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Dating is rarely easy for anyone. But when you live with a disfiguring skin disease like psoriasis, you have another layer of anxiety to add to the everyday stresses of finding a partner. For many people living with the condition, insecurities about their appearance and fear of rejection get in the way of romance. But having psoriasis doesnt have to prevent you from finding your happily ever after—and in some ways, it might even help.

How to break the news
Unlike sexually transmitted diseases, psoriasis is not contagious. But as with STDs, most people want to explain psoriasis to people they're dating so that they're prepared when they see it and understand they can't catch it. That's tricky, because you may fear that telling the truth is a one-way ticket to rejection.

“The common question people ask is, will my condition be the deal-breaker?” says Allan F. Chino, PhD, a psychologist in private practice with Functional Pain Solutions in Tigard, Ore., and an assistant clinical professor of medicine at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. “If it is," says Chino, "its a sign that the relationship wasnt meant to be.” In that way, the disease serves almost as a litmus test for future mates by separating the good from the bad right out of the gate.
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At least that's the way Victoria Gardner Nye, 35, from Cambridge, Mass., sees it. “When I was dating, before I got married, my psoriasis had to come up right away for me because it was on my hands, face, and neck,” says Gardner Nye. “I was lucky enough to have that as an ice-breaker to see how the person felt about it right away.”

If clothing covers your lesions, you have a little more time to broach the topic. Here's how to do it when you're ready.

[ pagebreak ] Timing is everything
Wait until you have developed some comfort with the person. Rebecca Ross, PhD, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, suggests waiting for the relationship to develop enough that you trust that the person will respond in a caring and respectful way. She says, “It is usually not a huge issue if the emotional relationship has been developed already.”

Anne Krolikowski, 35, of Milwaukee, Wis., doesnt feel the need to blurt it out immediately. “I think its one of those things that if it comes up in conversation, great,” she says. "You don't need to say it on a first, second, or third date. If it hasnt come up, Ill mention it when the relationship is getting to the point of being intimate.”

Experts and people with psoriasis agree that telling someone before the relationship is about to get physical works best so its not a surprise and doesnt bring the fun to a halt.

Find your own approach
Krolikowski prefers to tell potential boyfriends in a confident and direct manner. "I explain that my immune system is misreading things and my body is producing more skin cells than it should. 'This is what it looks like,'" I say. 'It's not contagious, and I got it from my dad.' Then I try to answer their questions as best as I can."

Telling a partner in such a way could work to your advantage, explains Chino. “If the partner sees that you have confidence in yourself with this condition, they will probably be more attracted to you,” he says.