In the television special Fear and Faith featuring Derren Brown, the hypnotist and illusionist gave participants a placebo to treat all kinds of different conditions. These ranged from crippling social anxiety, to phobias, to smoking, to psoriasis. By the end of course, he had shown how the power of belief is enough to overcome all kinds of conditions (it wouldn't be a very rewarding program if he didn't) and most participants were cured of their shortcomings. One person with extreme social anxiety even found themselves breaking up a (staged) bar fight.
It's understandable to see how Derren's imaginary drug 'Rumyodin' (an anagram for 'your mind') could overcome psychological and psychosomatic problems such as addictions and phobias but it might seem more surprising to many that something seemingly so physical – like psoriasis – could be cured by a placebo alone. It almost suggests a somewhat psychosomatic cause may be underlying the problem.
So what could be the cause of a theoretical 'stress psoriasis'? How does stress lead to skin problems?
Psoriasis is actually considered a disease of the immune system and has a genetic component. That said though, there are also many 'triggers' that can cause it to appear or disappear. Cold weather, strep infections and injuries to the skin can all cause psoriasis to flare up – and stress is just another trigger.
Stress psoriasis may be caused by chemical messengers called neuropeptides. These can cause pain, itching and inflammation. This is all part of a normal immune response but seeing as those with psoriasis have an overactive immune system, this can then cause stress psoriasis breakouts.
Stress is not the sole cause in any case of psoriasis then but it can nevertheless be one of the main causes of breakouts for a lot of people and getting your stress under control will often have the added effect of reducing the psoriasis.
With that said, what can you do to combat these stress psoriasis outbreaks?
As with any stress symptoms, the objective here will be to avoid stressful situations and circumstances where possible. Often we can look at stress symptoms like psoriasis as our body's way of telling us that we are taking on too much and need to slow down. This is an added incentive to take that seriously and to avoid letting your lifestyle become too hard to cope with.
The leading causes of stress are money and workplace issues. Often then, a change of career is one of the best ways to combat stress in the long term. Alternatively, you can focus on just taking more time off from work and booking yourself holidays.
What's also important though is to address the way that you combat stress. Our stress response is in fact not so much regulated by the situations we are put in as much as by our perception of those situations. Breathing techniques and thinking tools taught by cognitive behavioral therapy can be very effective in helping us to deal with stress more calmly and effectively.