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Psoriasis, Mental Health, and Bathing

Psoriasis, Mental Health, and Bathing

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month each year and August also marks the last full month of summer and the start dry winter environments for the northern hemisphere. Dry winter climates increase the chances of dry and inflamed skin, and many psoriasis patients find great comfort in bathing in warm water. More specifically, many psoriasis patients find that bath bomb ingredients such as baking soda, salt, and citric acid can help soothe angry and inflamed skin. - Join us October 29th 2022 as we recognize World Psoriasis Day

Visible skin diseases like psoriasis not only affect us physically, but create stressful experiences that can negatively affect our mental health. People not only have to deal with the physical inflammation and pain, but they have to deal with the mental anguish of looking different in social environments or public places. A 2022 scientific review found that psoriasis patients were 1.5 times more likely to suffer from depression or mental health related symptoms. Furthermore, the review found that pro-inflammatory skin biomarkers were elevated in psoriasis patients suffering from poor mental health, thus creating a vicious cycle of stress and chronic inflammation. Keep reading to learn how psoriasis affects our mental health and how bathing can help.   

What is Psoriasis? 

Psoriasis is an incurable autoimmune skin disease that affects 2% of the global population. While there is no known root cause of this condition, researchers have concluded that it is a problem with the immune system and genetics play a role. Psoriasis is a condition where our skin cells regenerate at a rapid rate creating an inflamed autoimmune response from our immune system. The visual impacts of psoriasis can be slight or extensive and inflammation typically occurs on the limbs, trunks, face, and scalp. 

While psoriasis impacts a person's physical health, the long-term redness and immaculate scaling on the nails and face can cause severe physiological distress, ultimately affecting mental health. With this in mind, those with psoriasis and those around them should take the necessary measures to ensure their mental health remains in check. Furthermore, psoriasis has been linked to arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and cardiovascular diseases. All health issues that may be better managed with the help of warm water bathing. 

The cruel nature of psoriasis is that it is a disease that is believed to be triggered by stress and the physical appearance of the disease can cause even more stress to build. On the surface psoriasis occurs as a skin disease, but at its very roots it is an autoimmune disease. Symptoms of psoriasis will consist of abnormally dry, itchy and painful skin. This is caused by an overproduction of new skin cells (keratinocyte cells) that aren’t mature enough to replace the old cells. This results in raised patches on the skin. For years the pharmaceutical industry has struggled to find a cure to the emotional and physically painful skin disease of psoriasis current efforts consist of using high doses of steroids that many patients find ineffective. 

Plaque  & Pustular Psoriasis

One should be mindful that Psoriasis isn't a single condition and not everyone has the same symptoms. 

The most common type of Psoriasis is Plaque Psoriasis. This condition is characterized by dry and raised areas of skin that are deemed as plaque. The color of your plaque depends on the skin color of the person affected by the condition.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, people with darker skin experience plaque of brown or violet colors with gray scales, while those with lighter skin tones tend to develop red or pink plaques with silvery white scales.

The plaques generally can appear anywhere but are usually observed on the torso, knees, elbows, genital areas, and scalp. In many instances, these flare ups are incredibly itchy and can be sore. 

Other than Plaque Psoriasis, pustular psoriasis is one common condition that causes pus-filled blisters to erupt on the hand, feet, and fingertips. Moreover, the Center for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) estimates that people living with psoriasis also experience psoriasis arthritis, which causes their joints to swell and become extremely painful.

Psoriasis and the Psychological Impacts it has on the Mental Health

People with psoriasis experience long-term swelling, blistering and physical discomfort, but they also become highly conscious of how they look. Surveys conclude that around 10-62 % of Psoriasis patients experience a decline in their mental health and psychological condition. Another survey conducted by Health Union found that an astonishing 86% of psoriasis patients felt embarrassed and 81% felt that their skin disease had negatively affected their mental health. Some mental health impacts patients with psoriasis experience are:

  • They tend to be socially isolated because of the low self-esteem and decline in self-worth they experience.
  • The guilt, shame, and embarrassment are evident in a large majority because they feel conscious of their appearance after suffering from long-term blisters.
  • Needing help in everyday activities like taking a shower or even changing clothes tends to cause a feeling of helplessness and, in many cases, can lead to depression or deprive them of the will to lead life.
  • People with Psoriasis tend to experience depression because of the decreased quality of life they experience. Surveys have estimated that 10% of patients develop suicidal ideations too.
  • Stress triggers are one of the most common psychological conditions affecting the patient's mental health. It has been observed that almost 43-68% of the patients experience stress with this autoimmune condition.

With emotions like stress and anxiety being observed in most patients with this condition, the question has been raised, is there a link between psoriasis and stress? 

