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The Emotional Toll of Psoriatic Arthritis

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Why Is Social Support Important With Psoriatic Arthritis?

Social support is defined as the sum of all the relationships that make you feel as if you matter to the people who matter to you. Studies have verified that a strong group of family members and close friends or a support system (doctors, nurses, other health care professionals) can help in coping with a chronic illness. In some cases, having a strong social network is associated with greater compliance with medication regimens and the use of health services.

When you are tied emotionally to those in your social network, you can express your innermost feelings of fear, insecurity, and guilt and receive comfort from people who accept you -- just as you are -- with no strings attached. If you have no place that feels safe enough to let down your emotional defenses, you may tend to keep your guard up all the time -- a negative, cynical, and sometimes defensive guard that masks the very problems you are facing.

With increased social support, you can alleviate the emotional distress of living with psoriatic arthritis and gain health benefits such as the following:

  • Greater sense of control. While you may have no control over your psoriatic arthritis, having a group of supportive family members and friends is something you can control.
  • Greater resilience. Through positive feedback and support from friends and family, you can learn to buffer life's interruptions with effective coping skills instead of letting the moment's crisis overwhelm you.
  • Longevity. In study after study, the findings are the same: people with many social contacts -- a spouse, a close-knit family, a network of friends, religious or other group affiliations -- lived longer and had better health. Those who had few ties with other people died at rates two to five times higher than those with good social ties.

If your psoriatic arthritis has led to high anxiety, isolation, increased stress, or depression, talk to your doctor or a licensed mental health counselor. Seeking help early on can help you avoid more serious problems associated with other mood disorders and chronic illnesses.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on September 05, 2014
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