Psoriasis in the Media: Is It Accurate?

Patient Expert
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Netflix

I was shocked when I heard Martin, the main character of the critically acclaimed Netflix drama “Ozark,” refer to psoriasis as “dry skin.” It was during a heated conversation between him and his teenage daughter, who wanted to donate to an organization on behalf of a friend living with the disease. Martin declined supplying the funds, with his reasoning being he refuses to donate money for something as simple as “flaky skin.”

Psoriasis is More Than Dry Skin

I could not help but wonder does media and entertainment interactions such as these further perpetuate stigma and the wrong information for psoriasis or is it a form of awareness (even if inaccurate)? Watching the interaction made me feel as though I had just witness an injustice on the psoriasis community. It was sort of a trigger for all the times a person has referred to my disease as just dry skin or the moments I have had to educate people on psoriasis’s debilitating effects on the body including the immune system, mental health, and self-esteem. All I could think about was the millions of people who watch the show who may be ignorant to the disease, or maybe this is the very first time they have ever heard of it, now think of psoriasis as just “dry skin.”

Psoriasis Isn’t Dandruff

This was not the first time I heard psoriasis mentioned in media and entertainment nor was it the first time I heard it described in the wrong way. A few years ago the psoriasis community fired off a response on Twitter after Sherri Sheppard, former co-host for the talkshow “The View,” stated she did not understand the big deal with psoriasis and that it was “like dandruff,” after Kim Kardashian revealed her struggles with the disease on her show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

Those of the psoriasis community felt as though comparing psoriasis to dandruff did not give an accurate depiction of what it is like to live with the disease. People were furious at the misinformation Sheppard passed on to millions of viewers of the show. I even chimed in myself on twitter stating, “Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin. It is way more complicated than comparing it to dandruff.”

Psoriasis is Sexy? Really?

On the eighth episode of season four of the adult cartoon “Family Guy,” Neil Goldman, the school nerd, revealed he has psoriasis after proclaiming a current girlfriend found it “sexy,” a type of confidence I wish I had at his age. Although this instance of mentioning psoriasis was not done in a negative or misleading light, the show does not go into further detail about the disease. Some would say the mere mention of the disease is a form of raising awareness that may prompt individuals, who wouldn’t have initially known about the disease, search for more information.

As a person with psoriasis who has been 90 percent covered with the disease, dealing with this disease is much more than dandruff, dry skin, nor is it sexy (in my mind). Dealing with psoriasis is a lifelong condition, which, for now, comes without a cure. It is the reason why those living with it believe they will never find love due to embarrassment and shame. It is the reason why people fall into deep depression, isolation, or avoid social activities. Psoriasis is more than dry skin.