Psoriasis, a skin disorder characterized by itchy scaly patches of thickened skin, can sometimes be simply annoying and yet for others can be pure torture. Approximately 1 to 3 percent of the general American population is affected by psoriasis, with at least 0.4 percent going undiagnosed. A recent study found a key association between psoriasis and the development of mental health problems in sufferers. Areas often affected by psoriasis are the scalp, elbows and knees.
Although psoriasis has been known to affect the quality of life of patients, few studies have been done to establish its adverse effects on the mental health of these patients. This is why Dr. Shanu Kuhli Kurd and colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania studied the information they collected from the United Kingdom’s electronic medical records from 1987 to 2002. Included in the study were more than 146,000 individuals with mild psoriasis, almost 4,000 with severe psoriasis and almost 767,000 without the disease. Their goal was to find out the incidence of depression, suicidality (i.e. thoughts of suicide and attempting or completing suicide) and anxiety in patients with psoriasis as compared to the population in general.
Results from the study indeed revealed that psoriasis patients were at increased risk of developing depression, suicidality and anxiety. In the UK alone, they estimated that due to psoriasis, more than 10,000 patients are diagnosed with depression every year; about 350 are diagnosed with suicidality each year; and at least 7,000 are diagnosed with anxiety per year. They also showed that younger patients and men in particular, with severe psoriasis have higher incidence of depression. Some studies have shown that men with psoriasis have excess alcohol intake, which may suggest that they are self-medicating their depression with alcohol consumption.
From these results, the researchers said that there is importance in identifying these psychiatric disorders because they can cause issues as serious as death, and because these psychiatric disorders can also be improved with the use of different pharmacological and non-pharmacological management. Further studies may need to be done to find the mechanisms on how psoriasis can bring about these psychiatric disorders, and to prevent these outcomes from happening.