Doctors have a vast range of effective and safe pharmacological treatment options for skin diseases at their disposal, and most patients benefit from one type or another. Yet, in many cases, complementary interventions are of great value because it takes time and effort before medication effects become apparent. Besides, medications do not necessarily alleviate all symptoms nor the psychosocial effects of living with a chronic illness.


Firstly, patient education empowers patients (and their families) to manage their health condition independently in daily life, to identify feasible skin care routines and possible triggers, and to adhere to their treatment plan. Secondly, in support groups and on platforms, patients can exchange advice and experiences with others in similar situations. Thirdly, psychological approaches and psychotherapy can help with coping with the psychosocial effects of the chronic illness. 

Here, we give you an overview of our current and past efforts in developing, improving and implementing non-pharmacological interventions for people with a chronic skin disease.


Ongoing projects:

Background: People with ME/CFS are often stigmatized by doctors. Those affected report that they are not believed, that negative motives (e.g. unfounded attempts to retire, seeking attention) or personality traits are attributed to them and/or that they are not given adequate treatment or even any treatment at all. The resulting physical and psychological stress for those affected is considerable. The relationship of trust with those treating them is severely damaged; incorrect treatment or lack of treatment can - in addition to the suffering caused by untreated symptoms - promote a worsening of the illness. Both a lack of knowledge about ME/CFS and negative attitudes towards patients with (supposedly) medically unexplained or non-curatively treatable conditions are suspected to be causes of stigmatization. An intervention to destigmatize should therefore include elements of knowledge and experience. The aim of this project is therefore to develop a workshop for medical students that reduces the stigmatization of patients with ME/CFS by future doctors.  


Study Objectives: 

  • Development of a seminar to reduce the stigmatization of people with myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) for medical students 
  • Testing the feasibility and effectiveness of this new seminar


Study Design: Pilot study – non-controlled cross-sectional study

Target Group: medical students

Period: 2024 - 2025

Sponsor: Deutsche Gesellschaft für ME/CFS (German Association for ME/CFS)

Background: Chronic skin diseases are experienced not only physically, but also psychologically as an enormous impairment by those affected. In addition to comorbidities such as depression and anxiety disorders and the resulting social withdrawal, self-stigmatization also represents a major psychological burden. In this regard, it has been shown that self-compassion has a positive impact on self-stigma and quality of life. However, no intervention based solely on meditation has been developed specifically for this purpose yet. Accordingly, the study aims to examine the impact of a self-compassion-based meditation practice on self-stigma in people with visible chronic skin conditions.


Study Objectives: Development and evaluation of a 4-week program of weekly meditation (25 minutes each) via live video conference, specifically designed for people with visible chronic skin conditions. The aim is to reduce self-stigma and enhance quality of life.


Study Design: prospective, randomized controlled intervention trial 

Target Group: adults with a primary chronic skin disease of psoriasis, hidradenitis suppurativa, atopic dermatitis, alopecia areata, rosacea or vitiligo, without current psychiatric/psychotherapeutic treatment (n = 40)

Period: February - June 2024 

Background: A major challenge in the context of visible chronic skin diseases is the experience of stigma, both from others (public stigma) and the individuals themselves (self-stigma). Self-stigma frequently leads to low self-esteem and limitations in daily life. As there is a lack of interventions addressing self-stigma, this project aims to develop an online-intervention to prevent and/or reduce self-stigma in patients with psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, hidradenitis suppurativa, alopecia areata, and vitiligo. 


