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Managing Your Psoriasis

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Navigating How Psoriasis Affects My Mental Health and Emotions

Medically Reviewed By Meredith Goodwin, MD, FAAFP

When you think of psoriasis, the immediate things that may come to mind are the visible symptoms: flakes from your scalp all over your clothes and itchy round plaques all across your body. However, it’s not often spoken about, but psoriasis can have a major effect on more than just your skin and joints. It can have a major impact on your mental and emotional health. Having personally experienced sadness and frustration related to my psoriasis, I know first hand how it can take a toll on how you feel inside. 

No one really talks too much about your feelings when you go to the dermatologist’s office. We talk about the areas affected on our bodies, the type of psoriasis, if treatment is working, etc. You’re not asked how you’re actually coping with the disease – even though this information is something that is really important, since stress can sometimes trigger flares. While the focus is treatment, how you may feel about it could be left on the back burner. 

I learned to hide my emotions when it came to my psoriatic disease, although hiding my pain and frustration would paralyze me at times. I would retreat to my bed, the one place I felt safe without having to explain why I lost my hair, why I had hyperpigmentation all over, and why it hurt to walk. If my pillow could talk it would share all the tears, all the questioning, and all of the feelings of sadness I was experiencing. 

As my flares worsened, the unspoken emotions inside made it difficult at times to smile or be happy. I didn’t want to be burdensome or a downer to anyone. I never complained but I believe that this took an extra toll on me. As I started to recognize that I was turning into the opposite of who I am – lively Ayesha – I made a personal decision to work through my feelings and encourage myself. Therapy, exercise, and my journals became my best friends. 

Each day I would present myself with intentions. Even if my only goal was to just get up and sit on the porch for sunlight, I would. I would journal daily, check in with my support groups, and talk to my therapist. Whatever it took, I did it to get myself out of a funk. I had little control on how major my flare was at that time, but I could attempt to control my emotions and work through whatever I was experiencing. 

The emotional impact of psoriasis is real

Mental health is just as important as physical health. There is a negative stigma in our society associated with mental and emotional health. This can potentially influence someone to not share because of fear they may be judged. If we can somehow normalize assessing emotional well-being, we would be much better off. How we feel inside can motivate as well as demotivate you. Feelings absolutely matter. 

Having worked through many of my issues, and later becoming a mentor with the National Psoriasis Foundation, I learned so much about the emotional impact of psoriasis. So many people with psoriasis struggle with anxiety and even depression. They can feel hopeless, and feel they have nowhere to turn. It’s so important that dermatologists to do more than a physical check-in; that they also do a mental health check-in with their patients. If they can offer resources for support, it could do so much for those struggling inside. 

There are ways that you can take the steps towards working through your emotions. I chose to seek counseling with my therapist. I also journaled and got my endorphins going with exercise. You can try to do the things you love to help you work through tough emotional times. Try going for a walk, reaching out to someone to talk to, or finding a hobby that brings you joy. There are definitely still going to be times where you may have difficulty managing all of the emotions you feel, but taking small intentional steps are still steps. You have to just push forward, and when you feel you can’t push anymore, lean in on your support systems. 

I believe my foundation of faith, great family and friends, and just a desire to want to be well is what kept me going in my darkest times. Some people unfortunately don’t have that same story. I think talking about it more and destigmatising mental health can do so much good for those who may face this challenge. More access to resources and support is something that should be prioritized. Working through all of your emotions on the inside can impact what happens with your psoriasis on the outside, and improve how you feel overall. 

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Medical Reviewer: Meredith Goodwin, MD, FAAFP
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