education and awareness
Battling the stigma of psoriasis: How to handle sensitive situations
For some people, perhaps the worst thing about having psoriasis is that you can see it. Not just you, but everybody. There’s a certain stigma to this particular skin condition. And that means it comes with a sense of shame for some because of what other people may think when they catch a glimpse.
But what if it didn’t carry such a burden? What if people didn’t worry they would catch it? Or stopped staring when they saw your red, scaly patches? Imagine if the world knew a little more. Imagine if everyone simply understood what it means to live with psoriasis.
Educating others is the best thing you can do to help reduce the stigma. And you can do it in small ways – one person at a time – by explaining a little more and hiding a little less.
Calm people’s fears of “catching” it
It may seem unfair to have to make people feel better about your condition when they’re making you feel worse about it. But you can expect some degree of good karma to come your way if you explain upfront that psoriasis is far from being contagious.
A study funded by the National Psoriasis Foundation uncovered that the stigma around the common skin condition is in large part due to the (false) belief that it can spread from person to person. So, naturally, making it clear that this is not the case will ultimately make psoriasis seem a little less scary to onlookers, leading to fewer frightened looks your way.
Satisfy some amount of healthy curiosity
If you catch someone staring, consider speaking up about your psoriasis before they unfairly judge you for it. They may simply be curious about your skin, and answering questions they may be too shy to ask can clear up any uncalled-for confusion related to the condition.
It might make you feel uncomfortable at first, but if you have some simple statements ready to go, it can help you get used to talking about it. It may be as short and sweet as saying: “I have psoriasis. Do you have any questions you want to ask me about it? I don’t mind.”
Be proactive with romantic partners
The last thing you want is to feel extra vulnerable when you’re with someone you really care about, particularly if the relationship is new. You can help prevent any concerns related to touch by telling them about your psoriasis early on. This is especially important if sexual intimacy is a possibility and the skin in your genital area is affected. Make it clear that it’s not sexually transmitted, and that your partner has nothing to worry about.
Try opening with a question to break the ice: “Do you know what psoriasis is?” You could follow up with a bit of information framed in a way that doesn’t make them feel bad about their lack of awareness; that may also make them more compassionate to your side of the story: “Lots of people don’t know much about it, but it’s completely harmless if you’re not the one who has it, so you don’t have to worry.”
Let them know if they hurt your feelings
Having psoriasis can give you thick skin in more ways than one. But there are still times when comments can hurt. Instead of pushing the emotional pain aside, speak up about the insensitivity of others. You don’t have to make them feel bad about what they’ve said, but it is important they know their words were hurtful.
Tell them if they knew more about your condition, they wouldn’t have said what they said. And then take the opportunity for a teaching moment if you can, or come back to it later if you need time to cool off from the sting of their words. The next person they encounter with psoriasis will thank you for it.