Study Objectives: 

  • Identify psychosocial predictors of self-stigma and underlying mechanisms
  • Review existing interventions targeting the self-stigma and modifiable psychosocial factors predisposing, precipitating and maintaining self-stigma
  • Develop and evaluate an online-intervention for patients with different visible skin diseases, combining a skin-generic and disease-specific approach, to prevent and/or reduce self-stigma
  • Determine predictors of response to the online-intervention


Study Design: systematic literature review; prospective, interventional, randomized controlled trial

Target Group: patients with psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, hidradenitis suppurativa, alopecia areata, or vitiligo (n = 500)

Period: 2022 – 2025 (+ 2 years)

Sponsor: BMBF

Background: Many persons with skin diseases feel ashamed about the appearance of their skin and some even experience disgust; feelings that contribute to social withdrawal, impaired sexual functioning and intimacy, and social distress. Psychological interventions that reduce these negative feelings and improve self-image and well-being are urgently needed.


Study Objectives:

  • Examine if and how a self-compassion intervention affects disgust and shame in persons with acne, atopic dermatitis or psoriasis.

  • Compare the effects of a self-compassion intervention and psychoeducation on disgust and shame.


Study Design:

  • Cross-sectional

  • Interventional

  • Randomized experimental study


Target Group:

Adults with:

  • Moderate-to-severe acne

  • Atopic dermatitis

  • Psoriasis


Period: ongoing

Completed projects:

Background: People with visible skin diseases often experience stigmatization in many types of social encounters. This stigmatization has a major impact on their social life, altering interpersonal relationships, and resulting in feelings of social alienation and rejection. In 2014, the World Health Assembly (WHA) urged its member states to improve healthcare for people with psoriasis and to take action against stigma. There is a great need for interventions tackling stigmatizing attitudes for various target groups.


Study Objectives:

  • Develop a structured short intervention aimed at reducing stigmatizing attitudes towards skin diseases.

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of this intervention in reducing stigmatizing attitudes towards psoriasis in medical students and future educators.


Study Design:

  • Systematic review

  • Prospective

  • Interventional

  • Randomized controlled trial


Target Groupmedical students (n = 127); educators in training (n = 221)


Completed: 2021


Sponsor: Federal Ministry of Health, Germany


Associated Publications:

  • Stigma in visible skin diseases - a literature review and development of a conceptual model

  • Assessment of stigma related to visible skin diseases: a systematic review and evaluation of patient-reported outcome measures

  • Perception and determinants of stigmatization of people with psoriasis in the German population

  • Perception of stigmatization in people with psoriasis-qualitative analysis from the perspective of patients, relatives and healthcare professionals

  • Translating the WHA resolution in a member state: towards a German programme on 'Destigmatization' for individuals with visible chronic skin diseases

  • A Structured Intervention for Medical Students Significantly Improves Awareness of Stigmatisation in Visible Chronic Skin Diseases: A

  • Randomised Controlled Trial

  • Effectiveness of a structured short intervention against stigmatisation in chronic visible skin diseases: Results of a controlled trial in future educators

Background: The psychosocial burden for patients with visible chronic skin diseases is high. A particular problem is stigmatization by others, including looks, negative comments, avoidance and exclusion. In order to reduce stigmatization in the public, a multidisciplinary group developed a face-to-face intervention (“ECHT”) consisting of various components known to counteract stigma in other health conditions (self-experience, education, patient encounter). Initially, the intervention was administered to medical students and educators in training and showed promising effects: participants reported a significantly reduced desire for social distance from people with psoriasis, and less agreement to negative stereotypes and to disease-related false assumptions. Disseminating this intervention broadly and extending it to other target groups may reduce stigma and sensitize the public to the challenges and needs of persons living with a chronic skin disease. 


Study Objectives:

  • Adapt an intervention against skin disease-related stigma (“ECHT”-intervention) for people working in professions dealing with body care (e.g. hairdressers, cosmeticians, physiotherapists, podiatrists).

  • Test the feasibility and effectiveness of this new intervention in reducing stigma related to skin disease. 


Study Design:

  • Prospective

  • Interventional

  • Randomized controlled trial


Target Group:

People working as or training to become:

  • Hairdressers
  • Cosmeticians
  • Physiotherapists
  • Podiatrists


Period: 2021 – 2023


Sponsor: Beiersdorf AG