Often thought of as a skin or cosmetic condition, psoriasis is actually a chronic autoimmune disease. With psoriasis, the skin feels itchy and sometimes even painful due to inflammation. Unlike many other health problems, its effects are visible as thick red plaques (patches) or silvery scales across the skin. Though these patches and scales could appear on any part of the body, they are mostly to be found on knees, elbows, and scalp.
The effects of psoriasis could in some cases go far beyond skin. Due to the visible nature of the scales and patches, many patients feel embarrassed, humiliated and are even discriminated against. It can take a huge toll on their everyday lives, negatively impacting mood, stress levels, self-esteem, mental health, and social relationships. This can translate into serious psychological effects for the patient. A third of patients affected with psoriasis develop a psychological condition, anxiety and depression being the most common of these conditions.
Psoriasis and depression have a direct correlation, as it is a vicious cycle, in which increased disease severity leads to heightened depression, and vice versa, affecting a patient’s overall quality of life. Hence, holistic disease management is crucial to address these physical as well as psychosocial aspects of the condition.
To understand the impact of psoriasis on mental health, we spoke to Dr Soni Nanda, Dermatologist, Shine and Smile Dental and Skin Clinic, Delhi. She said, “Psoriasis is a common skin disorder, affecting nearly 7% of the population. Because of its visible symptoms, patients often complain of several daily problems. These problems include social stigma due to visible effects on face and hands, common misconceptions such as the disease being contagious and incurable, and limited clothing options.”
Dr Nanda further said that, “Another problem is the recurring and relapsing nature of psoriasis, which can flare up with little warning, such as stress. This unpredictability can cause patients further anxiety. Additionally, when treated with little to no improvement, it usually leads to depression. All of this must be addressed to effectively manage the disease, so patients can live happier and healthier lives.”
With winter approaching, the twin problems of psoriasis flare-ups due to increased skin dryness and seasonal affective disorder are on the rise.
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It’s important to acknowledge that treating psoriasis itself can help cope emotionally. However, mental health conditions like anxiety or depression can also trigger flare-ups. Hence, a holistic treatment plan is important. With various medical advancements emerging to manage psoriasis, there are increased options to alleviate symptoms, control flare-ups, and even attain clear skin. Simultaneously, patients can cope better with counselling sessions. These can help understand the disease better, while also addressing negative thoughts, and instilling knowledge on how to cope with the condition.
2. Support from the patient community
Being in touch with a community of psoriasis patients, or even just one of them, could do wonders for an individual’s wellbeing. Talking to other patients, voicing experiences and daily hurdles, and exchanging life hacks on managing everyday functionality will benefit the patients. Simply engaging meaningfully with someone who also understands what living with psoriasis means, can help a patient to cope and realise that they are not alone.
3. Stress reduction
We know that stress makes the plaque worse and anxiety can heighten when thinking of the possibility of the symptoms appearing again unexpectedly. Finding stress busters or healthy coping mechanisms to relieve stress can be helpful. It may even help manage the condition better. Identifying triggers can also enable us to adopt stress management techniques efficiently. Also consider avoiding unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as smoking or drinking, as both can exacerbate the condition.
4. A healthy lifestyle
Engage in self-care and make healthy lifestyle changes to ease the symptoms. These include getting enough sleep, a healthy diet, regular exercise, yoga, and meditation. When adopting healthy lifestyle changes, ensure to discuss those changes in detail with your doctor to understand what works best for you as per your health profile.
With these tips, patients can look ahead and take care of their mental health. So ladies, try to not just manage psoriasis but also thrive!