“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened” wrote the author Mark Twain. Sound familiar? If you know the crippling fear associated with anxiety, you aren’t alone. In fact, 37% of people with PsA suffer from anxiety,1 over twice the typical number of adults.2 So why is anxiety so common for people with PsA? And if it is something that you face, then how can you look for help?
First off, let’s take a step back to figure out what anxiety is. It’s an incredibly tricky thing to define, largely because it’s a very personal experience – we all have different triggers for what makes us feel anxious, and that horrible feeling can manifest in different ways. But scientists believe anxiety can be defined by the following four reactions in our bodies:1
- Physical reactions - heart racing, palpitations, legs feeling weak, stomach churning, muscle tension, and dry mouth, to name but a few.
- Moods/feelings – nervous, frightened or panicky, feeling the need to escape and get to a safe place.
- Behaviors – avoiding social situations due to concerns about being asked about your PsA.
- Thoughts – thinking in a negative, unhelpful way e.g. “Everyone is looking at my patches of dry skin”.
So now we know the key signs of anxiety, why does it affect so many of us living with PsA? Well, the gut-punch of having to manage anxiety and PsA in tandem is that one can often exacerbate the other, making a vicious circle that can be really hard to break. Simply put, the emotional toll of living with PsA symptoms on a daily basis can lead to stress and anxiety, worsening the condition. As symptoms become more severe, this can impact on sleep and cause even more stress, further increasing anxiety levels.
If this is a cycle you recognize, then it’s really important to remember that you are not alone! And ensure that you have a strong network of support and resources available.
A combination of the following might help:
- A doctor or a mental health professional can help you to develop coping strategies and learn to recognize the early stages of anxiety – raise how you are feeling at your next consultation and don’t dismiss it as not relevant or something you just have to endure
- Talking to your family and friends to make sure that they’re aware you’re feeling anxious ensures that they can give you day to day encouragement and reassurance – a problem shared is a problem halved and all!
- Mindfulness exercises are all the rage at the moment and have been scientifically proven to help combat anxiety; read all about our favorite free resources here.
- In a moment of anxiety our breathing pattern often changes, becoming fast and irregular.3 Taking deep, slow breaths in and out is a quick and easy way of calming the body and helping to stop physical symptoms in their tracks
Be sure to take the time to explore which coping mechanisms work best for you, and don’t forget that the PsA and Me community is here whenever you need us. If you have other tips that you’ve found to be great, then don’t be shy, share them on any of our social channels.