“They only treat my skin. They don’t ask about how badly it’s affected my confidence or anything like that.”
Aisling, 22, Ireland
Psoriasis is much more than a skin disease. Beyond the redness, the itching, the stinging pain and silvery scales, psoriasis also takes a toll on the mind, affecting well-being, happiness and self-esteem – especially in women. As recent research from PsoHappy has revealed, women with psoriasis are reporting alarmingly low levels of self-confidence across the globe.
Aisling from Ireland is not the only woman to feel that she is not being heard or treated holistically. According to data from PsoHappy surveys, 51% of women with psoriasis feel useless, while 61% report that they do not feel confident. As a result of this low self-esteem, 42% of women with the condition feel that they don’t have much to be proud of.
Women in the USA and United Kingdom
The numbers mentioned above are startling, but in the United Kingdom and the USA, the numbers are even more dramatic.
In the UK, 76% of women feel useless, while 90% report that they do not feel good about themselves. As a result, 45% of British women state that they feel like failures.
In the USA, 70% of women report that they do not feel confident, and 72% do not feel good about themselves. This low self-esteem results in 42% of American women with psoriasis reporting that they don’t have much to be proud of.
These numbers give us a crucial insight into the lives of women with psoriasis in the US and United Kingdom. But why does psoriasis take such a heavy toll on women’s self-esteem?
The impact of stress
“A lady who, by coincidence, sells makeup engaged me in a conversation about the psoriasis on my face while shopping. I finally told her I don’t wear makeup. She said that if I wouldn’t wear it for myself, then I should wear it for everyone else.”
Janice, 52, USA
Janice’s appearance sticks out from the crowd, and as a result a stranger advises her to cover herself up. But why should she? Is it because psoriasis doesn’t fit into our perceptions of a woman’s appearance? We live in a society where there is more focus on perfection than ever before, and Janice’s “flaws” don’t fit in with society’s idea of the perfect woman. And that’s enough to draw demeaning comments from a random stranger.
With the pressures put on women today, it’s little wonder that studies show that women in the general population are more stressed than men. It’s also been shown that women with psoriasis experience more stress than men with psoriasis. The question is whether society’s attitudes bear some of the blame for the stress women with psoriasis are experiencing.
Psoriasis and stress: a vicious cycle
Stress and psoriasis are intricately linked. We know that stress can trigger psoriasis and cause flare-ups. These flare-ups, of course, make psoriasis more visible. Knowing that you stand out, that you can’t hide from judging eyes, will often trigger low self-esteem – and, for some, that can lead to even more stress. This stress, in turn, makes it more difficult to calm the flare-ups, and the low self-esteem continues.
This vicious cycle not only impacts health, but also puts self-esteem at risk – and it may well explain why so many women, especially in the US and UK, don’t feel good about themselves. Clearly, this cycle needs to be stopped!
We need to talk
“I saw a woman whose legs were covered with psoriasis. I introduced myself and we shared a few moments about living with the condition. It was uplifting for both of us.”
Claire, 57, USA
For Claire, being able to talk with someone who understands is a genuinely rewarding experience. Talking about psoriasis openly, including its mental toll, is as vital as treating the physical effects of the disease.
While research is helping to raise awareness of the deeper impact psoriasis can have on well-being and self-esteem, more work remains to be done. The more people understand about psoriasis, the more they will treat those living with psoriasis with understanding. And that can only help women worldwide to feel more comfortable in their own skin.
PsoHappy explores how psoriasis affects happiness and well-being. Make your voice heard by taking our surveys about different aspects of living with psoriasis
Bolette Gabriel is a Medical Student Assistant at LEO Innovation Lab in Copenhagen. Before joining Innovation Lab, Bolette was a Data Analyst at aPureBase, working mainly with market access in the Danish pharmaceutical industry, and managing and developing data elements on health care professionals in Denmark. Bolette is studying Health Informatics at the University of Copenhagen.