Psoriasis: 9 Ways to Cope With Body Image Issuesby Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Writer
Our "body image" is not only how we see ourselves when we look in the mirror. It is also how we think about our bodies. If you have psoriasis, like I do, you know that some days are easier to look in the mirror than others. How we feel about ourselves when we look in the mirror matters and can impact our mental health, our relationships, and our professional lives. Read on for some tips if you struggle, at times, to feel good about your body.
Try to Avoid the Negative, Accentuate the Positive
For the last 40 years my psoriasis was only visible on my legs. This year it spread to my arms. On my worst days, I think about how quickly it spread to my arms and therefore how quickly it could spread elsewhere. These thoughts can be referred to as "negative self-talk" and can be counterproductive to healing. Holding positive beliefs about your psoriasis is a much better approach and has been associated with an increase in well-being when it comes to chronic illness.
Talk to Friends and Family
Sometimes it helps to get a little love and perspective. It can be easy to see only our psoriasis when we look at our skin. However, sometimes our psoriasis looks a whole lot worse to us than it does to others, especially when they are not feeling the pain and itch. Choose to talk to those who tend to have a level perspective and the gift of bringing out the best in you.
Take Time for Self-care
Some may consider self-care a luxury they do not deserve. However, if you have psoriasis, self-care is mandatory in order to live our best lives. Taking time for a calming hypoallergenic oil bath, shopping for soft clothing, or cooking nutrient-dense foods are important acts of kindness toward ourselves that can improve our symptoms.
Know the Struggle is Real
Society puts a lot of pressure on us to look a certain way. For example, the media can influence how we see ourselves and how we think we should look. The impact can be detrimental. In a study where control groups were compared to those with psoriasis, self-esteem and body image were found to be significantly lower in the psoriasis groups.
Consult With a Cosmetic Professional
In some shopping malls and up-scale shopping districts, cosmetic stores employ make-up professionals. Sometimes there is a fee for a consult and sometimes it is provided free. (Stores hope they will make a sale if you like what is recommended.) These professionals are used to looking at many different skin types and conditions and can recommend products they know work for different situations. The make-up they sell may cost more than you are used to paying, but it may be well worth it.
It’s understandable that if you do not feel good about how you look, you may hesitate to put on shorts and go for a run in public. However, the benefits of exercise are great if you have psoriasis, so it is important to find a way to incorporate a fitness routine into your life. Like much of chronic disease management, it may take some trial and error to figure out which fitness clothes and exercises make you feel the most comfortable.
Try to Find Meaning
It can be hard to find the positive aspects of a chronic disease. But if you can find meaning, it can help how you feel about yourself. For example, even though my psoriasis really bothers me some weeks, it also makes me a powerful writer, health coach, and public speaker. While the benefits may not be as clear in your professional life, simply being a more compassionate and empathetic person can make some of the personal hardships worth it.
Sticking to a treatment regimen can be hard, especially if you are working long hours or caring for others. However, doing what you can to get the most out of your recommended treatment is important. And psoriasis treatment is rapidly evolving. So if you tried a treatment for your skin five years ago that did not make things any better, there is a good chance there is something new on the market now that may work better for you.
According to the American Psychological Association, psychodermatology is a well-established field in Europe, but a relatively new discipline in the United States. Psychologists in this field are focusing on the role that stress plays on skin disorders and they also focus on the psychological issues that can arise when people have skin conditions. Your dermatologist may be able to recommend a psychologist who is familiar with this area of practice.