Are Psoriasis, Stress, And Anxiety Linked?

Updated October 5, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you have psoriasis, you may be looking for the root cause of your illness as it is a chronic condition and psoriasis flares can be painful. Even more importantly, you're probably interested in a cure for both short and long term flare-ups of psoriasis.

Psoriasis is a common condition and can be associated with stress and anxiety, as well as other triggers like alcohol consumption, infection, injury, and the side effects of certain medications. Psoriasis can also vary in terms of severity and type, with five different common types of psoriasis. There are a variety of treatments for psoriasis flares including lifestyle changes, topical medicines, and more.

What Is Psoriasis?

Learn more about the connection between stress, anxiety, and psoriasis.

Psoriasis is a common skin condition that often presents as scaly, red patches of skin. Psoriasis severity varies between individuals. This disease can be itchy and even painful and can have an unpleasant physical appearance. Psoriasis is caused by the rapid turnover of skin cells and the buildup of excess skin on the surface of the body. Scratching red patches during a psoriasis flare will only make the itch worse.

Psoriasis is not contagious, and you can't catch psoriasis from another person. This condition is chronic and may come and go in response to different environmental stressors and potential treatments. Peer reviewed studies show there is no known cure for psoriasis, yet symptoms can be managed for people with psoriasis through a variety of different methods. If you think that you might have psoriasis, you should seek the advice of a medical professional to get a diagnosis and discuss possible treatments.

Symptoms Of Psoriasis

Symptoms of psoriasis may include red and irritated skin, flaky skin, dry skin, cracking skin, itching, burning, and soreness on the surface of the skin. Other secondary symptoms may include ridged nails, stiff joints, and persistent pain. Psoriasis may range from mild to severe, and different people may experience different symptoms. Symptoms of psoriasis may wax and wane according to a variety of different circumstances.

Types Of Psoriasis

There are several different types of psoriasis, each presenting different symptoms and occurring under different circumstances.

Nail Psoriasis

Nail psoriasis affects the nail and nail bed and can range from moderate to severe. People with psoriasis may have fingernails and toenails that have become pitted, ridged, or discolored. In severe cases, nails can even separate from the nail bed or crumble away.

Inverse Psoriasis

Inverse psoriasis affects sensitive parts of the body such as the armpits, genitals, and under the breasts. The skin in these areas may become shiny, red, and inflamed, and may be painful. Inverse psoriasis can be caused by friction, sweat, and fungal infections.

Erythrodermic Psoriasis

Erythrodermic psoriasis is a very rare form of psoriasis. People with this condition experience a severe red rash all over their bodies. It can be intensely painful and cause sensations of burning and itching.

Plaque Psoriasis

Plaque psoriasis is a very common form of psoriasis. It causes red, flaking, and irritated skin, and may occur in a variety of different locations throughout the body. Plaque psoriasis is usually accompanied by scaly skin and raised red lesions. This form of psoriasis can be mild, moderate, or severe, and can be itchy or painful.

Guttate Psoriasis

While guttate psoriasis may affect adults, it is most common in children and young adults. It causes small pink spots, typically on the limbs and torso, although it may also occur in other areas of the body. Infections like strep throat often trigger it.

Pustular Psoriasis

Pustular psoriasis is an uncommon form of psoriasis in which pus-filled blisters develop on the body. It can occur in patches on the skin and may be concentrated on the hands or feet. Pustular psoriasis often has a variety of related symptoms, including fever, chills, and diarrhea. This type of psoriasis may disappear and reappear frequently.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are not the same things. About a third of people may have psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

Psoriatic arthritis presents typical symptoms of psoriasis-like inflamed, red, scaly skin, in addition to arthritis symptoms such as swollen, stiff, and painful joints. Psoriatic arthritis can be mild, moderate, or severe, and may affect any part of the body, or multiple parts at once. Those who develop psoriatic arthritis may ultimately have progressively damaged joints that may result in permanent damage.

How Psoriasis Is Linked To Stress And Anxiety

While psoriasis may seem like a purely physical condition, it can be closely connected to stress and anxiety. 

Studies have shown a close link between mental health illnesses and symptoms of psoriasis. Stress and anxiety may contribute to the patient developing psoriasis in the first place, as well as triggering renewed symptoms or preventing lesions from healing quickly. Doctors and scientists theorize that when under stress, the body produces chemicals that increase its inflammatory response and contribute to psoriasis. While the relationship between stress and psoriasis is complicated and not yet fully understood, their connection is clear.

In addition to stress and anxiety being a preexisting cause of psoriasis, psoriasis can also contribute to stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues in a way that traps psoriasis patients in a vicious cycle. People who have psoriasis may be worried about their physical appearance, feel the need to cover up or disguise their psoriasis, and in severe cases may even withdraw socially, further contributing to stress and anxiety.

