Psoriatic disease is an inflammatory illness that affects the skin and joints. Itchy, flaky patches of skin are perhaps the most common symptom. But psoriatic disease goes far deeper. For many, one of the most difficult challenges in living with psoriatic disease is its heavy impact on mental health. Today, IFPA – the global organization for people living with psoriatic disease – releases a report exploring the symbiotic relationship between psoriatic disease, depression, and anxiety.
Living with a visible illness can be devastating. “I went through a flare up at the end of 2015,” says Reena Ruparelia, from Canada. “My hands and feet were covered in plaques and cracks. I was wearing plastic wrap and gloves to stay moisturized. One day at work I took them off, stared at my hands and began to have a panic attack. I couldn’t believe how bad it had gotten. I took a taxi home and I was on disability leave for three months.”
Reena’s experience is not unique. In fact, latest research shows that more than 25% of people living with psoriatic disease show signs of depression, and as many as 48% experience anxiety — more than any skin condition. Rates of disability and suicide are also higher for people with psoriatic disease. The psychological impact is increasingly recognized as a significant part of the illness.
The same inflammatory mediators are involved in both psoriatic disease and depression. As a result, people living with the condition become caught in a vicious cycle: psoriatic disease causes depression and anxiety, and in return depression and anxiety cause disease flares. IFPA’s new report titled Inside Psoriatic Disease: Mental Health not only explores this link, but also outlines best practices to break the cycle.
“No one in the medical field has told me that my depression, anxiety, and psoriasis are linked,” remarks Iman in Oman. “Mental health is a complex issue that requires cooperation among all stakeholders.”
Elisa Martini, lead author of IFPA’s report, emphasizes the urgency of policy change. “The relationship between poor mental health and psoriatic disease is undeniable and must be taken seriously. Effective treatment of psoriatic disease, and timely psychological interventions are essential to provide proper care. Governments must allocate more resources to mental health services. Both physical and mental health are necessary for well-being.”