I learned the hard way that depression and psoriasis have a very real connection. Prior to my official diagnosis (and even after), I found myself in some dark places. I should also note that around the same time I was diagnosed as manic depressive or bipolar. My skin disease and my mental illness combined created a whirlwind of emotions that, at the time, I was working through virtually alone. I was lost and scared, to say the least. My friends and family were amazing support systems but there’s only so much people outside of your condition(s) can truly comprehend. But they did the best that they could. It became apparent to me that I needed to seek professional help and outlets outside of my inner circle to talk to.
What’s up with the Psoriasis/Depression connection?
I didn’t understand how something that seemed to be happening on the outside of me could be affecting things churning around on the inside of me. And even when I learned that psoriasis does in fact come from things happening inside of your body, I still couldn’t see the connection. At this point in my disease I was hiding most of my body, even on those hot summer days. I was even hiding myself, holed up in my house, cutting off connection with almost everyone.
When I did venture out into the outside world, I was stared at, pointed at, whispered about and avoided. Even people who knew me would avoid physical contact prior to understanding my disease. And who could blame them? What if I was contagious!? The combination of all these things, the simple act of not being hugged or kissed, took a toll on my mental health.
“An August 2010 study published in the journal Archives of Dermatology found that those living with psoriasis have a 39 percent increased risk of being diagnosed with depression than those without the disease, while the risk of an anxiety diagnosis is 31 percent higher. Another study, published in the Journal of Rheumatology in April 2014, found that those with psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis suffer higher rates of anxiety and depression than those with psoriasis alone.”(1)
After a little research and learning the statistics, I began to wonder what was going on INSIDE of me to cause this sense of sadness. I read that researchers found increased levels of cytokines — a key player in psoriatic disease — in people with depression. “Cytokines are a broad and loose category of small proteins (~5–20 kDa) that are important in cell signaling. Their release has an effect on the behavior of cells around them.” (2) Stress can trigger a mast amount of cells to release inflammatory cytokines and, in turn, cause the brain to release chemicals that trigger depression. (This whole process is, I’m sure, a lot more complicated but I broke it down to the simplest terms so that I could understand it.)
O.K., Great, So Now What?
Now that I (kind of) understood the link between my skin and my brain, I knew it was time to seek some help. For me, personally, the first thing to tackle was my manic depression by finding a professional. (But that’s a whole other blog.) Once that was taken care of, I was ready to take on my psoriasis-triggered sadness.
Here are some steps I recommend taking:
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who might be going through the same thing OR just understand what you are going through. Mentors are available to you through the National Psoriasis foundation. Whether they have dealt with depression or not, they’re just great, understanding people who know what you are dealing with in terms of your disease.
- Please, please, please find a healthcare professional. Therapy is NOT something to be ashamed of. Sometimes just getting it all off your chest can lift what seems like tons of weight of your shoulders.
- If this is something you may need to be medicated for, talk to your therapist and he or she will be happy to recommend you to someone who is legally able to prescribe you the right medications. NEVER self medicate.
- Find a support group. Some of my favorite people to talk to on a rough day are friends I have made through the National Psoriasis Foundation. They’re always just one text or phone call away. You can find their online community HERE
- On a similar note, find a psoriasis blogger! Reach out to them and I’m sure they will be happy to chat with you and guide you in the right direction.
Please remember there is always help and hope out there. Find what works for you and stick to it!
Keep Calm and Pspot On Friends xoxo Britt
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