Science has found that stress and psoriasis are related. Stressful life events sometimes precede the onset of psoriasis, or make flare-ups worse. Depression, anxiety, and work pressures are all possible triggers, but researchers say they may affect some people and not others.
“Stress is personal,” said dermatologist and psychologist Richard G. Fried, “so what might be stressful for one person may be a non-stressor or even exhilarating for someone else.”
That’s good news. If you can determine exactly what your stresses are, you stand a better chance of figuring out how to alleviate them, which can help reduce your flare-ups.
Stress Directly Affects the Skin
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, when a person experiences stress, nerve endings in the skin release chemicals called neuropeptides that can create inflammation and itching or tingling. Stress can also make the skin’s outer barrier more permeable, sensitive, and reactive. Psoriasis seems particularly more sensitive to stress than other skin diseases. Unfortunately, as stress increases flare-ups, those flare-ups can cause more embarrassment and stress, causing more flare-ups.
What are Your Stress Triggers?
Which of the following are most likely to get you revved up?
- Emotional stressors: you worry you may be fired, or that you won’t make a good impression on a first date.
- Family stressors: you’re in conflict with a loved one, coping with a difficult adolescent, or struggling with your in-laws.
- Social stressors: you get stressed about speaking in public, meeting new people, or going to a party.
- Changes stressors: you get stressed over changes in your life, like moving, getting a new job, or having a baby.
- Work stressors: you’re stressed by the pressures of performing at work, meeting deadlines, or satisfying a difficult boss.
- Phobic stressors: you’re stressed by flying, riding in elevators, going to a high-rise office building, or riding in a cab.
- Physical stressors: you feel stress when you don’t get enough sleep, work too many hours, eat unhealthy foods, or fail to get enough exercise.
- Environmental stressors: you get stressed out when there’s too much noise, pollution, lack of space, or too much heat or cold.
- Pain stressors: chronic back or knee pain, muscle pain, or other types of pain stress you out.
Once you’ve figured out what you’re stressors are, you can try some coping mechanisms to alleviate them.
Stress Management for Psoriasis
- Meditation and Yoga: Some studies have found that patients who engaged in yoga and meditation experienced faster clearing of their psoriasis flare-ups.
- Hypnosis: studies show that hypnosis can effect tiny changes in blood flow and immune function, improving skin conditions.
- Tai Chi: according to the Mayo Clinic, tai chi is “meditation in motion,” and helps reduce stress, which can reduce psoriasis flare-ups.
- Acupuncture and Massage: According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, acupuncture and massage are both excellent measures of stress reduction, which can help psoriasis.
- Psychotherapy: Studies show that meetings with a clinical psychologist where patients discuss their skin problems and learn relaxation techniques can help reduce stress, thereby reducing flare-ups.
Have you tried stress-relieving techniques for your psoriasis? Please share your story.
Naldi L, Chatenoud L, Linder D et al. Cigarette smoking, body mass index, and stressful life events as risk factors for psoriasis: results from an Italian case-control study. J. Invest. Dermatol. 125(1), 61-67 (2005).
Antigona M. Gercari, “Psoriasis Manifestations During the War,” Revista Latinoamericana de Psoriasis y Artritis Psoriásica 2011, 3: 60-64. http://www.fmv-uba.org.ar/RevistaPsoriasis/Vol1_N3_2011/Ingles/Gercari%20Mybera%20DURING%20THE%20WAR.pdf
“Managing Stress Can Help People Improve Their Skin Conditions,” American Acadmey of Dermatology. August 4, 2011. http://www.aad.org/stories-and-news/news-releases/managing-stress-can-help-people-improve-their-skin-conditions.
Kabat-Zinn J., et al. Influence of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention on rates of skin clearing in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis undergoing phototherapy (UVB) and photochemotherapy (PUVA). Psychosom Med 1998, Sept-Oct; 60(5): 625-32. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9773769.
Photo courtesy Gerard Fritz via Flickr.com.