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 the unpredictable cycle of pain and, maybe, disability. Once you feel well again, it can be hard to stay positive, knowing that psoriatic arthritis symptoms may return without 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

Depression and anxiety are not simply the result of living with the pain and disability of psoriatic arthritis. Research suggests that the chemicals that trigger inflammation in psoriatic arthritis also appear to increase the risk of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses in people with psoriatic arthritis and those without the condition. In fact, people with psoriasis symptoms are twice as likely to have depression as the rest of the population.

Doctors don't yet fully understand the cause-and-effect relationship between psoriatic arthritis and mental health conditions. It's 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 have persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness or anxiety. Screening questionnaires are used to pinpoint any mental health disorder. A number of approaches can help you feel better, including:

  • Prescription medications. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs are available. Some drugs commonly prescribed for mood disorders, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may worsen psoriatic arthritis symptoms. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits before starting or stopping any medication.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a form of talk therapy that teaches you how to restructure negative thoughts so that you can respond to them in a more effective way. Research suggests that CBT reduces anxiety, depression, stress and the physical symptoms of arthritis.
  • Stress management. Stress triggers an immune system response that increases inflammation and can make your psoriatic arthritis symptoms worse. 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 helpful. A healthy diet, exercise and social support also play an important 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 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.

Also, ask your doctor about your psoriatic arthritis treatment. People on biologics tend to report fewer depression symptoms.

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 can also be a valuable resource for helping you cope. Ask your doctor for help finding a group in your area.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

Feb. 25, 2022 See more In-depth