The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many medical conditions, both physically and emotionally. Psoriasis, which affects more than 8 million Americans, is one of them.
According to SELF, this chronic inflammatory skin condition causes stress to the sufferer. Adding the additional uncertainty of the pandemic on top of the already existing strain can trigger episodes of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. The added stress also triggers psoriasis flare-ups.
“The link between psoriasis and mental health comorbidity is pretty well established, with associations between psoriasis and depression and anxiety repeatedly demonstrated in the scientific literature,” Dr. Evan Rieder, a board-certified dermatologist and psychiatrist at NYU Langone Health told SELF. “Flares of psoriasis are also linked to acute bouts of stress, so in ways, our mental health can have a direct impact on the state of psoriasis in the body.”
One study found that out of 1,000 people living with psoriasis, a full 43% reported an exacerbation of their condition during the COVID-19 pandemic. Factors that made the situation worse besides the added stress of COVID-19, were obstacles that prevented sufferers from practicing critical self-care. Lack of financial resources, gyms being closed, and social isolation made matters worse.
People with psoriasis told SELF that they craved carbohydrates, sugar, and alcohol — all things that can trigger psoriasis symptoms during lockdown.
For many, teletherapy became a blessing in their struggle. Reena Ruperelia, aged 40, said she saw a therapist from time to time before the pandemic but as the anxiety heightened, and her condition became worse, she sought virtual help from a professional.
“For the first four months of the pandemic I was seeing my therapist once a week which was very helpful,” she told SELF. “Being online, in the comfort of my own home, made therapy more accessible and also was just as effective as the face-to-face sessions I’ve done in the past.”
Others psoriasis sufferers found another silver lining during the pandemic. Working from home gave them time and opportunity to take better care of themselves. They told SELF that they ate healthier food, took better care of their skin, and found time to meditate.
“I also had time to look into different treatment options and signed up for a drug trial, which I don’t think I would have done if I was running around like I was before the pandemic,” said Ruperelia.
“The unspoken part of this pandemic has really been the concomitant pandemic of social isolation and loneliness,” Rieder told SELF. “Social connections can lower our stress levels and allow us to find more meaning in life.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that if stress continues to escalate and interferes with daily life, it is time to call a doctor or mental health care professional, according to the Miami Herald. The CDC lists free and confidential resources to help find the appropriate treatment.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) acknowledges that the pervasive climate of anxiety, stress and isolation caused by COVID-19 is harmful to mental health and offers more tips on their website.
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