Call it a vicious cycle. Too much stress can spark a psoriasis flare, which can make you feel frustrated, embarrassed, and yes, even more stressed-out. Studies show that many people who have psoriasis reported stress as a trigger and experienced a flare-up usually within two weeks of a stressful event. The good news is that adding stress management to your treatment plan can be effective in reducing these flare-ups. And it’s free! Here are some suggestions:
Don't lose focus. Taking a positive approach and concentrating on your inner beauty can alleviate your negative feelings about how psoriasis affects your outward appearance. If you focus on the disease, your symptoms will likely worsen.
Educate yourself. “The more you know about psoriasis, the less likely you will feel overwhelmed by it,” says Jason Reichenberg, M.D., associate program director for dermatology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Austin. Talk to your doctor, or visit the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) and the American Academy of Dermatology(AAD).
Connect with others who have the condition so you won’t feel alone. Ask your doctor about psoriasis support groups in your area, or find an online support group.
Plan ahead. If you know that a stressful time (when you will be moving or starting a new job, for example) is coming up, discuss increasing your treatment with your doctor beforehand. “Adding an additional therapy, such as a topical cream or light treatments, in the week or two before a stressful event might help prevent a flare-up,” says Dr. Reichenberg.
Ask your doctor about antidepressants. A small study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine found that psoriasis symptoms improved significantly in patients who were given the antidepressant bupropion SR. Dr. Reichenberg has also prescribed antidepressants to patients dealing with depression or anxiety on top of psoriasis. “I have found that a small dose of an antidepressant can make a big difference in their quality of life.”
Use your head. Meditation, breathing exercises and visualization can reduce psoriasis symptoms in some people. For instance, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center studied two groups of psoriasis patients. One group listened to a tape that guided them in visualization, meditation and mindful breathing while they underwent light therapy. The other group was given only light therapy. Psoriasis symptoms cleared up more quickly and thoroughly in the tape group than in the light-therapy-only group. Biofeedback and hypnotherapy have produced similar results.
Help your loved ones help you. “On our message boards, family and friends of people with psoriasis often ask, ‘How do I help them?’" says the NPF’s Aimee Bosland. “My advice is not to push. You can say, ‘I’ve read up on psoriasis. It doesn’t bother me, but we’ll go at your speed. Let me know when and how I can help you.’ If you have psoriasis, realize that it affects the people around you, too, and open communication is vital.”
Reviewed by: Mary Ellen Luchetti, M.D., AAD