One of the challenges of psoriasis is having to explain your skin condition to others. Most people don't know much about psoriasis, and many fear it's contagious.
"That can make the job of explaining why your skin looks the way it does especially difficult," says Julie Nelligan, PhD, a Portland-based psychologist who specializes in counseling people with psoriasis and other chronic conditions. "There's something about skin conditions that make people uneasy."
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It's important to know how to explain your psoriasis to others for your own health, as well. Managing psoriasis can be stressful, and stress can make your psoriasis worse. For better or worse, psoriasis can be an important part of your life.
"The more people around you know about it, the more support you'll get," says Linda Cornish, a dermatology nurse who works with psoriasis patients at Kaiser-Permanente Medical Center Oakland. "And being open and honest can make you feel less self-conscious."
Here are six tips to help you talk about your psoriasis to friends and coworkers.
1. Choose the right time to bring up psoriasis.
Because talking about psoriasis can be awkward, it's important to choose a time and place where you will feel most comfortable. "If you're relaxed and at ease, the person you're talking to is more likely to feel at ease," says Nelligan. The right setting is likely to depend in part on the person you're talking to. With a co-worker, you may want to bring up the subject during a work break or over lunch. If you're talking to someone you've begun dating, you may want to arrange a special time to talk.
2. Think through what you want to say about your psoriasis.
Preparing for your conversation can help make it easier to say exactly what you want to say. Chances are you'll also feel more relaxed. The amount of information you give will depend on who you're talking with. A co-worker may need to know only what psoriasis is and the fact that it's not contagious. Your boss might need to know about your treatments if that means taking time off from work. When talking to a date, you may want to explain what living with psoriasis is like for you.
For especially delicate conversations, try rehearsing what you plan to say with someone who already knows and cares about you, such as a parent or a spouse. "A loved one can help you choose the right words and decide on the appropriate amount of information," says Nelligan. "Having a loved one to turn to can also be helpful if the conversation you have doesn't go as smoothly as you'd hoped."
3. Address people's worries about psoriasis upfront.
Because a big concern people have is that psoriasis is contagious, start by reassuring them that it isn't. Explain that psoriasis is a chronic condition caused by an abnormal immune reaction. You may want to explain what psoriasis feels like and what the treatments involve. "Be sensitive to people's reactions," says Nelligan. "If the person you're talking to seems uneasy, tell them just what you think they need to know and move on to something else. You can always bring the subject up again later." In some cases, it may be helpful to refer people to good sources of information online.