Psoriasis Treatment: How Therapy Can Help

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition in which the skin develops inflamed, scaly lesions. It can be very itchy and painful and can also affect the nails and joints.

Psoriasis has been linked to higher rates of certain mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Psychotherapy can be useful to help cope with these conditions during psoriasis treatment. Therapy can also improve symptoms of psoriasis itself.

Read on to learn more about how therapy can help psoriasis patients.

male patient talking to his therapist

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How Psoriasis Impacts Mental Health

Research shows that psoriasis is associated with higher rates of:

These are likely due to both environmental and biological factors.

For example, a person with psoriasis lesions may experience social stigma at school or work, leading to social anxiety.

Biologically, pain from psoriasis could contribute to depression. Scientists also believe that the higher levels of pro-inflammatory markers found in anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia as well as psoriasis indicate biological factors at play.

It's also important to note that the connection between psoriasis and mental health is bidirectional. For example, if you are having a bad episode of anxiety, then your psoriasis may worsen. Or if you are in a bad psoriasis flare, then this may trigger anxiety.

Fortunately, this seems to work in terms of improvement, too. For instance, treating psoriasis symptoms may improve mental health conditions, and treating mental health conditions with therapy can improve psoriasis symptoms.

Suicide Prevention Hotline

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one is in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Types of Therapy for Psoriasis

Various types of therapy can improve your psoriasis symptoms, with the added benefit of helping improve co-occurring mental health conditions.

There are many different types of therapy that can help psoriasis. To date, some of the studied therapies for psoriasis include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy, may be particularly helpful for people with psoriasis. CBT is one of the most researched methods of therapy and has been shown to be helpful for many mental health conditions, including those associated with psoriasis.

A 2019 review found that CBT was effective at reducing both the severity and surface area of psoriasis lesions, particularly for people with moderate to severe psoriasis.

Benefits of Therapy for Psoriasis

Some proven benefits of therapy for people with psoriasis include:

  • Reduced area of psoriasis
  • Reduced severity of psoriasis
  • Stress reduction
  • Coping techniques for social stigma
  • Improved quality of life
  • Improved physical functioning
  • Increased participation in activities of daily living

Even if you don't have a diagnosed mental health condition, you may still benefit from therapy for psoriasis. One study found that 40%-80% of people with psoriasis believed stress contributed to their psoriasis flares.

By attending therapy, you will learn techniques to manage, cope with, and reduce your stress in the long run. This may lead to better control of your psoriasis flares and improved symptoms.

How to Find a Therapist

A good first step for finding a therapist is to talk to your primary care provider. They can refer you to qualified therapists in your area. You might specifically want to ask for referrals to therapists specializing in skin conditions or chronic illness, or for practitioners who are certified to practice CBT.

Other ways to find a therapist include asking for recommendations from friends, searching approved providers through your insurance provider, or signing up on an online therapy site.

Other Treatment for Psoriasis

Therapy can complement your existing psoriasis treatment regimen. Traditional treatments for psoriasis can include:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications
  • Topical ointments
  • Prescription medications
  • Biologics
  • Phototherapy

Summary

Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition. It is associated with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and suicidal ideation. Many people with psoriasis could benefit from seeking therapy to help treat their mental health symptoms.

Treating these mental health conditions is important and may also improve the symptoms of psoriasis. This is because psoriasis and mental health have a bidirectional, cyclical relationship.

A Word From Verywell

Having psoriasis can be stressful, isolating, and painful. If you have psoriasis and are struggling with your mental health, your experience is valid and you deserve help. Seeking therapy can improve both your mental health and your psoriasis symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What types of therapy does psoriasis respond to?

    Therapies such as psychotherapy (particularly CBT), biofeedback, hypnosis, meditation, emotional disclosure, and relaxation therapy have all been shown to improve psoriasis symptoms.

  • What are other psoriasis treatment options?

    Psychotherapy and relaxation therapy are alternative psoriasis treatment options that may be used to complement a medical regimen. Phototherapy with ultraviolet B (UVB) or ultraviolet A (UVA) light can also improve psoriasis symptoms.

  • Is psoriasis curable?

    Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition with no cure. However, many treatments are available to help manage and reduce symptoms and prevent future flares.

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