relies heavily on self-care, patients are generally required to play an active role in managing their skin condition. This suggests that body awareness may be of particular importance in these conditions. However, this had not been researched before. 

Effects and treatment

The psychological effects of having a chronic skin condition are often underestimated and infrequently studied. Sylvia van Beugen studies the psychological and psychosocial consequences of having a chronic skin condition such as psoriasis. She also analyses the effects of an online treatment based on cognitive behavioural therapy developed to help patients cope with their condition.

Measuring body awareness

Sylvia van Beugen and her co-researchers developed a new questionnaire, the Body Attention, Ignorance and Awareness Scale (BAIAS). This questionnaire measures three aspects of body awareness:

1) Attention: being aware of and paying mindful attention to bodily signals
2) Awareness: self-perceived importance of and general attitude towards body awareness
3) Ignorance: not recognising and/or ignoring bodily signals  

The study, in which 517 psoriasis patients participated, showed that these three subscales can be reliably measured.

Relation with physical and psychological functioning

The researchers examined the relationship between body awareness and physical and psychological functioning, such as itch, severity of the disease and mood problems. Especially the subscale ‘not recognising and/or ignoring bodily signals’ appeared to be related to reduced functioning. These results indicate that it may be relevant to measure these aspects of body awareness in patients with chronic skin conditions.

The article was published in the journal Acta Dermato-Veneoreologica: Body Attention, Ignorance and Awareness Scale: Assessing relevant concepts for physical and psychological functioning.

Van Beugen is PhD candidate at Andrea Evers’ research group at the Health, Medical and Neuropsychology unit.

Herman Musaph and psychodermatology

Herman Musaph (1915-1992) was a psychiatrist and one of the founding fathers of the field of psychodermatology. In 1995 the Herman Musaph Foudation was established to promote attention for psychodermatology. The Herman Musaph Literature award is presented biennally to a Dutch author who has made and outstanding contribution to the field of psychodermatology.

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