"The more people around you that know about it, the more support you'll get," says Linda Cornish. She's a dermatology nurse who helps people with psoriasis at Kaiser-Permanente Medical Center in Oakland, CA. "And being open and honest can make you feel less self-conscious."
These six tips can help you talk about your psoriasis to friends and coworkers.
1. Choose the right time.
Figure out a time and a place that will make you feel comfortable.
"If you're relaxed and at ease, the person you're talking to is more likely to feel at ease," says Julie Nelligan, PhD. She's a health psychologist in private practice in Portland, OR.
The right setting is likely to depend in part on the person you're talking to. With a coworker, you may want to bring up the subject during a break or over lunch. If you're talking to someone you've begun dating, you may want to arrange a special time.
2. Think through what you want to say.
Plan it out. That can help make things easier. Chances are you'll also feel more relaxed. How much detail you give will depend on the person you're talking with.
A coworker may need to know only what psoriasis is and that they can’t catch it. 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 sensitive talks, practice with someone who already knows and cares about you, such as a parent or close friend. "A loved one can help you choose the right words and decide on the appropriate amount of information," Nelligan says. "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 up front.
Start by reassuring people that they won’t catch your skin condition. Explain that it’s caused by an immune reaction gone wrong and you’ll always have it. You may want to explain what psoriasis feels like and what the treatments involve.
"Be sensitive to people's reactions," Nelligan says. "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 online sources.
4. Express how you feel.
Explaining the disease isn't just about sharing information. It's also about feeling comfortable being open and honest with important people in your life.
"Especially with someone you feel close to, it's OK to express your feelings," Nelligan says.
Having people you can talk to will help ease the stress of living with psoriasis. "That's important, since stress can trigger flare-ups of the disease," Cornish says.
5. Follow up the conversation later.
In some cases, people may not know how to respond at first. They may need time to feel comfortable about asking questions.
If your first conversation feels awkward, find a time to bring the subject up again. With people you see often, keep the lines of communication open.
Psoriasis is something you usually have to deal with every day. Treatments can be time-consuming and stressful. You should feel that it’s OK to share your everyday experiences with those close to you.
6. Accept yourself with psoriasis.
"If people respect and care about you, they'll be understanding and sympathetic,” Nelligan says. And remember: Psoriasis doesn’t define you.