Psoriasis Can Undermine a Woman’s Self-Confidence and Social Perception
August is National Psoriasis Awareness Month. Most of us are aware of the visual symptoms of psoriasis – raised, red, scaly patches on the skin, most often found on the outside of the elbows, knees or scalp, face, hands and feet, even fingernails (though it can appear on any location) accompanied by itching, burning and stinging sensations. Many of us are aware that psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that typically runs in families. But most of us are not as cognizant of the social and psychological implications of the skin condition, particularly among women.
The Relationship Between Women and Psoriasis
Studies indicate that women with psoriasis struggle more both emotionally and socially than men. The highly visible disease, which affects more women than men, has significant potential to impact a woman’s self-confidence as well as her social relationships. Statistically, approximately 60% of women diagnosed with the disease report that psoriasis interferes with their quality of life on one level or another. Why does the disease undermine a woman’s self-confidence, relationships and their perceptions of themselves?
The Impact of Psoriasis on Emotions
An entire culture has been built on a concept of beauty that has a basis on clear, unblemished skin. The material reality is that women feel an intense pressure to appear attractive to others. With so much emphasis on physical appearance, a condition like psoriasis can really take an emotional toll. This is particularly applicable among younger women, where other’s perceptions of them in their work environment, social group and potential partner pool are often crucial in self-perception and ultimately may impair confidence and self-esteem.
Research has found that highly visible physical conditions such as psoriasis can undermine a woman’s ability to pursue activities and establish key relationships that serve as a baseline for their lives. Studies have illustrated that women whose appearance differs significantly from the norm, be it weight related, skin conditions, birth defect, severe dental problems, or similar circumstance, have a more difficult time in being hired for a job and maintaining the position, as well as receive lower compensation, regardless of level of competence. In a recent study of 5,000 psoriasis patients, (both men and women) nearly 60% of the women reported that the condition interferes in some way with their lifestyle, with 20% of the women indicating that the condition is an overwhelming problem in their lives. These statistics were almost double the responses of the men. This group is considered at higher risk for developing depression, regardless of sex.
How to Manage a Lifestyle with Psoriasis
Sufferers of psoriasis often feel that the condition is always present, which trickles down to almost every aspect of their life. Finding an effective treatment to reduce the visible symptoms of psoriasis can have a positive impact on a woman’s self-perception and mental health. It has been found that the sense of control achieved in managing psoriasis is essential in overcoming feelings of helplessness, embarrassment, low self-esteem, unattractiveness, and even anger. However, the disease may still be present even when non-symptomatic – therefore self-acceptance is key.
How to promote self-acceptance? Cognitive behavioral therapy is one technique which focuses on how a psoriasis patient perceives her success in dealing with important life issues in their lives, and methods to change the thought patterns that can lead to low self-esteem and self-consciousness. The goal is to attain acceptance, which is considered the core of emotional health for anyone with a chronic disease. Here’s an example: In this study almost half of the women specifically chose their wardrobe with the intention of concealing their rash, compared to a third of the men, indicating that most likely embarrassment about the physical evidence of psoriasis accompanies the presence of the disease. When a woman makes the conscious decision to select flattering clothing that highlights positive features of her body suggests that she has accepted the existence of the condition and by making choices that increase her confidence, she has taken control of her own emotional health.
Support is Critical to Acceptance
Women with psoriasis express that finding a support network helps them accept the presence of the condition and allows them to detach it from their identity as a woman. Support helps facilitate women’s awareness of how their personal emotional struggles with psoriasis are interrelated with larger social realities with the goal to adopt a healthy outlook that psoriasis is just part of the “package”.
At Johns Creek Dermatology, easily accessible from North Fulton, South Forsyth and Gwinnett County communities and the surrounding Atlanta area, we believe that treating your psoriasis is critical to good disease management as well as overall health. Dr. Timani will work with you to establish a treatment program that minimizes the physical symptoms to help you restore your confidence and positivity.