How to help a loved one with psoriasis minimize stress.
Stress and psoriasis can go hand-in-hand. For some people, stress can trigger a psoriasis flare-up, and the outbreaks themselves can be stressful. "Psoriasis is unpredictable,” says Madelyn Petrow-Cohen, who has moderate psoriasis and is a licensed clinical social worker and therapist in New York and New Jersey. “You can do something one time and have it work to clear your skin. But maybe then it doesn’t work the next time, which stresses people out; psoriasis affects how you feel and look, which can be frustrating.”
Doctors encourage people with psoriasis to avoid stress, especially because it can impact other potential health risks, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Nehal N. Mehta, MD, director of inflammatory risk at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, specializes in psoriasis care and recommends that his patients do yoga or meditate, or take 20 minutes of quiet time to help manage stress.
Help your loved one get great care.
“People don’t necessarily get the best treatment for psoriasis, which can bring on stress,” says Julie Nelligan, a clinical psychologist in private practice who specializes in health psychology in Portland, OR. “Look for a dermatologist who is knowledgeable about psoriasis, connects with you and is helpful.” Help your loved one further by finding others who can provide referrals and offer to go with them to their doctors' appointments. Assure them that you will help continue the doctor search until, together, you find the right provider—and treatment.
Tell your loved one to say, “No.”
Have your loved one reevaluate activities to determine if it's possible to eliminate any extra obligations that are causing stress, such as chairing an event or relandscaping the yard. Then, help make changes to lighten the load. Eliminating big tasks (or just renegotiating their scope) can allow a person with psoriasis to regain valuable free time and reduce stress levels, says Nelligan.
Avoid bad habits.
Stress can prompt some people to indulge in alcohol, drugs, cigarettes and unhealthy foods, says Nelligan. Encourage your loved one to stick to a healthy routine (getting lots of rest and eating right) and avoid being too sedentary. Refraining from unhealthy behavior during stressful times can help prevent other health problems such as heart disease and depression—two diseases linked to psoriasis.
If you think your loved one needs more emotional support than you can provide, suggest professional psoriasis support groups or one-on-one therapy, says Petrow-Cohen.
Emphasize the positive in your loved one.
Problems arise when one’s self-esteem becomes intertwined with psoriasis. Give your loved one a boost with reminders that everyone deserves happiness. “Don’t let psoriasis rob someone you care about of happiness,” says Petrow-Cohen. “It is possible to embrace life.”