Living with a chronic illness is hard in and of itself, but the stress of taking care of that illness — managing doctor's appointments, social stigma, and physical discomfort — can take an extra toll, which can have an impact on your mental health. New research shows that having psoriasis — an autoimmune condition that causes itchy, inflamed skin — can increase the risk of mental health disorders. According to a series of research letters published in JAMA Dermatology, researchers from teams in South Korea and Denmark caution that patients being treated for psoriasis should also have regular mental health screenings.
Psoriasis affects around 8 million people in the United States, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation, and around 3% of people globally. The skin condition causes itchy, inflamed patches of skin as a result of skin cell buildup, according to Healthline. It's a condition that develops as a result of the immune system misfiring, and it's thought that it could be genetic. Around 80% of people have psoriasis that just affects the skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) but psoriasis can also affect the joints, which is called psoriatic arthritis. Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness are common symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. The AAD says that psoriasis also increases the risk of other medical conditions, such as eye problems, abdominal and digestive issues, fatigue, and mood disorders.
These mood disorders are what scientists looked to study in their new research. According to a letter in JAMA summarizing the findings, the South Korean research team calculated the risks of depression, sleep disorders, and anxiety disorders, among others, and found that these mental health conditions were higher in patients with psoriasis than the control groups. The researchers concluded that the rates of depression in psoriasis patients are similar in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Moreover, U.S. psoriasis patients are 17% more likely to have depression that people without the diagnosis are — which is double the rate of depression for people who don’t have the skin disease.
“When patients are diagnosed with psoriasis, multidisciplinary teams consisting of dermatologists and psychiatrists should be involved in the early stages of treatment,” the South Korean research team wrote in their study.
Further, research team that summarized the findings said that suicidal thoughts and behaviors can also increase in psoriasis patients.
“Mental disorders in patients with psoriasis may predispose some to developing suicidal thoughts and practicing suicidal behaviors. Studies have shown that patients with psoriasis are 33% more likely to attempt suicide and 20% more likely to [die by] suicide than those without psoriasis," the letter wrote. This risk is greatest for younger psoriasis patients, especially if their psoriasis is more severe.
If you’ve received a diagnosis of psoriasis, research shows that mental health screening may be an important part of your treatment plan. If you find that you’re mood or mental health are affected, let your doctor know — coordinating care with a qualified mental health professional can help.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.