Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) affects more than just your skin. The painful lumps, and the odor that sometimes comes with them, can affect your quality of life, too. It’s understandable to feel sad or alone when you’re living with a condition that so visibly changes your skin.
If you’re having a hard time managing your mental health with HS, you’re not alone. One-quarter of people with HS live with a mental health condition like depression or anxiety.
While you get treated for the physical symptoms of HS, learn how to manage the emotional symptoms, too. Here are eight tips to help you address any mental health issues you have, and live better with this condition.
While there’s no cure for HS, medications and lifestyle changes can bring down the lumps, manage your pain, and prevent scarring and odors. Relieving these symptoms may make it easier for you to get out and be social again.
A dermatologist can recommend the right treatment for you based on the severity of your disease.
Treatments for mild HS include:
- antibacterial and antiseptic soaps
- acne washes
- anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve)
- warm compresses and baths
Treatments for moderate HS include:
- anti-inflammatory medications
- corticosteroids, such as prednisone
- adalimumab (Humira)
- acne drugs
- birth control pills
If you have a severe case, you may need surgery to cut or clear away the growths, or to drain pus from them.
When you keep negative emotions bottled up, they can build up inside you to the point where they affect your mental health. Talking about your stress and anxiety can take a lot of weight off your shoulders.
You might start by talking to a friend or family member you trust. Or, have a conversation with the doctor who treats your HS.
If you’ve felt sad for more than two weeks and it’s having an impact on your day-to-day life, it could be depression. Visit a psychologist, counselor, or psychiatrist who works with people who have skin conditions.
Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are techniques that can help you cope with your HS. The therapist you see will teach you strategies to manage the emotional effects of your disease and address depression and anxiety when they arise.
Sometimes the people best equipped to listen to your concerns are those who know exactly what you’re going through. At an HS support group, you can talk about your personal experiences without feeling judged. You’ll also get advice from people who have learned their own ways to manage HS.
The more you understand about HS, the more control you’ll have over your condition. Learning about HS can help you make educated decisions about your healthcare.
It can also help you educate friends and family about the realities of living with HS, and the fact that it’s not contagious. People can’t contract HS from being close to you.
You’ll feel better, both mentally and physically, if you take good care of yourself. Go to bed at the same time each night, making sure to give yourself enough time to sleep. Aim to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.
Consider adjusting any lifestyle habits that may have a negative effect on your health, like smoking or excessive alcohol use. And set aside time each day to do something you enjoy.
Yoga is more than just an exercise program for strengthening muscles and helping you lose weight. It also incorporates deep breathing and meditation to calm your mind.
Regular yoga practice can ease anxiety and improve quality of life for people with many medical conditions, including ones that affect the skin. Before you try yoga, ask your doctor if the class you want to take is safe and appropriate for you. You may need some modifications to make your practice comfortable.
Being overweight can make HS more painful and harder to manage. When skin folds rub against the painful lumps of HS, they create uncomfortable friction. Hormones that fat cells release may worsen HS symptoms.
The ideal way to lose extra weight is by changing your diet and exercising. Cutting some of the foods that contribute to weight gain, like full-fat dairy, red meat, and sweets, can also improve HS symptoms.
For people living with obesity, or a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, bariatric surgery may be another option. Losing more than 15 percent of your body weight might reduce your symptoms, or even put you into remission.
The downside is that bariatric surgery can sometimes increase the number of skin folds and cause more friction. Speak with your doctor about whether this procedure is right for you.
One way to ease the stress of living with a chronic skin condition is to meditate. It’s simple to do, and it can be incredibly calming for both your mind and body.
Spend 5 to 10 minutes a few times each day in meditation. Find a quiet place and sit comfortably. Breathe deeply while focusing your mind on the present, and your breath.
If you can’t quiet your mind on your own, try a guided meditation practice. Several meditation apps are available online and through the app store. You may be able to find meditations designed specifically for people with HS and other skin conditions.
While you work with your doctor to manage your HS, don’t neglect your emotional health.
Take good care of yourself. Allow yourself to do activities you enjoy, even if you have to modify them. And lean on the people who care most about you.