Patient Blogs | Psoriasis
Surfing the Cycle: Psoriasis and Mental Health
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For me, managing the emotions of psoriasis is as much a part of the disease state as the pain, itching, and damaging inflammation. As with other chronic conditions, anxiety and depression can come with the territory, as both triggers of the disease and burdensome side effects that can impact overall health and quality of life. Research continues to illuminate the connections between psoriasis and mental health, as well as underscore the importance of a multidimensional approach to treatment and healing, when necessary.

Patterns of Behavior

Becoming more aware of what fuels the trigger-flare-rebound cycle has been the key to unlocking new levels of health and healing in my life – both physically and emotionally. This awareness has had meaningful impact beyond my psoriasis and continues to ripple across many aspects of my well-being, from the way I work and interrelate to the way I eat and rest. As I reflect on periods of my life when my psoriasis was at its worst in terms of presentation and pain, there are several patterns of behavior that emerge to tell a familiar story of cause and effect. Without fail, and sometimes with stunning interconnectivity, they are:

  • Poor boundaries
  • Inadequate nutrition, activity, and rest
  • Emotional avoidance or reactivity     

Burden of Disease

For many years, the physical and emotional fallout of these negative patterns manifested in self-destructive numbing behaviors like overworking, overeating, and overdrinking – none of which helped me truly cope, and all of which made my psoriasis worse. Some of the psychosocial aspects of psoriasis that sparked my stress response from day to day and fueled these negative coping mechanisms were:

  • Dealing with persistent pain and itching
  • Worrying about psoriasis, its appearance, and its comorbidities
  • Social isolation and avoiding intimacy

Emotional Side Effects

I have written many times about the loneliness of my psoriasis journey. Facing stigma in work, life, and intimate relationships because of the disease, and in turn, hiding and denying its physical and mental effects can lead to sadness and overwhelm. My business partner, who has migraine, offers another word – helpless – to describe the erosive emotional effects of living and coping with chronic conditions. When you realize that you may be in it for the long haul, it’s easy to feel swept away by a kind of powerless resignation. For me, this mindset was linked to a raft of negative feelings about my psoriasis, including:   

  • Low self-esteem
  • Anger, resentment, and grief
  • Guilt and shame

Surfing the Cycle

My own psoriasis journey has been a cyclical one where stress, anxiety, and depression exacerbate chronic health issues, and constant coping with chronic health issues compounds stress, anxiety, and depression – all complicated chronic conditions themselves. Learning to surf the cycle, stay open to joy, and nurture behaviors and habits that support my whole-body health are an evolving way of life for me. I am learning to weave a new tapestry of positive cause and effect by committing and recommitting to:   

  • Meaningful medical and mental health care
  • Mindful awareness and behavior change
  • Quality nutrition, activity, and rest

These behaviors and habits empower me to listen and respond to my needs more positively and consistently, whether I am riding high on the crest or wiping out in the trough.     

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Lucy Lambriex / DigitalVision via Getty Images

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Krista Kellogg

Krista Kellogg

Diagnosed since 2001

Krista Kellogg has lived with psoriasis for more than 20 years. She is dedicated to living well and humbly shares her journey in service to others on a similar path as a writer, blogger, and WW wellness coach. Krista has served as an advocate and volunteer leader for the National Psoriasis Foundation. She lives in Miami and is the co-founder of Center Content, a mindful marketing and creative content agency.

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