Coping with the emotional ups and downs of psoriatic arthritis

Depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions are common in psoriatic arthritis. Seek diagnosis and treatment to benefit your overall health.

Coping with a chronic health condition can be exhausting, both mentally and physically. If you're living with psoriatic arthritis, you're likely all too familiar with an unpredictable cycle of pain and even disability, which may end as quickly as it started. Once you feel well again, it can be hard to stay positive, knowing that psoriatic arthritis symptoms may return without advance notice. This pattern may help explain why mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety, are common in psoriatic arthritis.

Fortunately, many effective treatments are available to help, from lifestyle changes to medications and talk therapy. Finding a treatment plan that works for you can benefit your overall health and well-being.

The connection between psoriatic arthritis and mental health

Studies suggest that these mental health conditions aren't simply an outcome of living with the pain and disability of psoriatic arthritis. Research has found that the chemicals that cause inflammation in psoriatic arthritis also appear to increase the risk of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses — with or without psoriatic arthritis.

Doctors don't yet understand the cause-and-effect relationship between psoriatic arthritis and mental health conditions. It is clear, however, that if you're affected by both, treating both will likely benefit your overall health.

Ask your doctor for help

Talk with your doctor if you feel persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness or anxiety. A number of approaches can help, including:

  • Prescription medications. Effective antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs are available. Some medications that are commonly prescribed for mood disorders, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can affect psoriatic arthritis symptoms. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits before starting — or stopping — any medication.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This structured program of talk therapy helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way. A 2015 study published in the journal Dermatology Research and Practice found that adding CBT to a psoriatic arthritis treatment plan reduces anxiety, depression, stress and the physical symptoms of the condition.
  • Stress management. Stress triggers an immune system-response that increases inflammation and can worsen your psoriatic arthritis symptoms. Finding effective ways to manage stress can help you cope better with psoriatic arthritis. Relaxation techniques such as yoga and deep breathing can be very effective. A healthy diet, exercise and social support also play a role in stress management.
  • Mindful meditation. This type of mind-body therapy involves focusing awareness on what you're experiencing in an open, interested and nonjudgmental way. The goal of mindfulness is to create distance in your response to certain situations or feelings, helping you react more thoughtfully and calmly. When added to psoriatic arthritis treatment, mindfulness practice can reduce pain and improve your ability to cope with difficult emotions.

Reach out to trusted resources

Talking about your feelings and concerns is a time-honored technique to cope with emotional ups and downs. Communicate openly with your friends, family and doctor. Support groups also can be a valuable resource for helping you cope. Ask your doctor for help finding a group in your area.

Jan. 06, 2017 See more In-depth