On the outside, psoriasis, a chronic disease that develops when a person’s skin cells grow too quickly, may just look like a skin problem. Those who’ve been diagnosed with psoriasis or know someone who has, however, know that the condition impacts so much more than just the look of your skin.
“Psoriasis has a profound effect on a patient’s quality of life,” says Suzanne Friedler, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. “Patients with psoriasis do tend to be more depressed and do tend to avoid social encounters than an average patient.”
The Emotional Impact of Psoriasis
Psoriasis can cause significant emotional distress, including low self-esteem, and an increased chance of mood disorders, such as depression. In fact, people with psoriasis are twice as likely to become depressed as the rest of the population.
“[Patients] often feel embarrassed by they appearance of their plaques,” says Dr. Friedler. “Psoriasis plaques are often red and have very thick, white, oyster-like scale. This can be uncomfortable and very emotionally debilitating.” (Learn more about the symptoms of psoriasis.)
“Even when plaques are not in visible locations, they feel impacted that they may affect their quality of life,” says Dr. Friedler. “They may not be able to participate in the activities such as swimming and sports that they would like to participate in.”
Many psoriasis patients seek help for their depression by taking medications, like antidepressants, or talking to a mental health professional. While that may help, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation, it’s also important for patients to make sure their psoriasis is well managed and to take care of their overall health.
“Stress is a huge contributor to psoriasis,” says Dr. Friedler. “When people are under stress their immune systems don’t work as well as they used to. So keeping your stress levels under control—like with massage or mediation—can have a big role in keeping your psoriasis under check.”
Psoriasis is also a risk factor for many other chronic conditions, like heart disease, certain cancers, psoriatic arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and diabetes. Controlling your psoriasis—by getting the proper treatment, eating a psoriasis-friendly diet, and tweaking your lifestyle to avoid psoriasis flares—not only helps lessen the severity of your symptoms and improve your quality of life, but it can also help reduce your risk of developing these co-occurring conditions.
“If psoriasis is affecting you, don’t be discouraged. There’s better hope now than ever before in treatments that can clear your skin and keep you clear for long periods of time,” says Dr. Friedler.