Dermatologists and psychiatrists agree: Psoriasis can significantly mess with your mind. Here, people who have the skin condition share how they’ve learned to thrive emotionally.
Elaine Scilley has lived with psoriasis for more than 11 years. In 2013, she found herself at her lowest point when her youngest child was three months old and breastfeeding. Overnight, a few small patches of psoriasis spread to cover her entire body, leaving only her face and neck clear.
“I began to hide my body from my husband as I thought he would be repulsed,” Scilley says. “I wouldn’t go to the beach or pool. I felt depressed, embarrassed, and incredibly lonely.”
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, 1 in 5 people in the United States will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime. Some of those people will be living with psoriasis. In fact, the prevalence of depression is higher in patients with psoriasis compared with the general population.
Psoriasis is more than a skin condition, as it is commonly referred to. It’s a chronic autoimmune disease that impacts more than 8 million Americans, 60 percent of whom say their disease is a dominant issue in their everyday lives, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. A report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that people living with psoriasis had significantly more “mental distress” and were about 1.5 times more likely to report severe depression than those without the disease. This is the part that many people don’t see —the ways in which psoriasis can eat away at one’s mental and emotional wellbeing.
Since psoriasis often presents as red, scaly skin lesions, it may elicit negative reactions, including fear and disgust. As a result, psoriasis can cause social stigma, leading to depression and isolation, according to an article in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
Alisha Bridges has lived with psoriasis since the age of seven. She recently posted a letter online that she wrote in 2011, titled My Suicide Letter. “I always wanted to model or play sports,” she says. “But with psoriasis covering 90 percent of my body, both of those options were out the window. I didn’t want to do anything. I was at a loss. Sometimes I think having psoriasis ruined my life.”
In her letter, Bridges wrote, “Today it all ends, and it ends by me killing the part of myself that feels so ashamed. I kill that part of me that hides. … I kill the part of me that doesn’t want to explain my condition to people. …I kill all the hurts and fears!” She says now, that “this letter was the beginning of my advocacy.”
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