When you’re living with psoriatic arthritis (PsA), confidence sometimes hides behind the dryer like a missing sock. You know, the one you just gave up reaching for because, hey, it hurts.
We get it. Having PsA can lead to worry about painful flare-ups or concern over visible symptoms — especially if you also have skin involvement with psoriasis.
Plus, fatigue, stress, depression, mood changes, body image issues, and more can all pile on and have a major effect on your quality of life, not to mention your sense of cool.
But a few factors can help you feel more on top of your game. Here’s how to increase your confidence when PsA is kicking your keister.
Cue that “the more you know” clip from the ’80s. It may sound cheesy, but knowledge really is power.
According to a small 2013 study of people with chronic illness, gaining information and insight about their condition became a source of strength and helped them feel empowered. And we’re all about empowerment.
The Arthritis Foundation’s page on PsA is always a great resource. And never hesitate to ask your healthcare provider for more information as things crop up.
The National Psoriasis Foundation also has a tool to help you prepare questions and goals for an appointment. Yeah, it’s a little homework for you, but it helps combat a case of the freeze-ups when the white coat and stethoscope appear. (It happens to the best of us, really.)
Don’t forget that you’re also an expert on PsA. As the National Psoriasis Foundation says, “Who knows more about psoriatic disease than the people who live with it every day?” Well, duh!
The foundation created Citizen Pscientist (CP), an online research network that connects people living with psoriatic disease. Basically, it’s a hive mind where you can explore existing data, discuss it with others who also have PsA, and contribute valuable information to potential new research projects.
A 2018 study found that “CP is a powerful tool that empowers the psoriatic disease community by allowing patients to take ownership in learning more about their disease and to contribute back through self-directed research.”
Fearing what others will think or how they’ll react to your needs can be a big confidence killer. Being open about your condition with family, friends, and other loved ones can help boost your self-assurance.
Having to play educator on top of managing a chronic illness can feel pretty dang unfair, but the symptoms of PsA can be both visible and invisible. While invisibility may be a sought-after superhero quality, it complicates chronic illness.
Invisible symptoms make it hard for others to know you have a condition or that you’re having a flare-up, something that’s characteristic of PsA.
The reality of living with PsA is that self-care is incredibly important. Sometimes having PsA means finding alternatives to certain plans, activities, or foods, and sometimes it means having to say “no” altogether — like when Susan wants you to help her move her piano.
Hopefully, you don’t have a lot of Susans in your life who just don’t get it. Instead, may your life be filled with those who do try to understand. Their efforts to support you may not always be perfect, but at least you’ll feel buoyed by their attempts.
Chronic illness can be physically draining, and you probably already know PsA has a mental load as well. A 2017 review of studies on the psychosocial burden of PsA found that the disease takes a heavy toll on quality of life, one that can be as big as it is for people who have a cancer diagnosis.
People who have PsA have an increased risk of depression. They also often deal with sleep issues, fatigue, stress, and anxiety, all factors that can worsen PsA pain, leading to a vicious cycle.
Body image issues can also arise, particularly if skin inflammation and swelling are a factor or when pain gets in the way of your favorite activities. With all PsA’s impacts on mental health, seeking support is crucial. Close friends and family can lend an ear to help boost your morale.
But you may also crave support from people who truly get what you’re going through. The Arthritis Foundation can connect you with one of its peer-led local Live Yes! groups.
A therapist can also help provide professional support and coping strategies for your unique needs.
PsA doesn’t currently have a cure, and that can feel discouraging to say the least. But the lack of a cure doesn’t mean the condition gets to be the boss of you.
Focusing on the things that make you feel better can put you in charge and make you feel more confident in the face of chronic illness. For example, take all your prescribed medications as directed by your doctor to stay ahead of pain and flare-ups.
If your medications aren’t helping, talk to your doctor to see if changes are an option. In some cases, remission of PsA (what experts call “a minimal disease activity state”) is possible.
Changing what you eat may also help. The Arthritis Foundation recommends noshing on plenty of fruits and veggies and avoiding sugar, which can promote inflammation.
The Medical Board of the National Psoriasis Foundation conducted a systematic review of 55 studies to make recommendations about diet for patients with PsA.
The board determined that supplementation with vitamin D may be beneficial, and some people may find relief from a gluten-free diet, if they are found to have gluten sensitivity. Check with your doctor to see if dietary changes or supplements make sense for you.
Although movement can be painful when you have PsA, exercise can stave off stiffness. The Arthritis Foundation recommends aiming for 150 minutes of exercise per week.
Opt for joint-friendly low impact movements that get your heart rate up, like swimming, biking, or even brisk walking. Those types of exercises will also flood your body with mood-boosting endorphins.
It’s also a good idea to build muscle, which can help protect and support inflamed joints. A 2017 study of 41 people with PsA found that resistance training improved their functional capacity and quality of life.
Doing muscle-strengthening activities just a few times a week can bring on the benefits while pumping up your confidence.
Managing a chronic condition like PsA definitely puts way more on your adulting plate than the average person’s. Visible and invisible symptoms can mount stress and sometimes derail your sense of self-assurance.
The above tips can help you take back a little control over PsA, so your confidence can be less like that forever-lost sock and more like that $20 you just found in the pocket of your jeans.