Talk Therapy for Psoriatic Arthritis? Here’s How It Can Make a Difference

By | July 25, 2022

Research shows that unmanaged anxiety and depression can reduce the likelihood of achieving psoriatic arthritis remission. Since psoriatic arthritis and mental health are so distinctly connected, particularly anxiety and depression, those diagnosed with the condition may want to consider talk therapy as part of their treatment plan.

In fact, up to 20% of people with psoriatic arthritis have been diagnosed with depression as well.

Choosing therapy as part of a treatment plan isn’t always easy. But therapy can be an important tool in managing anxiety and depression, and ultimately, stress, which is considered to be a major trigger for psoriatic arthritis flares.

Now, with so many different types of mental health therapy available, there’s no such thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to what type of treatment is right for you.

If you’re considering talk therapy as a way to manage your psoriatic arthritis, here’s everything you need to know about the connection between the two, the benefits and types of therapy, and the outlook.

What does talk therapy have to do with psoriatic arthritis?

Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, like joint and skin problems, can have a major impact on quality of life. Fatigue, pain, and skin patches can all cause mental distress, which can ultimately lead to anxiety or depression.

In fact, people diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis have a higher risk of developing depression for that reason. Research shows this can lead to unhelpful coping mechanisms, creating a cycle where one’s behavioral responses to things like stress or flares can worsen existing symptoms.

Dr. Jacob Hascalovici, chief medical officer and pain specialist at Clearing, a telehealth platform for those with chronic pain, says psoriatic arthritis and depression “can feed each other.” “Exhaustion, fatigue, social stigma, and pain that can accompany psoriatic arthritis can both hasten and worsen depression,” he explains.

“Conversely, depression can increase stress levels, in turn worsening arthritis symptoms. In both conditions, pain may be felt more intensely, stress may be more difficult to manage, inflammation may be higher, and chemical signaling that supports a good mood may be impaired.”

That’s where therapy comes into the picture. Not only can therapy help you learn healthy coping mechanisms for psoriatic arthritis, but it can also teach you how to identify and manage triggers associated with anxiety or depression, among other mental health concerns.

Plus, therapy offers a safe space and outlet to discuss your feelings. Since inflammation, pain, fatigue, and mental health are all intertwined, therapy can be used to address mental health, ultimately benefiting the other elements of the condition.

Benefits of talk therapy for psoriatic arthritis

Therapy can have a huge impact on psoriatic arthritis. For starters, therapy is an important way to promote a positive representation of the condition.

It can help you flip the switch from a negative viewpoint of psoriatic arthritis to a neutral view, like acceptance, or even a positive one. It can help you understand your thought patterns and behaviors, essentially teaching you skills to prevent the condition from making you feel powerless (or crummy in other ways).

Therapy can also be a great way to develop strategies to manage pain and fatigue, in addition to helping you learn how to successfully stick to those strategies.

In fact, psychosocial interventions like therapy have actually been associated with improved immune system functioning, which is important in managing and preventing psoriatic arthritis flares.

Regaining your power over anxiety and depression can yield a ton of benefits, improving everything from sleep, to mood, to even the severity of your symptoms.

Types of talk therapy for psoriatic arthritis

There are several types of therapy available, many of which can be beneficial for those with psoriatic arthritis. Here are a few to consider that experts recommend trying:

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Hascalovici says cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is hailed as a leading therapeutic approach for depression and insomnia, among other mental health needs.

“CBT is largely based on recognizing unhelpful thought patterns and behavioral habits, and learning to substitute new patterns and habits,” he explains. “It can even help control inflammation.”

How? By reducing stress, people eliminate one of the main triggers for inflammation.

As an alternative to CBT, a newer form of therapy called acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) can be helpful for people living with chronic pain.

The goals of ACT therapy are to help people:

  • Accept that certain difficulties (e.g., pain, disappointment, anxiety) are simply a part of life.
  • Learn how to adapt to these difficulties rather than try to remove them altogether.

A 2017 review suggests ACT may be an effective method for helping people cope with chronic pain.

Brief psychodynamic therapy

Brief psychodynamic therapy can provide a window into your inner monologue.

“With psychodynamic therapy, people can learn more about their own thoughts and feelings, so they can better understand how they tend to handle stress, loneliness, and other potentially negative experiences,” Hascalovici says.

“Through this heightened understanding, people can learn more about their own strengths and abilities to problem-solve, including with problems related to psoriatic arthritis.”

Mindfulness-based therapy

Mindfulness-based therapy can be used to help “stay in the now,” so to speak.

“Mindfulness-based therapy encourages patients to focus more on each moment, maintaining awareness in a way that tends to reduce pain and promote more enjoyment,” Hascalovici says. “Mindfulness-based therapy can help counter depression and negativity that may accompany psoriatic arthritis.”

The takeaway

Up to 1 in 5 people with psoriatic arthritis have also been diagnosed with depression. That’s why making mental health a priority matters.

Talk therapy can help you not only cope with anxiety and depression but also with flares or symptoms of psoriatic arthritis.

To learn more about the benefits of talk therapy for psoriatic arthritis, ask your doctor if exploring this treatment option may be right for you.

It’s important to keep in mind there are therapists who specialize in working with people with chronic pain and chronic medical conditions. Not all therapists are qualified to do this work, so you should look for these specific qualifications and experience.

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