Pso You're Aware: Stigma Sucks!
Last updated: August 2023
Stigma is when someone sees you in a negative way because of a particular characteristic or attribute. Examples include cultural background, disability, mental illness and yes, even chronic conditions. It's like these people already have an idea in their head of who you are and what you're dealing with. In fact, they have no idea.
Stigma can be painful and can come from anyone. Yes, anyone. Strangers and associates may be a given but unconscious stigma can also exist in loved ones, friends, family and even healthcare professionals. Those who live with and manage psoriasis are often up against insurmountable stigma.
Psoriasis stigma sucks!
Not only do the people who live with psoriasis have to manage it and treat it - they also have the unfair responsibility of explaining it. We asked our PlaquePsoriasis.com Facebook community to share their experience with stigma and have shared their responses below. Before diving in, we invite you to share your own unique experience.
Psoriasis comes with a lot of myths and misconceptions. This is what leads to stigma and assumptions. From there ignorant interactions, emotional pain and internalized shame. Psoriasis is a visible condition with an invisible impact - a lot of that invisible impact is due to lack of understanding and stigma.
Facing stigma in public places
Stares the grocery store when reaching for an apple. Reports to the lifeguard at a public pool. Being approached directly by complete strangers or friends of friends in a public setting and almost being forced to answer questions about our skin. A person can feel attacked, insecure, and painfully on the spot.
- I was asked to leave my apartment complex's pool due to the psoriasis on my knees. I had to come back with a doctor's note.
- In the grocery store and was stopped in the middle of aisle. Someone wanted to give me advice on what lotion to use.
- At a concert the group of people next to me were staring at me more than the performer. They were whispering and giggling loudly. It was awful.
Unfair judgement in the workplace
Managing psoriasis in an office setting is far from easy. I mean, stiff professional clothing doesn't help. Sitting for long periods of time can be painful. Dry air conditioning and heat can trigger the worst of flares and let's not get starting on the peeling and flaking.
- Co-workers wouldn't sit next to me during staff meetings. I'm assuming they thought my exposed skin was contagious. Painful."
- My workplace switched out the office chairs from night shift to day shift, due to someone complaining about flakes on the chair.
- "You sure go to a lot of doctor's appointments. Is psoriasis even that serious?"
Answering questions from family and friends
"Can you please pass the salt?" are questions we can handle when at the table with loved ones and friends. "Have you tried this treatment for your skin?" is not. While they think they are being helpful, calling out our skin can heighten insecurity. Do your own research or find time one on one if you genuinely have a thought to share.
- At thanksgiving, my aunt turned and said to me: "my friend's niece said vaseline cured her psoriasis. Have you tried that?" I wanted to scream.
- My uncle pulled me aside and wanted to give me the name of his dermatologist because he spotted psoriasis on my knees. I was mortified and confused.
- "What is that on your arm? Is that poison ivy?" - my 5-year old nephew.
Be kind to yourself
Raising awareness and eliminating stigma isn't something we always feel up to doing. Having a few canned responses can help in those harder moments. Remember to practice patience and self-compassion. Be kind to yourself and others.
You'll find validation here at PlaquePsoriasis.com, because here, we get it. We have many different resources on myths, misconceptions, mental health and stigma. While all of it is difficult to manage - and truly sucks - it doesn't have to suck alone.
Are you recently diagnosed with psoriasis?