Psoriasis is a common condition, affecting 1.5-2% of the population of industrialized countries. It is important for clinicians to be aware that psoriasis can have a substantial emotional impact on an individual, which is not necessarily related to the extent of skin disease. This review examines current literature addressing the psychological and emotional aspects of psoriasis. A literature search of the MEDLINE (1966-2002) and PsycINFO (1984-2002) computer databases and bibliographies was carried out. Papers selected for the review included English language reviews and all original research relevant to the topic, in the form of randomized controlled trials, cohort studies, case-control studies, cross-over and uncontrolled clinical trials, patient surveys, quality-of-life studies, case series and case reports. Despite significant shortcomings, the available prevalence studies showed uniformly high rates of psychopathology among psoriasis sufferers. The few intervention studies available are summarized and critically discussed. Psoriasis is associated with a variety of psychological problems, including poor self esteem, sexual dysfunction, anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. The clinical severity of the psoriasis may not reflect the degree of emotional impact of the disease. A number of psychological interventions have shown promise in recent trials. It is important that clinicians consider the psychosocial aspects of this illness.
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