When Victoria Gardner Nye was diagnosed with psoriasis in 1990 at the age of 17, the stigma she faced each day stung. "People talked; they said I had AIDS," she says. "They called me a leper and backed away. I cried because I didn't know how to deal with it. Now I just let them move away from me. It's their choice."
Seek out support
While it can take time to build emotional defenses against hurtful comments, Ross recommends finding support to help lessen the pain. "Sometimes we need to seek validation from friends, family, support groups, or a counselor to decrease the effects of the behavior of uninformed people," she says.
Some people with psoriasisespecially the newly diagnosedprefer to cover lesions on their arms and legs by wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants year-round. In fact, a survey done by the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) found that 40% of people living with the condition concealed it with clothes. But that strategy can be uncomfortable in areas with particularly hot summers, and some people experience psoriasis on parts of the body (the face, hands, or head) that are difficult to hide.
How to educate others
Whether you're blindsided by a stranger in the grocery store or just befriending a coworker at the office, the question is bound to come up: "What's that on your arm?" In fact, over 25% of people with psoriasis say they explain their condition to other people one to three times per week. Educating people about the disease can greatly reduce stigma and increase understandingthat is, if people will listen.
Dealing with discrimination
Public swimming pools and workplaces are common locations to encounter prejudice, but in some cases the law may protect you from outright discrimination.