Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a chronic condition that causes painful inflammation in the joints and scaly red or white patches on the skin. However, physical symptoms aren’t the only way this condition can affect someone. More than half of people with PsA also experience mild to moderate anxiety.
Here’s what you need to know about the relationship between PsA and mental health, as well as some tips for managing anxiety.
Anxiety is a relatively common condition among people who live with PsA. A 2019 systematic review from the journal Clinical Rheumatology evaluated 24 studies on a total of 31,227 people with PsA. Researchers found that mild anxiety affected 1 in 3 people, and moderate anxiety affected 1 in 5 people.
The researchers also found links between PsA and depression. The mental health condition affected at least 20 percent of participants in the studies.
Managing mental health conditions, such as anxiety, is especially important for people with PsA. Mental health conditions may exacerbate the symptoms of the disease and increase pain.
Because PsA and anxiety are linked, treatment for the condition may need to address both the physical and psychological symptoms you’re experiencing. A mental health professional, such as a therapist or psychologist, can help you develop a personalized strategy for managing anxiety.
Here are some other tips people with PsA can try to help manage their anxiety.
Explore pain management solutions
PsA flare-ups can be painful, especially in your muscles, tendons, and on scaly skin patches. According to the Arthritis Foundation, people with arthritis who experience high levels of pain are also likely to have anxiety and depression. That, in turn, can make the pain even worse.
Developing a pain management plan with your doctor can come with the added benefit of reduced anxiety. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen), available over the counter, may help relieve the pain.
Seek specialist care
Rheumatologists and dermatologists are typically the go-to care providers for people with PsA. If you’re also experiencing anxiety, you might want to work with a multidisciplinary team that includes a mental health professional.
Having the right team of health professionals in place can help coordinate your treatment and ensure all symptoms of your PsA and related conditions are being addressed in an effective way.
Certain scents, such as lavender, can be soothing when symptoms of anxiety occur. You could try lighting a lavender-scented candle, taking lavender oil orally or applying it to the skin, or
Use relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques may help people manage symptoms of anxiety. You might consider trying progressive muscle relaxation, meditating, listening to a guided meditation on an app, or practicing anxiety-relieving breathing exercises. Simply moderating your inhales and exhales may prove to be an effective coping strategy.
Get a pet
Develop good sleep hygiene
Sleep deprivation can worsen symptoms of anxiety. Ensuring you get good quality sleep on a consistent basis can be one way to help you feel your best.
Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. Avoid coffee and other caffeinated beverages in the afternoon, which could keep you awake later than you intended. Turn your bedroom into an environment that promotes sleep with a comfortable temperature and no TV or other screens.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine
Not only can caffeine and alcohol make it harder to get quality sleep, but they can also worsen anxiety. Limit how much of these substances you consume, or consider eliminating them altogether to see if your anxiety improves.
As you pay attention to your diet, focus on well-balanced dishes and avoiding skipped meals. Energy-boosting snacks may also help you feel less anxious in between meals.
Consider alternative therapies
Some people with anxiety have found that alternative and complementary therapies can help them manage symptoms. Try practicing yoga either at home or in a studio. There’s some evidence that yoga can have a positive impact on the symptoms of anxiety.
Acupuncture and massage might also be useful techniques for managing anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see how these techniques may impact PsA for you before trying them.
Anxiety and PsA can go hand in hand, so it’s important to find ways of managing the symptoms of both conditions so you can feel your best. Consider speaking with a mental health professional and trying anxiety-management techniques to improve your quality of life.