Ways to Boost Self-Esteem with Psoriasis

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Many people who have psoriasis say it affects their emotional well-being. "We live in a culture that tells us that our self-worth is dependent on the judgment of others," says Allan Chino, PhD, a psychologist in Portland, Oregon. A psoriasis patient since age 14, Boston-area lawyer Tracy Ottina, 46, doesn't usually let it erode her self-esteem. Still, on occasion she fears judgment from people who look at her red, scaly skin plaques and don't know what they are. Here are some ways that you can feel good about yourself and not let this condition hurt your self-esteem.

Become the Expert

The more you know about the psoriasis you have — what it is, how it's treated, what causes it to flare — the better you can handle the stares and the comments that might otherwise lower your self-esteem. Ottina, who has psoriatic arthritis as well, has learned a great deal about the disease. Being knowledgeable is comforting, she says, because when she has psoriasis flares she knows exactly what's happening to her skin and isn't afraid. She also knows what exacerbates her psoriasis symptoms — and how to avoid these situations as best she can, so that she has more body confidence.

Educate Others

Not only do you need to educate yourself about psoriasis, you need to educate those around you, too. Ottina says that sometimes little kids ask, "What's that?" If their parents say it's okay, she tells them to touch her psoriasis and see that it doesn't hurt. "I view these moments as an opportunity to say, 'Don't worry, you can't catch it,'" she explains. Educating others can even lead to your getting better psoriasis support as you help others see that you're no different than they are on the inside.

Join a Support Group

Ottina says that building psoriasis support can be a big boost to your self- esteem. It helps to know that more than 8 million Americans have psoriasis, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NSF). When Ottina was first diagnosed with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, she was treated at an inpatient center. "What I found helpful about that was that I didn't feel so alone," she says. You can find a support group in your area or connect with people who are willing to chat and offer psoriasis support online by visiting the NSF’s TalkPsoriasis Support Community.

Talk to a Therapist

The emotional pain you feel when people point to your psoriasis plaques or make rude comments can lead to depression. And that blow to your mental health may need professional help to heal. Working with a therapist or counselor who understands psoriasis and who can help you explore your feelings may also be a boon to your self-esteem and body confidence. Ottina says that therapy helped her when she was dating, especially when she felt more self-conscious about her psoriasis.

Don't Let Psoriasis Define You

John Latella, 75, has had psoriasis for more than 52 years and psoriatic arthritis for 40 years. “I never hid from the fact that I had psoriasis,” Latella says. You have to recognize that psoriasis is part of you, but it doesn’t define you, he adds. Julie Shafer, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Portland, Oregon, says it’s important to keep psoriasis from controlling your emotions. “From my work with psoriasis patients, a sense of having control over the situation can make a huge difference,” says Dr. Shafer.

Picture Yourself Strong

You can overcome moments of low body confidence by visualizing yourself walking through a crowd during a psoriasis flare. Chino suggests thinking positive thoughts, such as, "It used to bother me a lot, but no longer — I've mastered it," and "I know I have this disease, but I am not this disease." Visualizing yourself as strong sets your target, he says, and will define your goal.

Wear What Makes You Comfortable

Ottina wears shorts and a bathing suit in the summer even though they won't hide the psoriasis — and she's comfortable with that. "I find that what I run through my mind about how people react is always worse than the reality," she says. But if you're not comfortable with areas of psoriasis showing, wear long sleeves and long pants to suit the occasion, or use makeup to cover psoriasis lesions. Do whatever puts you most at ease.

Take Care of Your Overall Health

Make being as healthy as possible part of your plan for body confidence. That means eating a healthy diet, exercising, and giving up bad habits, like smoking. Take the time to stick with and periodically reassess your psoriasis treatment plan so that you're getting the maximum benefits. If you feel better physically, you'll feel better mentally and your self-esteem won't slip.

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