Life with psoriasis: Stress

Stress

Stress is a common trigger for a psoriasis flare. At the same time, a psoriasis flare can cause stress. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation’s Mental Health Issue Brief, psoriasis is independently associated with stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Woman, in particular, seem particularly vulnerable to stress due to psoriasis.

Why stress is a trigger

Inflammation is the body's way to cope with stress, said Dr. John Koo, professor of clinical dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco. Your immune system responds to injury and infection by sending out chemicals that cause inflammation and help heal a wound. In people with psoriasis, the immune system over-responds—it sends out too many of those chemicals. Koo suspects the immune system responds the same way to mental stress.

This makes managing stress a particularly important life skill for people with psoriasis. Consider the following ways some people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are effectively reducing stress in their lives.

  • Meditation. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn is considered a leader in the "mindfulness" meditation movement. He describes mindfulness as "paying attention in a particular way on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally." Meditation has been described as a good way to clear the mind, slow down racing thoughts and relieve anxiety. You can give it try yourself: For 15 minutes, sit comfortably on the floor, with eyes closed or barely open and focus on your breathing. Read more about William Hayden, who credits meditation with relieving stress, improving his sleep and in time, improving his psoriasis »
  • Exercise. Exercise increases production of endorphins, chemicals that improve mood and energy. Exercise also has been shown to improve sleep and decrease anxiety. A large U.S. study showed that women who regularly participate in vigorous exercise are less likely to get psoriasis than less-active women. If you haven’t been active for awhile, get tips on starting, or resuming, an exercise program »
  • Get outside help. Consider taking a course in stress management or finding a therapist in your area who specializes in stress management. Connecting with others who know what you are going through can help, too. Connect with people living with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis on TalkPsoriasis.org.

How do you manage stress?

Share your tips with us »