6 Ways to Move Past Anxiety About Dating When You Have Psoriasis
Did you grow up thinking that dating was supposed to be fun? While shows and movies make it seem glamorous, in most cases, it’s more stressful than fabulous. And while dating in the modern era is hard for a lot of people, for people with psoriasis, there can be even more pressure. Here, we’ll cover a few tips and tricks that will help you boost your confidence and lower your dating anxiety.
1. Remind Yourself That You’re Not Alone
When we meet someone new, we spend a lot of time thinking about the kind of impression we want to make. We want to highlight our good qualities and gloss over (or even cover up) the things that make us feel insecure. In fact, we often spend so much of our mental bandwidth worrying about ourselves, that we fail to notice how nervous our date is.
“It’s so important to remember that we tend to think the person we are dating is ‘perfect’ or free of medical or psychological issues,” says Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Sonoma County, California. “In truth, every person has something they don’t like about themselves. And, many people hide conditions—physical, mental, or other—out of fear of being rejected.”
Your date may not have plaques on their elbows, but chances are there is something they aren’t ready to reveal on the first date. With time, that will change as you become more comfortable with each other.
“When one new dating partner comes clean about their issues, the other person often feels relieved and is able to share a few of their own little issues or insecurities,” says Manly.
2. Build Your Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem can impact almost every area of our lives, but it’s particularly harmful our relationships. People with low self-esteem often enter into—or stay in—unhealthy relationships, settle for less than they deserve, and remain in constant fear of being left.
While our early experiences do play a role, self-esteem remains fluid throughout our lives. This means that if your self-esteem took a hit after your psoriasis diagnosis, you have the power to build it back up.
“When it comes to taking little steps to love one’s body more, it’s important to focus more on the parts of yourself that you love and less on the parts that might not seem so wonderful,” says Manly. “Neurobiologically, anything that we give our attention to, be it positive or negative, becomes more strongly hardwired in the brain.”
3. Educate Your Date
It’s important to remember that many people have never known someone with psoriasis. They may have no idea what it looks like or what it entails, so try to be patient with them.
“We fear what we do not understand,” says Steven Sultanoff, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist from Irvine, California. “You may need to educate the other person about your condition. Let them know what it is, how and why it develops, how you manage it, and answer any questions they might have.”
The more a new partner understands about your condition, the more prepared they’ll be to help you deal with future flares and treatments. But what about first dates, you may ask? If your psoriasis is out in the open, you may not have a chance to educate someone before they react.
“Owning your experience by being open about your condition in your dating profile, or prior to the first date, and providing some education to the potential date around what psoriasis is, can help to diffuse the anxiety folks feel in this situation,” says Haley Neidich, LCSW, a psychotherapist practicing in Connecticut and Florida.
4. Let the Real You Shine Through
Psoriasis may be a big part of your life, but it doesn’t define you. When you meet someone new, try not to be too guarded and allow the person to really get to know you.
“The first step to putting yourself out there is reminding yourself that you are not your psoriasis. There is way more to you!” says Christy Pennison, a licensed professional counselor and owner of Be Inspired Counseling & Consulting based in Alexandria, Louisiana. “You have many characteristics, strengths, qualities, and traits that are uniquely you, and they have nothing to do with the presence or absence of a physical condition.”
5. Don’t Catastrophize
Too many people with psoriasis stop dating because they fear rejection. But they are giving rejection more weight than it deserves. Catastrophizing is when we falsely believe that a bad outcome will crush us, when in reality it’s just a temporary setback. Rejection can hurt, there is no doubt about that. But it won’t break you. After all, rejection is a necessary component of dating. It’s how we weed out incompatible partners.
Take Katy Stage from the UK. When one of her dates rejected her because of her psoriasis, she rejected him right back!
“Someone saw a small piece on my leg and asked me if it was contagious…he looked disgusted by me,” says Katy. “Safe to say that [date] didn’t last five minutes!”
Never settle for anything less than total acceptance. If someone won’t accept you for something that is beyond your control, then they are not the one for you.
6. Be Open and Honest
If you want to move things to the next level with a new partner, it’s going to require a lot of open and honest communication. Be clear with the person about what you are and aren’t comfortable with. If you’re not comfortable being intimate during a flare-up, tell them why. Is it because you are in pain? Or because you don’t feel at your most attractive? You might be surprised to find that they want you, warts and all.
Look how well things worked out for Zoe Harvey from Glasgow:
“When I met my partner, my psoriasis wasn’t apparent,” she says. “I remember one day at work when I had a really bad flare. A woman at my work said, ‘What’s wrong with your skin?’”
Zoe says she was so embarrassed, she called her boyfriend crying, saying she wanted to cancel their plans that night. “He had never seen my skin at its worst. But he literally told me he didn’t care how bad it was.” So the pair kept their plans, and they’re still together to this day.
“He helps put cream on my back and puts horrible, smelly creams on my scalp,” says Zoe. “I couldn’t have asked for a better guy to accept me and my psoriasis. He is always there to listen when I have a meltdown, telling me it’s going to be alright.”