Having psoriasis is linked with an increased risk of developing a mental health condition. Mental health conditions and psoriasis have this in common they can both be lifelong chronic conditions, so it is important to learn how to manage them and understand how they can affect each other.
What is anxiety?
Worrying is a natural part of life and sometimes we are placed in situations which are anxiety-provoking however, it may become a mental health condition if this feeling prevails for a sustained time. Some common examples of anxiety are generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder and health anxiety.
Anxiety can be characterised by physical and mental symptoms. Example of physical symptoms which can be experienced are a tight chest, difficulty concentrating, nausea and an irregular heartbeat. Mental symptoms include racing thoughts and overthinking, which can be hard to manage. Research has found that having psoriasis is linked to an increased risk of developing anxiety.
Breaking the cycle
Managing anxiety and psoriasis can feel like a vicious cycle. Stress can exacerbate psoriasis and living with anxiety can mean you are faced with many stress-inducing situations. It can be hard to know where to start but noticing that you are struggling is a step in the right direction. Sometimes it can be hard to understand and process what is going on in your head. For example, you may have noticed that a flare up causes you to feel overwhelmed, and maybe you avoid social situations because of it however, you might not understand how to stop these negative feelings.
Therapy may be able to help with this. I found that therapy helped me understand what was going on in my head and I can now better compartmentalise my thoughts and feelings. There are a multitude of resources out there, try looking at the NHS website or speaking with your GP.
Not everyone likes to talk about how they are feeling, and that’s understandable. If this is the case for you and therapy seems like a daunting method at this point in your journey, there are so many other ways to keep your anxiety at bay. I find that the key to preventing a stress-induced psoriasis flare up is to implement relaxation in my daily routine. Everyone has different ways of calming down, but there are some methods that are particularly beneficial when dealing with anxiety.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique has helped me calm down and helps me to ease anxiety symptoms. First start by making a 'whoosh' sound by exhaling completely through your mouth. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose, in your head counting to 4. Hold your breath for 7 seconds. Exhale for a count of 8. Repeat this cycle another 3 times.
There are other ways in which anxiety symptoms can be reduced. I find that exercise releases lots of tension and clears my mind. In fact, it has been found that rigorous exercise can help ease psoriasis symptoms. Having a good evening routine can also help calm you down before bed. This is especially important if you struggle to sleep because of your anxiety.
Love the skin you’re in
Learning to accept yourself is key to reducing the anxiety you may have surrounding your body. Remember that everyone has something they are insecure about and while you may think people are looking at your skin, they are probably worrying about their own insecurities. I understand this isn’t just an overnight process, but there are some ways that your confidence surrounding your skin can be improved. I find that taking time to look after my skin helps me have a better relationship with it, for example moisturising every evening and taking time to look at and get used to how my skin looks. I love wearing clothes that make me feel confident, but I have found it hard before when I’ve had a particularly bad flare up.
Slowly though I have become more comfortable in wearing what I wanted. You can take this at your own pace, for example maybe wearing a short sleeve instead of a long sleeve T-shirt which may expose some of your skin. You’ll probably find that no-one notices as much as you do. Having some positive evidence can be really helpful surrounding social anxiety about your skin and slowly but surely you can start to accept and love your skin.
A better day
I hope that this blog has helped you understand more about anxiety and psoriasis. Although it can be difficult, there is help out there to get you through and remember, there will be a better day.
MAT-41924 January 2021
Article developed in partnership with LEO Pharma.