Other Potential Causes Of Psoriasis

In addition to stress and anxiety, psoriasis may have a variety of other causes. Because psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, it can be triggered by the body's reaction to a perceived attack. White blood cells may attack skin cells when they erroneously believe them to be a threat to the body, causing redness, irritation, and flaking which is characteristic of psoriasis. 

Psoriasis may also be partially caused by genetics. While very few people are genetically predetermined to contract psoriasis, a small percentage of the population may inherit the condition from their parents.

Finally, psoriasis can be caused by environmental conditions. Alcohol consumption can trigger a new bout of psoriasis, and excessive alcohol use may cause persistent psoriasis symptoms. Smoking and obesity are also often associated with psoriasis. Physical injury or irritation such as sunburn, cuts, scrapes, or shots may also contribute to psoriasis flares. Some medications may also trigger psoriasis, particularly high blood pressure medications, antimalarial medications, and lithium.

Other Symptoms Of Stress And Anxiety

If you think that stress and anxiety may be contributing to your psoriasis, it's a good idea to check and see whether or not you're experiencing any other common stress and anxiety symptoms. Physical symptoms may include muscle tension, soreness, pain, fatigue, and lethargy. Behavioral changes may include changes in appetite, changes in sleep patterns, insomnia, and loss of interest in normal activities. Mental and emotional symptoms of stress and anxiety may include excessive worrying, feelings of guilt, a sense of impending doom, anger, irritability, hopelessness, and more.

A licensed professional can help you learn relaxation techniques to help you manage stress when you have a psoriasis flare. People who experience a lot of stress can reduce symptoms by trying to manage settings that cause flare-ups.

How To Treat Psoriasis

While there are many potential treatments for psoriasis, there is currently no known cure. Treating psoriasis usually focuses on symptoms, to reduce the presence of active psoriasis outbreaks to one to three percent of the surface of the body. Mild cases of psoriasis can usually be entirely treated, while in severe cases symptoms of psoriasis may persist throughout the body to a lesser extent.

Treatments may include topical treatments like ointments, creams, and moisturizers. A doctor such as a board certified dermatologist can prescribe biologic drugs or other treatments and some are available over the counter.

Phototherapy, also called light therapy, may be helpful in treating psoriasis, during which the body is subjected to light therapy to slow the growth of skin cells involved in psoriasis. Light therapy also usually reduces itching.

Other psoriasis treatments include oral medication, vitamin A, and alternative treatments such as turmeric supplements, acupuncture, and meditation. Psoriasis may also be mitigated by lifestyle changes, including the treatment of stress and anxiety. Some people also find it helpful to establish a new exercise routine to help ease stress.

A professional will work with you to securely process any issues that may be contributing to the disease and develop a treatment plan to manage your symptoms from the first flare up.

Living with psoriasis can be challenging, especially if you are also dealing with another disease or other troublesome health conditions. You need to know that wellness professionals and support groups provide an invaluable service for those who have to live life with psoriasis.

How To Treat Stress And Anxiety

If you're experiencing stress and anxiety, that is a common trigger of psoriasis. There are a variety of treatment options to consider. Stress is something that can cause someone to have a higher risk of the disease. You should always consult with a medical professional to determine what the right solution for you is to help ease stress.

Learn more about the connection between stress, anxiety, and psoriasis.

Lifestyle changes can often have a powerful effect on symptoms of stress and anxiety. Exercising regularly can release endorphins that flood the body with feel-good chemicals and work to fight feelings of worry and anxiety. Similarly, mindfulness and meditation can be other lifestyle changes that promote calm and wellbeing. Other healthy behaviors such as eating well, getting enough sleep, and avoiding smoking, drugs, and alcohol can go a long way toward promoting both physical and mental health.

When prescribed by a doctor, medication can be another great way to treat stress and anxiety. Medical professionals can prescribe medications that can reduce symptoms and promote health. Different medications often affect people differently, so it may take some time to work with your doctor to find a prescription that works well for you.

It's always helpful to do as much research as you can on psoriasis. Healthline media websites have a lot of helpful articles on psoriasis. Another valuable resource is the National Psoriasis Foundation website. You can learn about the disease and treatments on the National Psoriasis Foundation site. To receive regular information on psoriasis, sign up for the National Psoriasis Foundation psoriasis newsletter.

Therapy is another great treatment for mental health issues like stress and anxiety. Life with psoriasis does not have to be debilitating or uncomfortable. Whether you're looking for professional help or just need a friendly ear, there are a variety of therapy services and techniques that can help you achieve happiness and health. Here at BetterHelp, we offer online therapy services to assist you in getting the help you need! Are you interested in learning more? Reach out to us today!

Below are commonly asked questions on this topic:

Can psoriasis be triggered by stress?
Is psoriasis caused by anxiety?
How do you stop psoriasis from stress?
What is the main trigger for psoriasis?
What is the life expectancy of someone with psoriasis?
What can be mistaken for psoriasis?
Is psoriasis a mental disease?
Can psoriasis be psychological?
Can emotional trauma cause psoriasis?
Is psoriasis completely curable?

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