For teens: living with psoriasis

Psoriasis creates a mixed bag of emotional reactions. Some people show little emotion over having psoriasis, while others react intensely. You may think this is related to the extent of someone's psoriasis, but in reality that doesn't seem to be the case. Whether someone has a few lesions or many, the emotional response is not always the same.

What's important, then, is to simply know you may experience difficult feelings about having psoriasis. This is helpful in determining how successfully you'll cope. Once you understand the extent of your emotions, you can deal with them constructively. Here are some common questions teens ask about coping with psoriasis.

I feel depressed and fear my psoriasis is affecting my self-esteem. Is this normal?

It's not uncommon to experience a sense of shock, confusion and anger about what's happening to your skin. These feelings may give way to profound sadness or depression. Accepting your skin's condition is possible, but it takes time, sometimes a long time, to achieve. Therapy, support groups or an online community may be of benefit, or discuss these feelings with your doctor or an adult.

What can I do to help myself cope with psoriasis?

Talking about psoriasis can help. Find someone, whether they have psoriasis or not, who is willing to listen and recognize the strong feelings that accompany psoriasis. Your feelings are real. Don't dismiss them or trivialize them. The power of the emotions that come from having psoriasis should not be underestimated. Find a dermatologist you can talk to about your feelings. He or she may suggest how to deal with the emotional aspects of psoriasis.

Find healthy ways to release strong emotions such as anger or sadness. Exercise, art and journaling are just a few ways to express your emotions in a healthy way.

Once I come to terms with my psoriasis, what's next?

One of the hardest things about living with psoriasis is that you go through cycles of strong emotions, usually when the psoriasis goes into remission or reappears. The disease is unpredictable, and the emotions it triggers may occur repeatedly. Apprehension about psoriasis returning or getting worse is common.

Will I have to deal with others' reactions to my skin all the time?

Not necessarily-psoriasis is a reality that you have to live with, but you don't have to let it take control. There are ways to avoid dealing directly with others about your psoriasis if you choose, and you can use these techniques whenever you want. Wearing long sleeves, for example, can make coping in public a lot easier on days when you don't have the emotional energy to accept the stares and questions. Another way of dealing with other's reactions is to educate them and spread public awareness of the disease.

What about my future?

Your intelligence, character, and relationships will be the determining factors in life's important decisions, such as your choice of work, whether to attend college, responsibility for being on your own and the kind of person you want to be. Your skin does not define who you are or what you will become. People who have psoriasis lead positive and productive lives. Often, they find themselves better adapted to deal with stress and change because of the skills developed when living with psoriasis.

What other things can I do to cope with psoriasis?

There are some practical things that you can do:

  • Ask for support, or no one will know that you need it.
  • The more people know about and understand psoriasis, the better and easier it will be for you. Be willing to discuss your psoriasis with others, to the extent that you feel comfortable.
  • Real friends will want to know about you and will want to help. They won't be put off by psoriasis.
  • There is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. You didn't do anything wrong. Skin disease has no meaning other than what it is, even if other people attribute odd things to it.
  • It is natural to feel anxious, angry and depressed. Friends can help.
  • Find what works for you.