PSORIASIS AND MENTAL HEALTH
February 28th 2014
I have been banging on about Dr Mizara and derma-psychology without much context, so here are a few words about psoriasis and mental health. Opening this world up to me has been a revelation, and after a lengthy spell under her guidance, I think I have made improvements which help to alleviate the stress and black feelings that often accompany this otherwise marvellous and hilarious condition.
All of the following figures have been thoroughly researched and collated and have come my way via the See Psoriasis, Look Deeper* group on which I sit alongside various experts:
(i) 1.8 million people in this country have psoriasis, and it affects men and women in equal measure.
(ii) Of those 1.8 million, 20% are on antI-depressants or something similar (in the interests of full disclosure, I will tell you that I am not among that 20%)
(iii) 32% have problems with alcohol (hmm, I may be close personal friends with at least some of that 32% – we might even holiday together occasionally).
(iv) 33% experience depression and anxiety (I belong to all the best clubs).
(v) 85% feel annoyed by the condition (no surprise there – an itchy, painful, unsightly thing is found to be annoying: what’s next? 85% of people find Jeremy Clarkson to be a boorish git? Shocker!).
(vi) 20% report rejection and stigmatisation as a result of having it (I’m always being rejected and stigmatised but I tend to blame me for that rather than my psoriasis).
(vii) 10% have contemplated suicide (yes).
Psoriasis treatment needs to look at more than the surface manifestation of the condition. No amount of creams will get to its cause – and if you are sent away with a massive prescription but no examination of your emotional welfare then you are being shortchanged. If your GP regards psoriasis as merely a skin ailment then they are wrong. This isn’t to criticise GPs by the way – in training the average GP barely scratches the surface of dermatology, let alone psoriasis: and as we all know, scratching the surface merely irritates it (ho, ho).
The See Psoriasis, Look Deeper campaign asked suffers to write a postcard to their condition. The results are very revealing.
The basics of this are obvious. If you have a blemish people notice : they stare, they react, they recoil. This makes the sufferer self-conscious and creates feelings of low self-esteem. Low self-esteem often leads to lifestyle choices (demotivated regarding exercise, recourse to alcohol, eating crap) which mitigate against successfully tackling the skin problem. These choices can also have side-effects which produce other conditions that have been found to be heavily related to psoriasis (like heart disease and diabetes). And it’s not just the lack of kindness from strangers that is problematic: psoriasis can adversely affect everything from family holiday plans to sexual relationships (“Do you wanna come back to my place, but bear in mind that you may have to hoover yourself afterwards,” is never going to be the chat up line of the century). To be frank, it is there all the time.
And this isn’t about people feeling sorry for themselves and needing to buck up: and tackling it would be financially beneficial in the long run. Society would benefit from psoriasis sufferers not taking as much time off work as they do (up to 26 days a year are lost from patients being unable to work – at its worst it hurts like hell) or being unemployable (your options are limited if your appearance is deemed unpleasant or wrongly assumed to be unhygienic). Unemployment is three times more likely for a psoriasis sufferer than for the scab free – a functioning, tax paying patient whose psoriasis is under control is a much more cost effective member of society. Also, getting to the nub of a patient’s mental health issues will save the NHS money in the long term as other, expensive treatments are needed less.
Psoriasis treatment is time consuming and requires a huge investment from the patient: when I was
The postcards allowed people to express themselves in a number of ways.
having light treatment I was having to commit to three days a week in my box of delights. As a self-employed person I was fortunate enough to be able to wangle this but it was still difficult. For someone who isn’t a professional gobshite and has things to do during the day it must be a nightmare.
For more on See Psoriasis, Look Deeper, go here,* but if you are a psoriasis patient you must not feel bad about bringing up any feelings of anxiety or stress that you may have, as they are very likely linked to your condition. Once this is understood and acted upon, coping strategies can be implemented. For years I feared much of my difficulty with seemingly straightforward Life Issues was because I was a useless twat. Actually it turns out that it was because I had psoriasis.
The fact that I am a useless twat has very little to do with it.
*Do follow this link – there’s much more information and a lot of pictures.