Mastering Your PsA Care

6 Essential Sources of Psoriatic Arthritis Support

Building a support network can help you feel less alone as you navigate living with this chronic joint condition.

Medically Reviewed
friends out together exercising
Spending time outside with friends can help provide an essential source of social support and boost your mood.Michael DeYoung/Getty Images

Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that often occurs in people with psoriasis, a skin condition that leads to itchy, scaly lesions, often on the knees, elbows, torso, and scalp. Psoriatic arthritis typically affects the joints in the hands and feet and results in symptoms such as joint pain and swelling, as well as fatigue and nail changes.

But it’s not your grandfather’s arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis typically crops up in people ages 30 to 50. It can feel like an invisible disease, as not everyone can see the joint issues you’re dealing with. As a result, there’s a lot that’s misunderstood about the condition.

A lack of understanding among friends, family members, and even coworkers can affect your mental health. In some cases, it can even contribute to depression. According to a systematic review of people with the joint condition, 1 in 3 have anxiety and 1 in 5 deal with depression.

“For any chronic disease, including psoriatic arthritis or any other type of inflammatory arthritis, it’s essential to treat your emotional and mental health as seriously as your physical health,” says David Kung, MD, a board-certified rheumatologist at Austin Regional Clinic in Texas. “When mental health is unbalanced, it can result in increased pain and fatigue, impair work and personal relationships, and limit other activities of daily living. It can also impair your ability to get regular exercise, consume healthy meals, or manage your treatment plan effectively.”

Managing a chronic condition can also be a major source of stress, which can then make your psoriatic arthritis worse, adds Dr. Kung. The unpredictability of flare-ups can be a cause of stress and anxiety, making work and life planning more difficult. Meanwhile, the psoriasis-related skin lesions that often accompany psoriatic arthritis can be a?visible?source?of embarrassment and stress, he says.

Having a strong support system can make all the difference in helping you manage your mental health and reduce your stress and anxiety. Fortunately, many solutions and resources are available to help provide support. Here are a few to consider.

1. Be open with friends and family.

The fact that psoriatic arthritis can be less noticeable on the outside means others usually aren’t aware of the challenges you experience, which can make it especially difficult for them to understand what you’re going through. That’s why it’s important to be open with your loved ones about your condition and to explain your symptoms and why it may be difficult for you to perform tasks. Don’t be afraid to share with those you care about and trust; chances are, they’ll not only be empathetic, but also want to step in and help where they can.

2. Seek out psoriatic arthritis support groups.

Living with a chronic condition can make you feel isolated. Connecting with other people who are going through similar experiences can be helpful, notes Kung. You may be able to find communities through organizations such as the National Psoriasis Foundation and the Arthritis Foundation. You can also search on social media, because a Facebook community or group can be a great source to compare notes with others living with this chronic disease..

3. Consider joining a volunteer or advocacy group.

It can feel rewarding and fulfilling to give back to the psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis community. The National Psoriasis Foundation offers volunteer opportunities where you can serve as a mentor and share with others what you’ve learned about the condition. Or you can serve as an advocacy volunteer to educate others about the disease and even help influence government policy on relevant matters. You can also sign up for fundraising events for the organization or volunteer to share information on social media.

4. Research professional organizations.

Organizations such as the National Psoriasis Foundation and the Arthritis Foundation?can also help you stay in the know about upcoming events and conferences, which can serve as an opportunity to meet others living with psoriatic arthritis. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has made many of these?resources?less available and increased general stress from isolation and fear of infection while on?immunosuppression, notes Kung. Still, staying up to date can be worthwhile for organization updates, virtual events, and other opportunities to meet people.

5. Don’t rule out therapy or counseling.

It’s always wise to prioritize your mental health, even more so if you find your condition is causing a lot of anguish, stress, and low points.

“Managing mental health is usually best through multiple approaches, and generally, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” Kung says. “Some find help through friends or family, while others may need counseling or medications.” Be sure to open up to your healthcare provider about your mental and emotional health. They may be able to provide a referral to a therapist or counselor who can help.

6. Get some exercise — and make it a social activity.

Exercise is important for everyone, but especially for people who have psoriatic arthritis, as staying active can improve both the mental and physical aspects of managing the condition, says Kung.

“Exercising outdoors is even better, as the sunlight can likely improve psoriasis a little and help boost vitamin D,” he adds.

Take it a step further by meeting with a friend or family member for regular walks or jogs. The social time will not only boost your mood, but also provide an opportunity to fill in your loved ones on how you’re doing.