5 Ways to Get Psoriasis Anxiety Under Control
What is the worst part about having psoriasis for you? Is it the itching, burning, inconvenient treatments, doctor and clinic visits, relationships, or social stigma? For me it's all of the above, in what feels like endless cycles — with the added measure of anxiety mixed in.
Anxiety focuses on the unknown future. You don't get anxious about the past, unless it adds to the picture of a (usually scary) imagined future. I think about the times when my skin health felt like a series of waves breaking onto the beach — calmer, then raging, and back again. Each morning when I woke up my first thought turned to the condition of my skin. It literally could worsen overnight. Or it could be better. I never could predict one way or another.
The newly diagnosed with psoriasis often experience high anxiety. I met a psoriasis patient at a meeting who mentioned that it's the unknown that bothers him the most about having psoriasis. When I interviewed a dermatologist I asked him what's the hardest part to accept when learning about a psoriasis diagnosis. He mentioned that those recently diagnosed with psoriasis want a quick cure. They ask for a pill or cream to make it go away. Patients naturally struggle when they find out that psoriasis could be chronic and lifelong.
How can those with psoriasis better cope with the anxiety associated with it? Here are a few ways I've learned how to manage my psoriasis anxiety:
- Accept Your Feelings
My worst enemy is the word “should,” especially when it comes to my feelings. For example, before my dermatologist visits I'm often worried about how it will go. I wonder if I'll need to change medications, or if my blood test results measure too high or low. Many times I would tell myself that I should not feel worried or anxious. That line of thinking never helps — it actually just makes me even more anxious! Feelings are not a matter of should or should not, but rather they are. Acknowledge them — then you can deal with them in a healthy way.
- Ask Questions
I tend to be an inquisitive person. If I don't know something my first instinct is to search on the Internet or ask someone I know. But when it comes to psoriasis or other medical conditions it requires courage to advocate for yourself. I learned from experience if there's something I need to know that can help me feel better about taking a medication, or lessen my fear of what could happen with my condition, I don’t hesitate to ask. Being proactive mitigates the passivity and paralysis that comes with anxiety.
- Take a Walk
What are ways you enjoy relaxing? If I'm getting stressed out about life, especially psoriasis, I like to exercise. Walking is good. Running is even better. I also enjoy going to the backyard to decompress and rest my heart and mind. Some enjoy a bath, listening to music, watching a movie, mediating, or praying. Whatever helps you relax can help lessen your anxiety.
- Talk it Out
Sometimes it does help to see a professional therapist or counselor if your emotional symptoms feel out of control. Talking to your doctor can begin the conversation of how you are doing emotionally. I've gone that route before, but normally having friends who can help you process your feelings is also a good way to talk about your condition. They can help you with discussing the options, weighing the pros and cons of treatment, and thinking about what’s the worst that can happen. Talking it out can help you gain much needed perspective.
- Start a Journal
A health journal is a great way to keep track of psoriasis and anxiety triggers. Writing gives you a record of what happened that's often hard to remember when talking to your doctor. My wife uses journaling as a means to express her feelings. Others with psoriasis share how valuable writing can be to release all those pent up feelings of living with a chronic skin disease.
Don't be surprised if anxious thoughts creep into your mind as you live with the ups and downs of psoriasis. Having ways to cope goes a long way in managing those anxieties so they don't get overwhelming and stay manageable.
Any suggestions made are not intended to replace the advice of a qualified medical professional. Please consult your healthcare provider prior to making any changes to your treatment, exercise or diet routine.