Any form of psoriasis can also affect a person’s mental health, and can contribute to depression and anxiety. “On a day-to-day basis it makes you sad to look at yourself, and it can cause a lot of social anxiety,” says psoriasis advocate Reena Ruparelia, who has the condition herself. 

MYTH #3: Psoriasis and eczema are the same thing

TRUTH: Another myth that Featherson’s heard is actually understandable, but that doesn’t make it any less false. Though psoriasis and eczema can both result in red, itchy skin, the two conditions have a few big differences, including their cause. 

While she says psoriasis is considered an autoimmune disease — basically, the immune system is out of whack and your skin cells multiply too fast — eczema isn’t. Instead, it’s usually caused by genetic and environmental factors. The symptoms can be different, too: Psoriasis causes thick, red patches of skin (plaques), whereas eczema (sometimes called atopic dermatitis) causes more of a standard itchy rash. 

MYTH #4: Psoriasis is contagious 

TRUTH: As if folks with psoriasis don’t feel isolated enough, Skiles says it’s common for people to assume her condition can spread through close contact. “They say, that’s contagious, you shouldn’t be in the swimming pool, we shouldn’t be around you or in close quarters, or I can catch it.” Henry emphasizes that’s absolutely not true — psoriasis isn’t a contagious disease, so even if you touch someone’s plaques with your bare skin, you’re not going to catch it. 

MYTH #5: A healthy diet can “cure” psoriasis 

TRUTH: According to Skiles, even if people realize what psoriasis actually is, they commonly recommend dietary changes to “cure” it. For example, she’s heard that eliminating gluten can improve or even “fix” psoriasis — but Henry says that’s just not true. 

“We recommend a healthy, well-rounded [diet] and a lot of foods we recommend eating anyway are naturally anti-inflammatory, but it’s not going to cure the psoriasis,” she says. “Go to the dermatologist and get proper treatment. There’s no magic cure.”

MYTH #6: Poor hygiene causes psoriasis

TRUTH: Because her plaques sometimes leave behind skin flakes everywhere from her computer keyboard to her clothes, Ruparelia says she’s found herself feeling and looking “dirty” — but that’s a harmful myth, and it perpetuates the stigma around the condition. Psoriasis is actually not caused by how often you shower or what soap you use. Instead, Henry says it’s a genetic, inflammatory condition, and it’s not caused by a person’s hygiene. 

MYTH #7: You can’t do anything to relieve psoriasis

TRUTH: While there’s no silver bullet to fix psoriasis overnight — that’s often the nature of chronic illness — there are plenty of science-backed treatments. Featherson says lifestyle changes like getting proper nutrition, avoiding smoking, and keeping stress at bay can help with psoriasis, and people with the condition can also use medications to manage their symptoms. “Drugs and topical creams do a really good job of treating psoriasis,” says Henry. “If you have it, speak with your dermatologist and make sure you have appropriate treatment.

Visit SELF’s My Way to Well information hub for more on Psoriasis.

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