Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition in which inflammation in the body causes symptoms called plaques to appear on the skin. It is a chronic, lifelong condition, but most people experience periods of time when their symptoms are clear or much better (remission) that alternate with periods of time during which their symptoms get worse (flare-ups). Experiencing stress can be both the cause and the result of a psoriasis flare-up1.
How is stress linked to psoriasis?
Living with psoriasis can be very stressful for a variety of reasons, including the physical pain and discomfort that symptoms can cause, feeling self-conscious about having highly visible symptoms, and social isolation2. The unpredictable nature of psoriasis, frequent flare-ups, the time and effort to effectively manage symptoms, and the impact on work and relationships, all add to the daily stress.
Why is stress a trigger for psoriasis flares?
Researchers believe that experiencing stress can affect the way a person’s immune system functions. The immune system’s job is to respond to things like an injury or an infection by triggering inflammation to fight the infection and heal the body. Experiencing emotional stress can have the same effect – triggering inflammation – as a physical injury or an infection in the body. In people with psoriasis, this inflammation can cause a flare-up of symptoms1. The flare-up of psoriasis symptoms can then cause a person to experience more stress, continuing the cycle. Researchers are still working to learn more about the relationships among these physical and emotional processes, but finding ways to cope with stress can help to improve the quality of life for people living with psoriasis3.
What are some tips for reducing stress?
There are a variety of techniques that people with psoriasis might try in order to help manage stress. Identifying and understanding your own triggers for stress is an important first step to learning to manage stress better. Not every technique will work for every person, so you may need to try several out in order to find out which works best for you and how to best incorporate them into a daily routine. Some people find that a combination of techniques is more effective. Some of the strategies include1:
- counseling or therapy
- meditation and mindfulness
Adding regular exercise to your weekly routine can be a very effective way to reduce stress and improve your overall mood. Exercising triggers the production of chemicals called endorphins in your body, which can have a positive effect on your mood and increase your energy levels. If possible, try to incorporate 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week into your routine2.
Some people find that talking to someone about their feelings and emotions can have a beneficial effect on their stress level. Your healthcare provider may be able to refer you to a counselor or therapist who can help you learn to manage your stress levels more effectively. There are also stress-management courses available in which you can learn different types of techniques.
Many people also find that meditation or mindfulness sessions can help them to relieve stress and anxiety. You can learn about different types of meditation techniques online or during in-person classes. A simple way to start meditating is to spend 15 minutes sitting in a relaxed and comfortable way on the floor, with your eyes closed or almost closed. Try to clear your mind and focus only on your breathing for the entire 15 minutes3.
Hypnosis is another technique that some people find helpful in reducing their stress levels. During hypnosis, a therapist guides you through a process that typically involves mental imaging and repeating certain words or phrases. For some people, this process puts them into a temporary trance-like mental state in which they feel more calm, relaxed, and focused. Some people are more hypnotizable than others, however, so this technique may not work for everyone3.