A disgruntled looking man with multiple arms pointing every which way making one big knot.

The Psoriasis Blame Game

When something doesn’t go well, it’s natural to look for someone to blame. Recently, I noticed a separating wall in my front yard crumbling from top to bottom. My house is only five years old, so I immediately blamed the house’s builder for poor construction.

Judging by the mailers I’ve received to join a class-action lawsuit against the builder, I’m not the only one looking to point the finger. Wanting to assign responsibility crosses into my chronic health conditions as well. Who is to blame for my psoriasis?

Is it my fault when treatment fails?

At a meeting of psoriasis researchers, I sat on a panel with patient advocates. We shared experiences living with psoriasis that could help the researchers put a face to their work.

In one of my responses, I mentioned treatments I’ve tried and failed. One of the researchers commented that I didn’t need to blame myself for the medication’s ineffectiveness. That I shouldn’t feel like I failed.

He wanted me to know instead that the medication failed. As a researcher, he felt motivated to put greater effort into making future treatments more effective. He then emphatically declared that I did nothing to get psoriasis; moreover, I didn’t ask for it or want it.

Psoriasis insecurities

I heard a lot of laughter when I replied I don’t blame myself for having psoriasis, but I blame my parents. I partly lied, though, as I do blame myself from time to time.

The researcher’s comments made me more aware of how often I blame myself. I can easily feel responsible or think I am at fault for my psoriasis. I might feel guilty I am not eating the right foods, exercising too little, or scratching at night when I shouldn’t.

I wonder why a medication, seemingly effective for other patients, does not work so well for me. I silently ask, “Is there something wrong with me or my body? Did I do something wrong?”

Blaming genetics for psoriasis

I might truly blame my parents, but they could turn around to blame their own parent's genetics. I can try to figure out if some environmental factors played into my psoriasis first appearing, but it’s difficult to know for certain something that happened forty years ago. I can barely remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday.

I do want to know what caused my psoriasis and what worsens it, but not for the purpose of assigning blame. Stepping back from blaming, especially directed toward me, reduces negative emotions like shame and animosity.

This negativity certainly doesn’t boost my physical or psychological health.

Turning blame into action

In a recent interview, I was asked about the most difficult aspect of living with psoriasis. I quickly replied, “Unpredictability.” I don’t know when my psoriasis might decide to flare or calm down. I can’t decide that my treatments will work well or continue to be effective.

I’m also concerned whether my insurance provider will cover the costs of my medications while wondering if I can pay for the other costs associated with maintaining my skincare and treatments.

Turning self-blame into something positive

So much is out of my control when it comes to psoriasis. Knowing this, I try to turn any self-blame and negativity into something positive and motivating. If I truly do need to exercise more, I resolve to head out for a walk or run.

If I’m not getting enough sleep, then I plan on going to bed earlier and practice better sleep routines. If my medication isn’t working as well as I’d like, I can message my dermatologist.

When I remove self-blame from my thinking and learn to forgive myself, I feel more energized and empowered to make those healthy changes.

Improving psoriasis insecurities

It’s not that I expect to do everything perfectly for my health—I know that there’s always lots to improve. It’s that I can point myself in the right direction and take action instead of feeling paralyzed.

I can still hear that researcher telling me that having psoriasis is not my fault. I don’t remember his name or where he came from. Those words, though, forever changed how I think about it.

I’m not a failure because I have psoriasis. Instead, it’s how I live with it that ultimately matters.

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