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Time to See a Therapist? The Emotional Toll of a Physical Disease

Skin disease is more than just physical. We’ll break down the emotional toll of psoriasis and urticaria, and explore whether a professional can help.

Most of you reading this probably know this important truth: diseases like psoriasis and urticaria are not just physical. If you’ve ever been told “it’s just a rash” and wanted to scream at the top of your lungs, you know what we’re talking about. Why? Because it’s way more than that.

Let’s face it. People stare. They see severe hives or scales and they do a double take. Some of them whisper, others judge. Couple that with living with pain, fatigue, itching and more, and it’s clear that skin disease is no walk in the park.i

The truth is, it would be hard for all of these challenges not to have an impact on someone’s emotional wellbeing. So let’s dig-in to the emotional toll of these physical diseases…and how therapy may be able to help.ii

What the research has to say

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, people living with psoriasis are twice as likely to become depressed as the rest of the population. And a study in the United States found that the risk of depression is not tied to disease severity, meaning no matter how mild or severe your psoriasis is, you’re still at risk. Beyond depression, psoriasis can lead to real emotional health issues like an inability to sleep, loss of energy, or an inability to focus.iv

While there is limited research on the correlation between depression and people living with urticaria, it is important to remember that depression isn’t the only reason to see a therapist! Research shows that urticaria, not surprisingly, has a major impact on a number of aspects related to quality of life. For example, a study of CSU patients in Canada found an estimated 30.6% loss in work productivity due to missing work and impairment even while present at work because of one’s health problem. An impact like this is understandable - how could it not be, when symptoms of chronic urticaria can include a lack of sleep, lethargy, and irritability?v,vi

Addressing the Stigma

So we know the emotional toll of skin disease is real. Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room - We’re talking about therapists. For some people, the topic seeing a therapist can be considered taboo – they feel embarrassed or ashamed about the need to talk to someone. Addressing the Stigma

But the reality is that millions of people see therapists every day. And in some countries, the stigma of seeing a therapist does not exist. Take Argentina, for example. The country is home to more psychologists per capita than anywhere in the world.vii And in major cities like Buenos Aires, it’s common to talk about emotional problems and what’s going on in therapy.viii

So let’s all take a virtual stroll through Buenos Aires, where if you have a cold, you may see your physician, and if you have emotional distress, it’s common to see a therapist. Simple as that.

Time to see a therapist?

Every therapist is different, and no one therapy session looks like another. For some, therapy is a place to sort through serious clinical depression. But for others, therapy might just be an escape – one hour in your day devoted solely to you.

Having a tough time at work? Your therapist can help you work through the best way to handle it. Not sure about a new relationship? Your therapist can talk you through the pros and cons of your potential mate. In therapy, nothing is off the table. And unlike day-to-day life, therapy is a judgment-free zone.

But full disclosure: therapy is not free, at least not for everyone. The cost of therapy depends on where you live and what health insurance you have. If you can’t afford therapy, get on Dr. Google (get it?) and search to see if there are free counseling resources in your area. And if not, what about trying out a good friend? The act of talking out loud about what’s bothering you might just do the trick.

We recognize that therapy isn’t for everyone. It’s a personal choice that each of us have to make. The only thing we know for certain is this: everyone deserves to be happy. To live a full life regardless of the medical hand they were dealt. So therapy or not, take a second to smile, laugh, hug your favorite person, or listen to your favorite song. And then take a second to think about what can help you keep doing those things everyday.

  1. Maurer M, Weller K, Bindslev-Jensen C, Gime´ nez-Arnau A, Bousquet PJ, Bousquet J, Canonica GW, Church MK, Godse KV, Grattan CEH, Greaves MW, Hide M, Kalogeromitros D, Kaplan AP, Saini SS, Zhu XJ, Zuberbier T. Unmet clinical needs in chronic spontaneous urticaria. A GA2 LEN task force report. Allergy 2011; 66: 317–330. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1111/j.1398-9995.2010.02496.x/asset/j.1398-9995.2010.02496.x.pdf?v=1&t=ifsk20n8&s=7d6dd62e848b5d1b5a8129c2de6f91b93f934c07
  2. Shenefelt PD. Psychological interventions in the management of common skin conditions. Psychology research and behavior management. 2010;3:51-63.

  3. Psoriasis and the Risk of Depression in the US Population. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009-2012. Brandon E. Cohen, BS1; Kathryn J. Martires, MD1; Roger S. Ho, MD, MS, MPH. JAMA Dermatol. Published online September 30, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.360
  4. “Depression” – National Psoriasis Foundation. https://www.psoriasis.org/life-with-psoriasis/depression
  5. Maurer M, Weller K, Bindslev-Jensen C, Gime´ nez-Arnau A, Bousquet PJ, Bousquet J, Canonica GW, Church MK, Godse KV, Grattan CEH, Greaves MW, Hide M, Kalogeromitros D, Kaplan AP, Saini SS, Zhu XJ, Zuberbier T. Unmet clinical needs in chronic spontaneous urticaria. A GA2 LEN task force report. Allergy 2011; 66: 317–330. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1111/j.1398-9995.2010.02496.x/asset/j.1398-9995.2010.02496.x.pdf?v=1&t=ifsk20n8&s=7d6dd62e848b5d1b5a8129c2de6f91b93f934c07
  6. ASSURE-CSU Canadian Results: Assessing the impact of chronic spontaneous/idiopathic urticarial on work productivity and indirect costs. Presented at ISPOR 20th Annual International Meeting, Philadelphia, USA, May 2015. Last accessed: 14.09.15  
    http://www.ispor.org/ScientificPresentationsDatabase/Presentation/56048 - See more at: http://www.skintolivein.com/urticaria/urticaria-and-you/im-not-lazy-i-have-urticaria/#sthash.swoKypNg.dpuf
  7. WHO Mental Health Atlas 2005. Accessed Nov 6, 2015. http://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/atlas/global_results.pdf?ua=1. http://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/atlas/global_results.pdf?ua=1.
  8. “In therapy? In Argentina, it’s the norm.” CNN. April 28, 2013. http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/28/health/argentina-psychology-therapists/ Accessed 15 October 2015. Additional reference: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB125563769653488249 

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