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Is Psoriasis Affecting Your Body Image and Mental Health? Help Is out There

man fingers on forearm
man fingers on forearm

Skin diseases such as psoriasis can negatively impact several aspects of one’s life including self-image and mental health, but help is available.

Psoriasis (suh-rai-uh-sis) is a chronic, non-contagious, inflammatory disease that’s estimated to affect over a million Canadians. There are different forms of psoriasis — plaque, guttate, pustular (generalized and localized), inverse, and erythrodermic — with plaque psoriasis being the most common, affecting about 90 percent of people with this condition.

Typically, skin cells shed every 28 to 30 days — but with plaque psoriasis, faulty signals in the body’s immune system cause this to happen every three to four days instead. Skin cells pile up to form sores (plaques) on the affected skin that appear reddish on lighter skin and purplish or greyish on darker skin. Thick, silvery scales form on top of these plaques, and the affected skin can be significantly itchy, flaky, uncomfortable, and painful. Due to underlying inflammation, people with psoriasis are at higher risk of developing associated conditions like psoriatic arthritis (which is estimated to affect up to one in three people with psoriasis), metabolic disease, and heart disease.

Psoriasis — more than skin deep

Though everyone experiences psoriasis differently and experiences may change over the course of one’s condition, psoriasis can affect every aspect of a person’s life including self-image, personal relationships, sleep, intimacy, social life, and work life. People with psoriasis often report poor self-esteem and high levels of psychological stress. Estimates suggest that up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop anxiety and up to 60 percent develop depression over the course of the disease.

Psoriasis symptoms can vary from mild to severe, but even mild cases can have significant negative impacts on a person’s life, especially if certain body parts — the face, hands, feet, and genitals — are affected. Stigma plays a major role in the experiences of people with psoriasis when it comes to self-image and body image. A common misconception is that psoriasis is “only” a rash, diminishing the actual experiences of people with the condition, which can be significant.

You’re not alone

If you or someone you care about is struggling with psoriasis, you’re not alone. While there’s no cure for psoriasis yet, there’s still hope for living well through treatment and support. Often, help starts with talking to your doctor and getting a referral to a dermatologist. It’s important to share any concerns you may have, including those that are more than skin deep — like joint pain, mental health issues, and questions about your health care and treatment. Taking care of your physical and mental health by prioritizing things like good sleep, exercise, and self-compassion is also critical to living well with this chronic disease. A little goes a long way when it comes to self-care.

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