Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) support groups can help a person living with PsA feel understood. Support groups may allow people to develop coping strategies and improve their quality of life.
PsA is a condition that affects the joints. About 30% of people with psoriasis have PsA, but it can sometimes develop without a person having skin-related symptoms.
In people with PsA, the joints become inflamed and tender, which is known as a flare-up. Flare-ups can happen occasionally or frequently, and they may sometimes last a long time.
Living with PsA can be challenging. PsA support groups can connect people with others who understand how they feel. This article outlines the role of PsA support groups and explains how to find the best one and how to get the most benefit from it.
Most people with PsA develop psoriasis first, but PsA might also develop on its own. On average, people with both conditions develop PsA
According to a 2018 study, other terms for support groups include:
- mutual-aid groups
- peer-led support groups
- self-help groups
- multi-family groups
- family-led support groups
- consumer-led support groups
- hope and optimism for the future
- emotional support
- support for group members
- knowledge from people with lived experience, especially in health challenges
- anonymity and round-the-clock support, if groups are online
Most national health-based charities offer support groups, and there are regional support groups in some areas.
People who benefit from asking questions and reading about other people’s experiences can join health forums online. However, those who find that visiting these forums makes them feel stressed or lowers their mood should avoid this option.
Meeting regularly with a group is beneficial for some people, as they can interact socially with others who understand their condition. In particular, young people living with PsA may find it helpful to meet other young people experiencing the same issues.
The best support groups are likely those that offer the following:
- regular meetings
- members who feel empowered to take care of their health using the knowledge they acquire
- a focus on seeking solutions rather than focusing on problems or complaints
- learning points, skills, tools, or different perspectives that can help members manage their condition better
- a group facilitator who is contactable, helpful, and good at encouraging discussion and managing conflict
A person might find it helpful to prepare a list of questions to ask a group facilitator before joining the group. Possible questions to ask include:
- How big is the group, and are they taking new members?
- What criteria must a person meet to attend?
- What are the time, frequency, structure, and duration of the meetings?
- What qualifications does the facilitator have?
- How does the facilitator protect the confidentiality of members?
- What are some examples of meeting topics?
- Is the group faith-based or nonreligious?
A person can take certain steps to get the most out of a support group for PsA. These include:
- checking that the group meets their needs before joining it
- attending meetings regularly
- contributing to meetings, although just observing is fine during the first couple of sessions
- being respectful toward other group members
- trying different groups to find the one that best suits their situation
- letting the leader know if a person or situation makes them feel uncomfortable
The Arthritis Foundation offers Live Yes! Connect Groups, which connect people living with arthritis. The organization runs events, including Walk for Arthritis, and connects people through in-person and online peer groups.
The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) can match people one-to-one with peers who have similar experiences. It operates in seven regions, holding conferences and fundraising events.
In addition, it has a webpage called Our Spot that addresses the specific needs of people under the age of 18 years and their family members or caregivers. The NPF also offers Kopa, where people living with PsA can access online forums.
A person may also find online support through social media groups. However, they should ensure that group rules are in place and that the group is well-moderated.
A person living with PsA may find that support groups are helpful and improve how they cope with their condition. By connecting with others, a person can learn more about PsA and the services available to them. This knowledge can give a person more control over their situation and help them develop self-management skills.
Living with PsA can feel isolating for some people. Building a support network that includes others in the same situation may reduce such feelings of isolation and promote positivity.
PsA is a lifelong condition that can affect people’s quality of life. Finding a social support group may empower a person to manage their condition more effectively and allow them to feel understood.
The Arthritis Foundation and NPF can connect an individual with other people living with PsA, either in person or online.
Caregivers and family members may also find support groups helpful. Caring for someone with a chronic condition can be challenging, and groups can allow people to share information and experiences and support each other.