When you’re in skin distress, it’s time to de-stress.
The vicious cycle of stress can wreak havoc on many facets of your life—and psoriasis is certainly not excluded. Stress can worsen most unpleasant autoimmune reactions humans face. To make it worse, when a psoriasis flare happens, it can create more stress for you. Kind of rude, huh?
The Stress-Flare Cycle
Stress releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These stress hormones can trigger psoriasis flares, or make symptoms like itchiness and redness worse. This creates a pretty continuous cycle because having a visible psoriasis outbreak is stressful and/or painful, but this stress can cause more flares, which makes psoriasis more stressful, and so on.
Plus, people with psoriatic disease are at higher risk for developing depression or anxiety because they are living with an inconvenient, difficult, and unpredictable disease. There’s also some research that suggests that chronic inflammation itself can affect mental health.
Is it possible to get off this less-than-fun carousel? The thing to remember is that you are not alone. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, over 8 million people in the U.S. live with the condition. There are plenty of ways people have learned to manage their stress, mental health, and psoriasis flares—and you can, too.
Common Signs of a Possible Flare
Psoriasis symptoms may come and go. A sudden and severe onset of symptoms is known as a flare. Symptoms of a psoriasis flare include a sudden worsening of:
- Red rashes (plaques) with a silvery sheen
- Dryness or cracking of the skin
- Swollen joints
- Nail changes
- Hair loss
Preventing a flare doesn’t just help you avoid visible symptoms and itchiness. It can also help your overall health by limiting inflammation. By taking control of your mental health, you can try and avoid certain flare ups from occurring, or at least from getting worse. This can in turn help prevent other health problems linked to inflammation.
Ways to Minimize Stress With Psoriasis
Reduce stress by maximizing your treatment plan and picking up some of these helpful habits:
- Talk to others with psoriasis to get support or advice
- Pick up a hobby you enjoy that’s just for you
- Meditate or practice deep breathing
- Start light exercise like yoga or walking (as recommended by your doctor)
- Spend time with loved ones
- Get enough sleep
- Eat nutritious and filling meals
- Take a soothing bath
- Find moisturizers and skincare routines that help you feel your best
Remember, having psoriasis is not uncommon and nothing to be ashamed of. However, sometimes life can induce stress that you are just unable to avoid. Talk to your doctor about available options. You may also consider finding a therapist to help you cope with your stress—whether it stems from your psoriasis or not.
Heather Summe, MD, is a dermatologist in New York City. Dr. Summe is the Chief of the Division of Dermatology at Lenox Hill Hospital. She is also an Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.
- What is Psoriasis? Rosemont, IL: American Academy of Dermatology Association, 2021. (Accessed on May 18, 2021)
- Are Triggers Causing Your Psoriasis Flare-Ups? Rosemont, IL: American Academy of Dermatology Association, 2021. (Accessed on May 18, 2021)
- About Psoriasis. Alexandria, VA: National Psoriasis Foundation, 2021. (Accessed on May 18, 2021)
- Life with Psoriasis. Alexandria, VA: National Psoriasis Foundation, 2020. (Accessed on May 18, 2021)
- Emotional Impact. Alexandria, VA: National Psoriasis Foundation, 2021. (Accessed on May 18, 2021)
- Autoimmune Disorder. Hormone Health Network, 2019. (Accessed on May 18, 2021)
- A Deeper Look at Psoriasis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Health Publishing, 2018. (Accessed on May 18, 2021)