Can Stress Be Making Your Psoriasis Itch More?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

For psoriasis patients, one of the most constant and annoying symptoms of the disease can be itching. In fact, the word psoriasis comes from the ancient Greek word psora, which means “itch.” The irritation can disrupt sleep and overall quality of life.

The National Psoriais Foundation (NPF) estimates that 70 percent to 90 percent of those with psoriasis experience persistent irritation of the skin that makes them want to scratch.

ishonest No.222 - Fine Lines & Wrinkles

Recommended
No.222 - Fine Lines & Wrinkles

The problem is scratching gives only the most temporary relief, and it can make the disease even worse. When scratched, patches of skin tear away and bleed, causing the rash to spread and plaque lesions to form.

Compared with other inflammatory skin disorders, psoriasis can produce particularly intense itching in the scalp as well as the lower extremities (for example, the groin and buttocks).

Because dry skin aggravates itchiness, individuals commonly apply lotions, gels, ointments, and creams to keep the skin moisturized. Topical therapies also include steroids, vitamin D analogues, retinoids, calcineurin inhibitors, coal tar, and salicylic acid.

How Stress Turns Up the Itch

“Stress alarms the immune system that we are in imminent danger,” says Richard Fried, MD, of Yardley Dermatology Associates in Yardley, Pennsylvania, and a medical board member of the National Psoriasis Foundation. “When the immune system senses imminent danger, it mobilizes to do battle against potential infection. This mobilization can result in the release of inflammatory chemicals that can help the body fight potentially dangerous threats to our health and well-being.

Your skin has the power to fight fine lines: Catalyse your skin to do more

Learn more

“Unfortunately,” he adds, “these same chemicals can act as pruritogens [substances that cause the itchy sensation]. These may substantially intensify or worsen an existing itch.”

Try Out One of These Stress-Busters

Dr. Fried points out that stress is a natural survival response. “Stress is designed to mobilize all existing immune and other survival systems to fight real and anticipated threats to the body,” he says.

The chronic stress, however, can wear a body down.

“The best and most psychologically pragmatic response that we can take is one that helps us to modulate the intensity and negativity of our stress responses,” says Fried.

1 Natural Way to Get Rid of Pimples as Fast as Possible

Learn more

To effectively manage stress, try one or more of the following approaches:

  • Meditation This relaxation technique to calm the mind often involves deep breathing and a focus of attention while sitting in a quiet place. People, however, have learned to meditate in busy settings (such as on a bus or at work), and it can just take a few minutes to provide some help. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says that the practice may help reduce blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and pain.
  • Exercise Physical activity pumps up the endorphins in the body. These chemicals improve mood, energy, and sleep. The National Psoriasis Foundation reports that women who regularly participate in vigorous exercise are less likely to get psoriasis than less-active women, according to a large U.S. study. Patients may want to explore practices such as yoga and tai chi, which incorporate both elements of physical activity and meditation.
  • Expert Help Some people may require expert help to get their stress under control. Mental health therapists can help. So can connecting with others to share your experience. To talk to others, consider contacting Psoriasis One to One or TalkPsoriasis.org.

Fried also recommends cognitive behavioral therapy for stress reduction. This common type of talk therapy with a mental health counselor helps a patient confront and correct negative thinking.

In addition, he suggests that certain psychotropic medications may mitigate anxiety.

“The approaches can all individually or in combination dramatically enhance our ability to deal with stress and potentially ameliorate our skin function,” he says.

The Latest in Psoriasis

Picking at Your Psoriasis Scales? Do This Instead
ishonest No.333 - Terminate Acne

Recommended
No.333 - Terminate Acne

It’s tempting to peel and pick at those itchy scales, but if you can help it, there are better ways to cope.

What Black Patients Need To Know About The Effects of Psoriasis

Psoriasis can look differently on darker skin than on lighter skin — and knowing how to spot the symptoms is an important first step of the treatment ...

Ways to Protect Your Eye Health — and Preserve Your Vision — With Psoriasis

How to keep the skin condition from negatively impacting your vision.

7 Ways to Take the Stress Out of Your Next Hair Salon Visit if You Have Scalp Psoriasis

Scalp psoriasis symptoms can make a routine trip to the hair salon stressful. But with the right approach, you can have an easier visit — and a healthy...

Do You Need a COVID-19 Vaccine Booster if You Have Psoriasis?
If spring were a serum, every touch of this new skin generator blossoms into its own mini-cloud of moisture

Learn more

Psoriasis drugs that work by suppressing the body’s immune response may raise the risk of COVID-19 complications. If you’re already immunized, can a booster...

Psoriasis Awareness: A 2021 Special Report

Psoriasis flares have been on the rise in 2021, according to a survey of ishonest readers who have the skin condition. Here’s what might be to ...

Psoriasis: How to Deal with Cracked, Bleeding Skin

Take these steps to heal your skin and avoid future fissures.

Your Psoriasis Diet: Best Foods for Spring and Summer

Ready to break out your favorite warm-weather recipes? Here are delicious anti- inflammatory ingredients you should consider using.

Read more on: beauty, skin, psoriasis


Learn about unknown needs of your skin for free