In October, PsoHappy published the first World Psoriasis Happiness Report. The study involving more than 120,000 people with self-reported psoriasis spanning 184 countries shows that living with a chronic disease has a major impact on quality of life.
These are 5 suggestions on how to manage psoriasis from inside out based on insights from the report:
1. Ask the questions that bother you
Did you ever feel that your doctor is not clear on giving you instructions and all possible information about the treatment for your condition? You’re not alone: 45% of psoriasis patients in USA don’t think they have been informed about all the different treatment options related to their skin condition, and 36% of respondents don’t believe that healthcare professionals are clear about the treatment options for the psoriasis.
It’s important to take an active role when talking with your doctor – ask the questions that bother you and make sure that the advice you get is the advice you need. We see that people who feel that their health care professionals fully understand the impact psoriasis has on their mental health are happier.
2. Find a friend with psoriasis
Survey results show that in addition to feeling self-conscious and itchy, psoriasis can make people feel isolated or even excluded. We found out that 33% of all people living with psoriasis are lonely, which also impacts their happiness levels and is the second strongest predictor of unhappiness after stress. Findings also show that knowing somebody else with psoriasis decreases stress. “A close friend/co-worker of mine has psoriasis as well. The fact that I can have someone to relate to about my specific struggles already helps lessen my anxiety about it.” (Emilie, 27, USA) Get yourself a friend with psoriasis. Besides talking to your doctor, you should also consider talking about your private issues with people like yourself. Engaging with a patient association and joining different psoriasis forums or social groups are good places to start.
3. Arm yourself with information
While both men and women are affected physically and emotionally by psoriasis, it seems to have a greater negative impact on women. Compared to the general population, men and women living with severe psoriasis globally report lower levels of happiness – respectively 11.3% and 18.5%. Women also report lower levels of self-esteem and the feeling of being left out.
One of the patients shared her experience: “I was a bridesmaid at my friends wedding and the maid of honour wanted to get long gloves to hide my scabbie elbows as they would spoil the wedding photos” (Anne, 49, UK). While it might be difficult at first, stop hiding your condition and tell others that that psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that happens to some people and it’s not contagious. People might stare, ask questions or say something mean to you because there is still not enough awareness of psoriasis and they do not know how to deal with it. Arm yourself with information and educate them. This will be beneficial both for you and other people living with psoriasis.
4. Build a supporting network of friends and family
Research shows majority of people with psoriasis feel that family and friends don’t really understand what it’s like to live with it. One of the patients shared her shocking story: “My grandmother asked my mum if she keeps the separate towels for me to use when I come over. We had to explain to her that psoriasis is not contagious.” (Rose, 36, UK). Since most people know very little about psoriasis – ask one of your close friends and relatives to be your “wingman” or “wingwoman” at social gatherings and help you explain your condition to others. “When I try to explain my condition most especially to my friends, they understand me and support me in every way possible.[…] They read articles to fully understand what psoriasis is and its effects on the person experiencing it and that makes me feel thankful to have them.” (Maria, 21, Philippines).
5. Use stress reduction techniques you enjoy
The report found that people experiencing stress while living with psoriasis are 23% more likely to be miserable (reported happiness levels between 0 and 4). If we could ensure that no people living with psoriasis experience extreme stress, we could reduce the number of people living in misery by up to 35.6%.
Managing a chronic condition like psoriasis might be challenging but by taking care of yourself and as stress-free as possible, you can empower yourself to be happier and healthier. Be present, think what matters you the most and make time for the things you love to do. Cultivate a hobby you like, try a new extracurricular activity or start exercising. Combination of deep breathing and meditation might also help you to relax and reduce the stress.
PsoHappy explores how psoriasis affects happiness and well-being. Make your voice heard by taking our surveys about different aspects of living with psoriasis