In this study, patients with what were considered 'psychosomatic' skin diseases were compared with patients with skin conditions that are thought to be 'non-psychosomatic' diseases in terms of their reported history of childhood traumatic experiences, dissociative experiences and thought suppression. Ninety-six patients with 'psychosomatic' skin disease were included in the study. The comparison subjects (n = 54) were patients with skin conditions believed to have a negligible psychosomatic component and the subjects without skin disease (n = 77). Subjects were administered with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES) and the White Bear Suppression Inventory (WBSI). While the 'emotional neglect' scores of the psychosomatic' group were significantly higher than that of both 'non-psychosomatic' and healthy subjects, there were no significant differences for the other subscales of the CTQ. The 'psychosomatic' group scored significantly higher on the DES absorption scale, DES total and WBSI scores than the other groups. Significantly more patients in the 'psychosomatic' group reported a stressful life event as related to the onset of skin complaints compared with the 'non-psychosomatic' group. Our results suggest that the effect of subjective perception of emotional neglect, mediated by stressful life events, increases the vulnerability to psychosomatic disease. Copyright (C) 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.