Psoriasis is a skin condition that can cause areas of skin to become flushed, inflamed, and flaky.

The appearance of psoriatic lesions may cause a person to feel anxious, depressed, or embarrassed. However, resources are available that may help people manage these conditions.

Share on Pinterest
Alobeti/Getty Images

Scientists do not fully understand the link between psoriasis and anxiety or depression. However, some research has suggested that psoriasis and mental health conditions are strongly linked.

In one study, researchers found that several factors, including a person’s age at psoriasis onset, can directly affect social anxiety and depression.

They found that people who developed psoriasis before the age of 18 years experienced social anxiety related to feelings of stigmatization.

They also found that people who developed psoriasis after the age of 18 years developed social anxiety related to feelings of their appearance affecting their self-worth.

Social anxiety

Social anxiety disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. A person with social anxiety and psoriasis may not want to spend as much time with friends or family due to possible feelings of embarrassment or shame.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, social anxiety can cause a person to:

  • fear that others will judge them
  • avoid other people
  • feel sick to their stomach
  • feel embarrassed or self-conscious in front of others
  • experience physical symptoms, such as trembling, a rapid heartbeat, or blushing
  • avoid eye contact or speak in a soft voice
  • find interactions with others scary

Stress

There is also a strong link between stress and psoriasis.

The American Psychological Association (APA) describes a fine line between stress and anxiety.

Both cause similar symptoms, but stress is typically a response to a trigger, such as overworking or having exposure to conflict. On the other hand, anxiety is associated with long-term worry over situations with no obvious triggers related to a specific situation.

Some research has suggested that perceived stress does not affect the severity of psoriasis symptoms. However, the researchers noted that stress can increase the level of perceived impact on a person’s daily life. They also stated that people who associated psoriasis with psychological factors such as stress were more likely to be anxious.

The National Psoriasis Foundation states that stress can affect the severity of psoriasis symptoms and make itchiness worse. As a result, it recommends that individuals manage stress as part of their overall treatment plan.

Having psoriasis can cause a person to develop anxiety.

The APA defines anxiety as persistent and excessive worries that continue and do not go away even with no stressor causing the worry.

Anxiety affects people in several ways. It may lead to:

  • physical reactions, such as a racing heart, feeling weak in the legs, or a dry mouth
  • nervousness or panic
  • behaviors such as avoiding social situations or drinking before an activity to calm one’s nerves
  • negative thoughts about oneself or others

For example, a person with psoriasis may avoid going to a social gathering because they believe that others may make fun of them or find their psoriasis “gross.”

By avoiding social gatherings, the person may feel more alone and could develop symptoms of depression due to social isolation.

Psoriasis is a condition independent of stress or anxiety. However, stress or anxiety can trigger or worsen psoriasis symptoms.

One study has suggested that anxiety and psoriasis have a cyclical relationship. This means that psoriasis can cause anxiety and that anxiety can cause the symptoms of psoriasis to worsen.

As a result, a person with both conditions may notice symptoms of psoriasis during a period of stress or anxiety.

The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance provides several strategies to help a person deal with general anxiety and social anxiety. These include taking steps such as:

  • practicing breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques
  • recognizing and changing negative thoughts
  • learning different ways to handle a variety of social situations and people
  • joining a support group
  • getting plenty of rest

A person can also ask a doctor about mental health services. They may recommend a psychologist or psychiatrist to help the person cope with stress and anxiety related to psoriasis.

The National Psoriasis Foundation offers a service called One to One. It connects people with psoriasis to mentors who can help them learn to cope with the condition. This may be helpful for people who feel that they do not have anyone to relate to.

Psoriasis is linked to several mental health conditions, including anxiety, stress, and depression. Some evidence has suggested that anxiety and stress can trigger psoriasis flares and that psoriasis flares can trigger anxiety or stress.

A person with psoriasis should work with a healthcare professional to develop effective mental health treatments so that they can live their life without fear of social stigmatization or negative judgment.