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New research reveals psychological impact of psoriasis

Psoriasis described as ‘a monstrous presence’

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 03 November 2014

New research reveals the causes behind the emotional distress experienced by people with psoriasis.

For the first time, researchers gathered and analysed direct patient insights to uncover the seven ‘personal models’ that frame the way those with psoriasis perceive their condition, lives and identity, providing new understanding of the life impact of the condition.

Published in the latest edition of the British Journal of Dermatology, the research* analysed personal messages that patients ‘sent’ to their psoriasis and found that several themes emerged. One key theme was the impact of psoriasis on a person’s identity and relationships. People characterised their psoriasis as a ‘monstrous’ presence or companion that they could never be rid of. In contrast, the individuals themselves often felt like their own identity was lost to the condition and that it prevented them from building relationships with others through shame or embarrassment.

“The research contained some shocking perceptions of psoriasis” said Chris Bundy, research leader and member of the See Psoriasis: Look Deeper collaboration. “Along with images of monsters and alienation, patients revealed powerful emotions that ranged from annoyance and resentment to images of violence and aggression. Some of these people are clearly experiencing high levels of psoriasis driven distress in their everyday lives, and more needs to be done to help them.”

To help people with psoriasis to address these feelings, the See Psoriasis: Look Deeper campaign is working with NHS psychologists to create Psoriasis You Wont Stop Me!, a series of psychological support booklets.

“For many of our members, the emotional impact of psoriasis is just as important as the physical symptoms and can have a huge impact on their quality of life” said Helen McAteer, Chief Executive of the Psoriasis Association. 

The booklets have been authored by NHS psychologists working as part of the dermatology team at the Royal Free Hampstead NHS trust, and include techniques used every day with their psoriasis patients. Such psychological support however is only available at very few hospitals in the UK.

* C Bundy, et al. Psoriasis: snapshots of the unspoken: using novel methods to explore patients' personal models of psoriasis and the impact on well-being. British Journal of Dermatology. Volume 171, Issue 4, pages 825–831, October 2014 DOI: 10.1111/bjd.13101

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