People with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) may experience touch avoidance, where they limit or avoid physical contact with others due to pain, discomfort, or embarrassment.

PsA can cause symptoms such as pain and tenderness around the joints. Those with these symptoms may find that physical contact worsens their pain, leading them to avoid others or situations that could involve touching.

Treating and managing PsA symptoms may help people overcome touch avoidance. This may involve medication, gentle exercise, and regular rest.

This article explains why some individuals with psoriatic arthritis avoid touching others. It also explores how to feel more comfortable with physical contact and getting help with PsA symptoms and touch avoidance.

The hand of a person with psoriatic arthritis wrapped in fairy lights.-1Share on Pinterest
Maksim Tarasov/Stocksy United

Touch avoidance occurs when someone feels the need to avoid physical contact with others. This may involve saying no to social situations or isolating themselves from friends and family to prevent opportunities for physical contact.

According to a 2019 article, many people with psoriasis experience touch avoidance, but few studies have examined the experience among those with PsA.

PsA may develop in around 20% of people with psoriasis. A 2022 article suggests the risk of PsA increases with psoriasis severity.

Psoriasis severity may also have associations with touch avoidance. A 2017 study suggests that people with severe psoriasis were more likely to experience touch avoidance.

Since most research focuses on psoriasis and touch avoidance, further research is necessary to understand the connection between touch avoidance and PsA.

Potential consequences of touch avoidance

The above 2019 article suggests that symptoms of psoriasis and PsA can affect people’s personal relationships and quality of life.

According to the results of the 2017 study, higher levels of touch avoidance link to the following:

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), pain and tenderness in the joints are common symptoms of PsA.

People with these symptoms may avoid physical contact to reduce or avoid the associated pain and discomfort when others touch their joints.

The 2019 article links PsA joint symptoms with higher levels of:

  • sadness
  • guilt
  • shame
  • depression
  • exhaustion and fatigue

The article’s authors suggest this may make people more likely to avoid leisurely activities. Feelings of guilt or shame may also lead to touch avoidance.

The NPF highlights the benefits of open communication and a support system to cope with the effects of PsA. This can include close family members and friends or others with PsA who can understand feelings of embarrassment.

Open communication and forming trusting relationships may help individuals overcome the desire to avoid physical contact or intimacy with others.

If touch avoidance stems from PsA symptoms, such as joint pain, people could also reduce the desire to isolate themselves by treating and managing them.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) lists the following treatment options for PsA:

If someone with PsA experiences touch avoidance, flare-ups, or new symptoms, they can speak with a healthcare professional.

A doctor can recommend strategies to help people cope with symptoms and manage touch avoidance. They could also point individuals toward support groups for emotional support or prescribe painkillers for physical symptoms.

The AAD notes the importance of sticking to a prescribed treatment plan. When doctors understand the effect certain symptoms are having on a person’s life, they can tailor their treatment plan to target specific difficulties.

People with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) may avoid social situations and physical contact with others due to pain or emotional responses, including feelings of shame, sadness, and guilt.

Touch avoidance can negatively affect a person’s quality of life, leading to feelings of isolation and depression. It can also affect their intimate relationships.

Doctors can help by prescribing anti-inflammatory and other medications to reduce the person’s symptoms of PsA. They can also provide support and advice for dealing with negative emotions.