Stress and Psoriasis – The Link

Psoriasis is considered a stress induced disease that cannot be cured, but there are many natural therapies to help manage the symptoms. The best remedies to managing flare-ups and symptoms involve reducing stress with lifestyle changes. More specifically, warm baths, showers, or saunas can help reduce stress and help you better manage your psoriasis flare-ups. 

Stress related skin diseases are on the rise and according to various studies and the National Psoriasis Foundation, Psoriasis and stress have a complex connection that can create a vicious circle or never-ending loop of physical and mental pain. Stress can contribute to psoriasis and psoriasis can contribute to stress, therefore, stress is labeled as a known trigger for Psoriasis flares. Scientists are in agreement that psoriasis is a stress induced disease and managing the symptoms involves managing your stress levels. 

While it is evident that a skin condition like Psoriasis can trigger stress in people, make them worry about their appearance, and decrease their self-esteem. The question is, can Stress itself trigger psoriasis?

The answer is yes, but it doesn't mean that any person that is exposed to chronic stress will get psoriasis. The condition and its occurrences are mainly dependent on genes. According to an MD, assistant professor of Dermatology at NYU Langone Health, stress alone cannot cause Psoriasis. If one gets psoriasis flare-ups due to stress, the person already has a long line of predisposing genes that result in the condition. Around 80 types of genes that flare up psoriasis are observed.

However, why stress causes Psoriasis is something even researchers cannot pinpoint yet. The best theory is that those with an underlying Psoriasis gene tend to have a problem with their hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This system controls their body's reaction to stress.

With the stress controller weaker in action and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which helps tone down inflammation, the body starts to react in negative ways. Hence, inflammation occurs, and many people develop Psoriasis. With the fact that stress can trigger Psoriasis, the question arises can stress make your Psoriasis worse?

Well, yes, it can! If not controlled, stress can lead to severe and extreme symptoms of psoriasis. Hence, stress management or therapy is of utmost importance for those who developed Psoriasis because of stress triggers. Furthermore, psoriasis patients should avoid activities or lifestyle changes that may compound the problem, such as drinking alcohol, smoking, and eating a poor diet. More specifically, researchers have reported that psoriasis patients have a tendency to drink more alcohol due to depression symptoms and this is a step in the wrong direction. 

Bathing With Psoriasis 

Is bathing beneficial for psoriasis? 

Yes and no, scientific studies have shown that warm water baths are a “simple therapy for psoriasis”, but hot water bathing or using irritating soaps may cause psoriasis to worsen.  

Warm water bathing will naturally reduce your stress levels, but bathing for 20 minutes in warm water can also help you manage psoriasis by softening up psoriasis scales and minimizing itching and inflammation.

Furthermore, studies have suggested that psoriasis patients have a much higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and warm water bathing is also beneficial for the heart. 
“We used to think that psoriasis was a condition that was solely limited to the skin. However, in the last 5 to 10 years, what has become apparent is that the skin findings are really a sign of the inflammation that exists in the body,” - Abby Van Voorhees, MD

Do Baths Relieve Stress? 

If you’re looking for alternative therapies to better manage your psoriasis and prevent flare ups, then you have to start with the stress relieving properties of bathing. 

All evidence suggests that a short 15 minute dip in warm or hot water can boost your mood and is a natural therapy for managing depression, anxiety, and chronic stress. - Many scientists believe that adding bathing and heat therapy to your self-care routine can work better than traditional antidepressants. Studies have also reported warm foot baths may reduce anxiety

What are the best bath soak additives for psoriasis? 

The short answer is baking soda

Yes, kitchen baking soda has been found to soothe skin for generations and modern day science has confirmed the therapeutic properties of baking soda. Baking soda increases the alkaline properties of the water and provides an enjoyable experience that is similar to bathing in a mineral bath. One study found that 350-500 grams of baking soda in a tub created significant improvements for mild to moderate psoriasis patients. 

Outside of baking soda, salt that is rich in magnesium, potassium, and calcium has been found to be beneficial for psoriasis. In the study a warm water solution of 5% dead sea salt was use to submerge patient's arms for 15 minutes. Compared to the control ground, the dead sea salt soak enhance hydration, reduced roughness, and reduced inflammation for 6 weeks after the treatment.  

Bathing is great for our mental health and the physical symptoms that come with psoriasis flare ups, but bathing won’t cure your skin disease. Bathing is a great way to relax, reduce stress, and soften the psoriasis scales. 

Conclusion

While Psoriasis can cause several mental health conditions, stress is one factor that is closely linked to it. This is because psoriasis and stress interlink, and one can cause the other. With this deep understanding, those with psoriasis should see a dermatologist for their skin condition, consult a counselor for their stress management therapies, and get plenty of rest & relaxation while bathing. 

Product Disclaimer: The bath bombs and personal care products that are manufactured by Spa-Da have no proven medical benefits and have not been studied to prevent or manage psoriasis. This article is for informational purposes only and our products are for cosmetic purposes only.