Scaly psoriasis patches may make you self-conscious about how you look. Your emotional response could cut even deeper. Having psoriasis increases your risk of depression by nearly 40% -- more than 70% if your psoriasis is severe. So it’s important to take care of your emotional health as well as your skin.
You’ll reap some surprising benefits. By reducing stress you may also reduce your risk of psoriasis flare-ups. You may also enjoy higher self-esteem and more energy.
Gain Confidence Talking to Others
Your first impulse may be to bury painful feelings about psoriasis. "A lot of people are embarrassed by what their skin looks like and have a hard time talking about it," says Linda Cornish, RN, a dermatology nurse at Kaiser-Permanente Medical Center in Oakland, Calif. That can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. Take some steps to make it easier for you to talk about your condition - you’ll feel more confident about yourself and more engaged with society.
- Be honest with yourself. Ignoring your feelings won't make them go away -- you may even feel worse. The first step to ease anger or depression is to admit that you have those feelings.
- Be honest with family and friends. The more they understand about your psoriasis, the easier it will be on you. "When you're self-conscious because of a flare-up, say so. If people really care about you, they'll want to know how you feel and what they can do to help," Cornish says. It takes a lot of energy to hide the truth - free yourself from that burden.
- Don't apologize about your psoriasis. "If you're confident and matter-of-fact, that's the message you'll convey," says Julie Nelligan, PhD, a Portland-based psychologist who specializes in counseling people with psoriasis and other chronic conditions. There's no reason to be ashamed about having a skin condition.
Find Stress-Busters That Work for You
Treating psoriasis can be time-consuming and frustrating. "Putting lotion on. Going in for light therapy. Doing lengthy infusions of biological therapies. That all adds up to a lot of stress," Nelligan says, and stress is linked to psoriasis flare-ups. Make stress reduction part of your psoriasis treatment plan.
- Use relaxation methods every day. Close your eyes. Consciously tighten, then relax one muscle group after another. Taking several deep breaths may also ease stress. Meditation, tai chi, and yoga are also relaxing.
- Get some exercise most days. When you stay in shape, you feel better about yourself and how you look. “Exercise also releases endorphins, chemicals that enhance a feeling of well-being, says Lakshi M. Aldredge, MSN, a nurse practitioner who specializes in psoriasis at Portland's Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
- Schedule pleasure into each day. Set aside time every day for things you enjoy, like listening to music or socializing with friends.
Picture Yourself at Your Best
Aldredge counsels people with psoriasis to take pictures of their skin at its best. "When you're experiencing a flare-up and feeling discouraged, you can remind yourself of what your skin can look like when your psoriasis is under control," she says. Knowing your skin routine pays off can keep you motivated.
Splurge now and then on clothes, shoes, or jewelry. Treat yourself to a manicure or a new hairstyle. These things can make you feel and look great. Your skin is only one aspect of your appearance.
It can be tempting to hide away at times. Don't let yourself become isolated and withdrawn. If you're having a tough time, reach out to friends and family.
- Join a support group. You can talk to people who know firsthand what you're going through and trade tips and support. In a survey, 66% of people who joined an online support group said it made them feel more in control or their psoriasis. Your dermatologist can help you find a local group.
- Get Involved. Check out the National Psoriasis Foundation calendar for local activities and events. You may want to be part of a mentor program or take part in a walk that brings together people with psoriasis with their friends and families.
Deal - or Don't -- With People's Reactions
Some people's misconceptions about psoriasis may make them pull away from you and make you feel more isolated. You can't control stares or questions, but you can control how you respond to them:
- Be a teacher. Some days, you may want to explain the basics. Reassure people that psoriasis isn't contagious. Explain that your condition can't be cured but it can be controlled. If you feel comfortable, tell friends and co-workers about your treatment plan.
- Cover up. Other days, you may not have the energy or desire to be a teacher. You don't need to be. Throw on a long-sleeved shirt, pants, or a turtleneck to keep the questions at bay.
See a Therapist
Psoriasis does not have to get in the way of enjoying life. If you have depression, anxiety, or anger that won't budge, talk to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker who specializes in helping people with psoriasis, skin conditions, or chronic health issues. They can help you develop other coping strategies.