Getting out and getting on with your life can be a challenge for anyone with psoriasis, especially if your condition is moderate to severe, and patches of irritated skin are visible on obvious places like your face, scalp, hands, or nails. Will people notice? What will they think? Will I be avoided? Will they ask uncomfortable questions? These are just some of the things that may run through your mind when you head out into public scrutiny with psoriasis.
Of course, how you deal with all this is truly personal. It has been found, in fact, that the emotional impact of psoriasis is not always linked to the severity of psoriasis. In other words, how you feel is not determined by how your psoriasis looks but by how you react to how it looks.
Dealing with reactions – yours and others
Here are some ideas for dealing with reactions to your skin condition and to your own reactions to what may happen.
- Keep the lines of communication open. This is true for family, friends, co-workers, or people you meet for the first time. Be prepared to talk openly about your condition whether it is visible or not, and use encounters as an opportunity to educate someone about psoriasis. We tend to fear the unknown, and you can help put others at ease by explaining what they are seeing on you and how it is not contagious.
- Consider telling your co-workers about psoriasis. You can help change their perceptions about the disease and fill them in on how it may affect your performance at work, as well as how you plan to deal with any challenges. This strategy may help avoid any resentment on their part about preferential treatment or productivity concerns.
- Accept the feelings of others. Just as you want to be understood, try to understand how others may react to you. It may not always be easy, but respecting their feelings will help open a positive conversation.
- Try a little humour. Nothing lightens a situation like humour – when used appropriately.
- Don’t play the victim. Expecting people to act a certain way may set you up for hurt feelings. Try open and honest communication—people may be better able to understand and even help you if they know what you are going through.
Try to avoid totally concealing your condition. A visible condition like psoriasis that is not always well understood can lead to different levels of concealment. Some people will choose to tell almost no one (total concealment), while others will tell some people in their lives or reveal it late in a relationship (selective concealment). Still others make it public knowledge. Total concealment can be very stressful and lead to a withdrawal from public interaction. Most people seem to choose the selective concealment approach, which can help them overcome feelings of isolation.