Most people think of psoriasis as a skin condition. But it affects a lot more than your skin.
“Unlike a health problem like diabetes, psoriasis is often visible to other people,” says Edidiong Kaminska, MD, a dermatologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. “That can be difficult to deal with at times. And psoriasis is chronic, so it’s an everyday part of your life. That may take a toll on your mood, your self-confidence, and even your relationships.”
One study found that people with psoriasis have higher chances for depression and anxiety. And a third of adults with the condition say it interferes with their love life.
But treatment and some small changes to your daily habits can help you stay happy and healthy, Kaminska says. When you take care of yourself mentally and emotionally, you’ll be more likely to feel in control of your psoriasis.
Make Stress Relief a Daily Practice
Psoriasis patches can crop up with little warning. When they do, they may feel itchy, tight, and painful. “That can be stressful, even if you’ve been living with the disease for years,” Kaminska says. Trouble is, stress can trigger psoriasis flares and pain. You might feel like you’re stuck in a vicious cycle.
That’s exactly why it’s crucial to make stress relief a part of your everyday routine. How? “Exercise at least three times a week,” says Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD, medical director of Crutchfield Dermatology in Eagan, MN. As it boosts your mood, exercise also lowers inflammation and helps to keep your weight in check, which can ease your symptoms. Deep breathing, meditation, or time spent on something you enjoy, like chatting with a friend, also can tame tension and raise levels of feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins.
If you can’t seem to shake the blues or a bad self-image, consider seeing a social worker or psychologist. Cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a form of talk therapy focused on watching for negative thought patterns to change your feelings and behavior, can be especially helpful. Your doctor should be able to recommend a therapist.
Lean on Your Loved Ones
If you’re feeling lousy, touching another person or talking about your psoriasis may be the last thing you feel like doing. But research shows that people with psoriasis who get social support feel better day to day and are less likely to have depression. Let your friends and family know how psoriasis affects you emotionally. “They may not ‘get it’ until you open up to them. But when you do, they’ll want to support you,” Kaminska says.
Fight Ignorance With Facts
You may be all too used to second glances and unkind remarks about your skin from others. People who don’t understand what the disease is may worry that it’s contagious or a symptom of another health problem. Have a fast, fact-based statement ready, says Carolyn Jacob, MD, who has psoriasis and serves as director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology in Illinois. “I tell people who make comments, ‘I have psoriasis, which is a genetic condition. You can’t catch it.’”
Take Control of Your Treatment
A long-term disease like psoriasis can make you feel like you’re not in control. Others might have told you that you have to “learn to live with it.” That’s not true, says Crutchfield, who has psoriasis himself. “We have so many great treatment options available now. It’s entirely possible to reach a point where your skin is clear and you’re feeling good.” When that happens for Crutchfield’s patients, “Their moods improve,” he says. “They feel better about themselves and about life in general because their pain and irritation has let up.”
Don’t stop at medication, though. Eat a healthful diet, lose weight if you’re overweight, and stay active. Those steps can help you feel healthy and in control -- and ease your psoriasis symptoms, too.