I had anxiety and depression long before I first experienced psoriasis. They are an expected part of my life, and I have learned to manage them through medication, therapy, and lifestyle choices. Although my mental health disorders predate my psoriasis, I see a strong link between the two. I am curious to see if or when more research about the connection will be explored.
I wonder about whether my having anxiety and depression was an environmental factor that, combined with other factors, contributed to my psoriasis showing up in the first place. Even though I have a family history of psoriasis, had I not experienced severe anxiety and depression, would my psoriasis never have shown up?
To be sure, I was anxious and depressed for years without psoriasis. However, I can attest to a parallel increase in my anxiety and increase in my psoriasis that took place during its most extreme period. A vicious feedback loop was created. More psoriasis triggered more anxiety, which triggered more psoriasis.
My only hope to interrupt this cycle was to work diligently with my therapist on distress tolerance and on accepting my psoriasis, rather than fighting it or fearing it. Of course, I was anxious about other things as well, but I tried my best not to let my anxiety run wild about what was happening to my body, because I knew it would only make it worse. At one point, I even created a designated time to worry, journal about psoriasis, research solutions, and contact doctors. I forbade myself from thinking about it outside of those designated times.
In the other direction, psoriasis has obviously exacerbated my anxiety and depression. When I first started to experience psoriasis, I had anxieties about what was happening to my body, whether or not it was going to get worse, how — if ever — I could make it go away, the sheer physical discomfort I was in, and what people would think of me.
Once I was experiencing full body coverage, my anxiety shifted more into a depressive despair. At this point, my psychiatrist and I decided to increase my antidepressant, and my therapist and I were meeting more often than ever. As I have written about before, my psoriasis also contributed to a resurgence in my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). When I was frantically trying to treat psoriasis, I developed obsessions and compulsions around food, in particular. In this way, psoriasis greatly impacted my mental health journey and contributed to a worsening of my anxiety, depression, and OCD symptoms.
In my experience, mental health and psoriasis are surely linked. I am excited for the medical community to investigate and learn more about this connection, as I think it will have a lot of implications for the treatment of both conditions.
MyPsoriasisTeam columnists discuss psoriasis from a specific point of view. Columnists’ articles don’t reflect the opinions of MyPsoriasisTeam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. MyPsoriasisTeam content isn’t intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.