Staying Close When You Have Psoriasis

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on October 17, 2023
3 min read

Sometimes physical contact may be the last thing you want when you’re in the middle of a flare-up. Your skin may hurt, itch, or feel tight, and your joints might even hurt. But psoriasis doesn’t mean you have to avoid physical contact with your friends and family. There are a few ways to show and receive affection from the people you care about.

If you’re in the middle of a flare or your psoriasis is severe, you may not want anyone to touch you, especially on the places that hurt or itch. But if your friends and family don’t understand what psoriasis is or how it affects you, they may not understand why you’re steering clear of them.

To avoid misunderstandings, try to be as open as you can about what you’re going through. Let your loved ones know that your psoriasis sometimes makes it uncomfortable or painful to do things to show affection, like hugging.

When possible, be specific about how you’d like to be touched. For example, you might say, “It hurts if there’s too much pressure on my back,” or “I don’t want to have my arms touched today, but you can keep an arm around my waist.” Whether it’s a child, family member, or romantic partner, the people you care about will want you to feel good.

You may not want to tell people you’re not close to, like as acquaintances and co-workers, that you have psoriasis. That’s OK, but don’t feel bad about setting boundaries. For example, if the skin between your fingers is cracked and sore and someone offers to shake hands, you can smile and say, “My hands are hurting today, so I can’t shake your hand, but it’s nice to see you.”

Touching is an important way to connect with the people you care about. Research shows that touch lowers stress and boosts feel-good chemicals in your body. That’s why it’s worth it to find ways to touch that feel OK to you. For example, if you don’t feel like cuddling, try holding hands. And remember that spending time with others, for example, doing an activity together or having a long talk, are also healthy ways to stay close to your loved ones.

If you have genital psoriasis or lesions on large areas of your body, you may worry about being intimate with others. One-third of people with psoriasis say it interferes with their love life.  

But if you’re feeling self-conscious or can’t get in the mood, take heart. With proper treatment, flare-ups don’t last forever, and even severe plaque psoriasis can subside with medication and other therapies. Chances are, you’ll be feeling good again soon.

Odds are, you’ll need psoriasis treatment for the rest of your life. But that doesn’t mean you should accept uncomfortable symptoms as “normal.”

If it hurts when another person touches your skin, or you’re feeling self-conscious when you’re around others, talk to your doctor about your treatment plan. A different type of medication and other lifestyle changes, like trying a different diet or losing weight, may help ease your symptoms. That can make it easier to do things like shake hands and hug, and even be intimate with a partner.

It’s just as important to tell your doctor if your psoriasis is making you feel sad or lowering your self-esteem. Because the disease mainly affects the skin, you may feel bad about how you look. It ups your odds of depression and could make you stressed or anxious. Those issues can impact your relationships with others and make you feel like being by yourself.

That’s why it’s important to get help. Talk therapy can help, either with or without antidepressant medication. And other healthy habits, like eating right and exercising, can improve your mood while making you feel more in control of your psoriasis.