What’s the Connection Between Psoriasis and Depression?

Medically reviewed by Steven Kim, MD on December 14, 2015Written by Annette McDermott on December 14, 2015

Psoriasis is an often-misunderstood condition. It causes red, raised, scaling skin lesions called plaques. People who see psoriasis plaques on someone may assume it’s contagious or make unfair judgments about the person. In addition, the chronic nature of the disease may be overwhelming to those who are dealing with it day after day.

New research looked at the connection between psoriasis and depression. The research shows an increased risk of depression in people with psoriasis.

Researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to study depression and psoriasis in 12,382 adults. The researchers found that 16.5 percent of those studied met the criteria for major depression.

Researchers didn’t find a connection between depression risk and other factors, such as:

  • age
  • gender
  • race
  • physical activity
  • other chronic medical conditions

They also did not find a connection between psoriasis severity and depression risk.

Psoriasis Stigma May Cause Depression

The stigma associated with psoriasis may lead to depression. Little is known about psoriasis among the general public. For example, many people don’t know that the condition isn’t contagious. By increasing public awareness of psoriasis, people will learn that they do not need to act differently around people with the condition.

Despite the psoriasis-depression link, the research does not prove that psoriasis causes depression, or vice versa. Further studies are needed to understand if biological or genetic factors play a role.

If you or a family member has psoriasis, you should educate yourself about depression symptoms so that you will be able to recognize it. Contact a doctor if symptoms occur.

Depression symptoms include:

  • persistent sadness or anxiety
  • hopelessness or sense of doom
  • feelings of helplessness or guilt
  • loss of interest in pleasurable activities, such as hobbies or sex
  • fatigue and low energy
  • irritability and restlessness
  • difficulty sleeping
  • increased or decreased appetite
  • thoughts of suicide

Mental Health America offers a free, confidential, online depression screening to help you determine if you’re dealing with depression symptoms. Results are not meant to make a definitive depression diagnosis, but should be shared with your doctor.

Managing Psoriasis Symptoms

Since the stigma of psoriasis may be associated with a higher risk of depression, managing symptoms can be helpful. Treatments are available to help reduce psoriasis flares and improve skin appearance. Treatment options may include:

  • topical products, such as coal tar, salicylic acid, moisturizers, and topical retinoids
  • phototherapy
  • oral medications, such as retinoids or cyclosporine

Simple lifestyle changes may also relieve symptoms. Consider the following changes:

  • Take daily baths, and add colloidal oatmeal or bath oil to soften skin and loosen scales.
  • Apply an ointment-based moisturizer or oil to your skin after bathing and as needed.
  • Expose skin to a small amount of sun. Consult your doctor first because too much sun may worsen lesions.
  • Learn about psoriasis triggers and try to avoid them.
  • Avoid alcohol during treatment.

7 Psoriasis Triggers to Avoid

Psoriasis Support Groups

Chronic conditions such as psoriasis often lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. It’s helpful to talk with others who understand what you’re going through. Your doctor may recommend you join a support group. Support groups can help you cope with any stress, anxiety, or depression related to psoriasis. Support groups meet in person or online.

The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) can help you find a support group in your area. They also have an online community that offers insight, support, and encouragement.

NPF also offers Psoriasis One-to-One, a program that connects newly diagnosed people with others who have the disease. This program is a great option if you are uncomfortable talking to multiple people at once. NPF also offers resources to help you deal with other issues that cause stress, such as receiving adequate health care, applying for disability, and navigating work-related psoriasis issues.

Newly Diagnosed with Psoriasis? You’ve Got This

The Takeaway

If you have psoriasis, research shows you have an increased risk of depression, but knowing that is half the battle. When you’re aware of the risk and educated about depression symptoms, you can get help at the first sign that something’s wrong. Contact your doctor to learn more about the psoriasis-depression link, especially if you experience depression symptoms.

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