Although psoriasis affects around 7.5 million Americans, many people do not know what the condition is and how it affects daily life and even mental health.
During Psoriasis Awareness Month in August, organizations like the National Psoriasis Foundation are spreading information about the condition, including its impact on women. The foundation even sponsored a “Life With Psoriasis” photo contest last year.
According to the foundation’s website, psoriasis is defined as a “chronic, autoimmune disease that appears on the skin.”
“It occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells,” the website states. It’s important to keep in mind that psoriasis is not contagious.
The most common kind is called plaque psoriasis. Symptoms include “raised, red patches covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells.”
For women, psoriasis could complicate pregnancy and nursing. The foundation website noted that psoriasis can impact women’s emotions as well, considering the pressure on women to look “beautiful” despite our society’s narrow definition of beauty.
Dr. Tolu Olupona, an assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, said in an email that people with psoriasis do tend to suffer more than people without psoriasis from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress symptoms and suicidal thoughts.
“People with psoriasis are dealing with a chronic medical condition,” Olupona said. “The symptoms can cause physical pain and distress. There is also a lot of social stigma, which then affects the patient’s functioning in society.”
A lot of emotional pain can come from other peoples’ reactions to the condition.
“Onlookers may stare with curiosity at plaques on skin, elevating individual’s self-consciousness, which can increase anxiety level,” she said. “Patients with psoriasis report discrimination at public places including swimming pools, gyms and nails salons.”
“In some cases, psoriasis affects peoples choices regarding when and if to go to certain events, what to wear to the event, will people stare or ask questions,” Olupona added.