Psoriasis flare-up? Kick the itch to scratch with these tips

Break the itch/scratch cycle with psoriasis

If your psoriasis-related itching is causing you to scratch the affected area, you may already know that, while it may bring temporary relief, scratching can often inflame the skin further, causing any lesions to become more painful, sore and even cracked.

This can make you feel even more stressed about your psoriasis, which itself can make the symptoms worse. Fortunately there are many things you can do to help break the itch/scratch cycle and the following tips may be a good place for you to start:

Whatever your reasons, to break the itch/scratch habit, you need to take the itch away first. Distraction techniques may help.

Find substitute behaviours

Try to become more aware of when you are scratching and what triggers your itch/scratch cycle. Keep a diary and record the times and situations when you are most likely to scratch. This way you will be able to see whether your skin feels genuinely itchy or if the scratching has just become a habit.

Finding distractions and keeping busy are also useful ways to break the cycle and stop you thinking about the need to itch. Think about what triggers your itching too and try some substitute or alternative behaviours instead, like doodling, writing or texting – anything that keeps your hands occupied, as this will help prevent you from scratching.

Ditching the urge to itch

Dermatologists at one hospital teach people with psoriasis a technique they call habit reversal'. Start by using a diary to log how often you are scratching. You may be amazed by the results. It's usually more than you think. 

Then, the next time you feel like scratching, hold off for 10 seconds. It may take some practice but you'll get there in the end.

Next, replace the scratching with a new behaviour – for example, clenching your fist for 30 seconds.

Finally, if the urge to itch is still there, push your finger down on the affected area.

Practice this technique every day and, in time, you may notice that you no longer feel the urge to scratch quite so often. Combined with the use of emollient creams and other treatments, this should help to reduce the itching. Then, if you can break the itch/scratch cycle, you won't be tempted to scratch and make things worse.

UK/IE MAT-09232 Date of prep: May 2017

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