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Getting Comfortable in Your Own Skin
When you have psoriasis, knowing how to handle the inevitable awkward moments is an important part of living with the condition. "Psoriasis is an in-your-face disease," says Jeffrey I. Ellis, MD, a dermatologist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York. "Handling the stigma of psoriasis can be as important as treating the disease." Because psoriasis can be such a visible disease, you need to learn how to be comfortable in your own skin. Here are some tips to help you.
Situation: People Think Psoriasis Is Contagious
What to Do: It's understandable that some people might think your condition is contagious, especially during a psoriasis flare. "Honesty, open communication, and education are your best weapons against false assumptions about psoriasis," says Jameeka Moore, PsyD, a psychologist at the Gersten Center for Behavioral Health in Melrose Park, Illinois. "Explaining to people in an open way that your psoriasis is not contagious and letting them know the impact it has on you almost always results in gaining support."
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Situation: You Fear a Psoriasis Flare
What to Do: Stress makes psoriasis worse, and psoriasis makes stress worse. That can be problematic when it's time for a big event like a wedding, first date, or graduation. But there's a way out. "Stress can trigger a psoriasis flare, so you need to anticipate stress and know how to manage it," says Dr. Ellis. "Stress reduction techniques can include support groups, exercise, meditation, or yoga. There are lots of options. You need to find what works best for you."
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Situation: People Stare at Your Psoriasis
What to Do: Are you convinced people are staring at you? "What you do is change your internal thinking," Moore says. It may be that other people are just looking at you. "You may just be imagining that you are in the spotlight," she says. "Don't let your internal thoughts put you into a negative mood. Positive thoughts will make you more confident and less likely to be affected by what other people see or think."
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Situation: People Ask What's Wrong With Your Skin
What to Do: "One of the most important things your doctor can provide you with is knowledge," Ellis says. "Having psoriasis is nothing to be ashamed of. Knowledge gives you confidence, and you can share that knowledge with others." Talking to other people about psoriasis often leads to stronger relationships. It also reinforces your acceptance of your condition, which is the key to being emotionally healthy about having psoriasis.
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Situation: Dealing With Psoriasis Bullies
What to Do: There will always be people who want to make you feel bad because you look different. Dealing with psoriasis bullies is not too different from dealing with any other kind of bully. "There are two choices," Moore says. "You may want to be direct and tell a bully that you don't like their attitude, and you are hurt by it. If that does not work, it is best to remove yourself and ignore them. For some bullies, any reaction just encourages them."
Situation: Starting a New Relationship
What to Do: Psoriasis comes and goes, and you may have it in places that are not seen by casual friends. But what about dealing with psoriasis in a relationship that may become intimate? "You don't have to talk about your psoriasis right away, but if a relationship is becoming serious, the longer you wait, the more anxiety you have," Moore says. "An honest and open discussion is best before you get in too deep. If your new [partner] has trouble dealing with it, it is probably not the relationship for you."
Situation: You Feel Overwhelmed by Psoriasis
What to Do: "Psoriasis doubles your risk of depression," Ellis says. An observational study published in 2012 in the journal Dermatology Research and Practice compared the existence of depression and anxiety among 100 people with psoriasis and 100 people who did not have it. Researchers found that 67 percent of those with psoriasis also had depression, compared with 12 percent of those who did not have the skin disease. Anxiety was present in 45 percent of those with psoriasis, versus 18 percent of the others.
"If psoriasis is making it impossible for you to live your life, you need to ask for help," Ellis says. "There are mental health providers who specialize in treating depression due to skin diseases, called psychodermatologists."
Situation: Learning to Accept Your Condition
What to Do: Acceptance is the key to handling the stigma of psoriasis. No matter what awkward situations you encounter, the person you need to talk to first is you. You have a chronic disease. That's nothing to be ashamed of. If you can't accept yourself, how can anyone else? "Remember you are much more than your physical appearance," Moore says. "You are also a spiritual and intellectual person. Once you accept your whole self, you will be confident and comfortable in your own skin."
- Last Updated: 08/30/16
- Last Updated: 08/30/16