Coping With Plaque Psoriasis

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The symptoms of chronic plaque psoriasis are more than skin deep. The psychological toll the disease can take is often more profound than the condition itself, often undermining a person's confidence, self-image, and interpersonal relationships. Fortunately, there are things you can do to better cope with the challenges of living with plaque psoriasis. They involve stress reduction, diet and exercise, improved lifestyle choices, and emotional support. This holistic approach can both enhance your response to drug therapies and improve your overall quality of life.

Emotional

Stress is a vicious cycle by which psychological pressures can trigger symptoms of psoriasis, while the appearance of symptoms can trigger stress. As an independent risk factor, stress triggers the release hormones in the body, including cortisol and adrenaline, which can enhance inflammation and make plaque psoriasis symptoms worse.

There are a number of stress reduction techniques that may help. Referred to as mind-body therapies, they allow you to take a more active role in how you respond to your disease and its bothersome symptoms. These approaches work by redirecting your focus from any pain and negative feelings you may have to a place of calmness, balance, and self-acceptance.

Among some of the more popular mind-body therapies that may be beneficial to you as you work to cope with psoriasis:

  • Mindfulness meditation is a meditative practice that can be directed by sounds, sensations, chants, or guided breathing.
  • Yoga is beneficial both physically and emotionally, especially less strenuous forms like yin yoga. (Hot yoga and power yoga should be avoided, especially during acute flares.)
  • Guided imagery is a technique in which you focus on pleasant mental images to induce feelings of calm.
  • Mental body scanning is another meditative technique. Usually performed lying down, you direct your focus up or down your body to detect subtle pleasant or neutral sensations, rather focus on the unpleasant ones.

Seeking Professional Help

It doesn't help your mind or body to tell yourself you're OK if you are not. This, though, is not an uncommon thing to do. In an effort to curb feelings of anger, hopelessness, or perhaps even embarrassment, people with psoriasis often put on a "happy face" for those around them. Doing so rarely helps and can make the underlying stress even worse.

If you are unable to cope or have persistent or worsening feelings of anxiety or depression, seek professional help from a psychiatrist or psychologist experienced in chronic illnesses. Psychotherapy and short-term drug treatment may not only help improve your emotional symptoms, but they can potentially improve your psoriasis by alleviating the underlying stress.

Physical

Aside from helping to improve your overall sense of health and wellness, these steps can help you better manage symptoms, mitigate potential risks, and perhaps even influence the progression of psoriasis: 

Lose Weight

Obesity is one of the risk factors for psoriasis. The excessive accumulation of fat cells can increase the volume of inflammatory proteins, called cytokines, circulating in the blood. The more fat cells there are, the greater the risk of symptoms

Change Your Diet

While there a few studies to suggest that diet alone can change the course of the disease, many doctors will endorse a low-fat diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including foods like coldwater fish (salmon, herring, mackerel), whole-grains, beans, vegetables, and fruit.

If often helps to consult with a nutritionist who can work with your doctor to ensure that your intake of nutrients (such as calcium or iron) is adjusted to compensate for any drugs you may be taking.

Rethink Alcohol and Smoking

Alcohol should be avoided, especially since many of the drugs used to treat psoriasis can cause liver toxicity. Moreover, you should make every effort to quit smoking as cigarettes are an independent risk factor for severe psoriasis.

Move More

Regular exercise can also contribute to weight loss and do wonders to improve your mood, outlook, energy levels, strength, and appearance.

Social

Some with psoriasis say it can be alienating. People may think you are contagious, though you are not, and others may simply sense your discomfort and keep their distance. The consequence of these experiences can be significant, potentially leading you to increasingly isolate yourself, both physically and emotionally.

If you suffer from chronic psoriasis, try to remind yourself that you are not alone. Psoriasis is more common than you may think. 

There are a number of ways you can reach out to others for peer-to-peer support:

  • Join a social media group, including psoriasis Facebook pages.
  • Start or join a local psoriasis group using a networking platform, like MeetUp.
  • Contact your local chapter of the National Psoriasis Foundation to learn about in-person meetings and support groups in your area.
  • Register with Talk Psoriasis, a social media platform with more than 100,000 members managed by the National Psoriasis Foundation.

But, don't exclude those around you from being a part of your support network. Oftentimes, just opening up and letting others understand what you are going through can alter how they relate to you and vice versa. By helping them comprehend what plaque psoriasis is all about, they will be all the more able and, hopefully, willing to support you.

Seeking (and finding) the most effective treatment for your condition is just one piece of the puzzle. Do all you can to support yourself both physically and mentally to live your best life with psoriasis.

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