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How skin disease left me on verge of suicide

A Dublin woman has revealed how psoriasis, a disease that most regard as superficial, caused her to come "close to suicidal".

Denise McGowan developed the condition when she was three years old and by the time she was in her teens, as it spread on most areas of her body, she started to feel like an outcast.

"Most people think that psoriasis is just a 'skin thing', but it's not, it affects your immune system, for some people it causes arthritis, but it also has a profound psychological effect on people," the 32-year-old Clonsilla native told the Herald.

"When I was very small it wasn't too much of an issue, I wasn't worried about my appearance, some treatments were painful but as a little one, I dealt with it very well.



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"As I got older, it got more and more difficult, I had to cover up, I started getting it on my legs, my arms, my chest, my scalp -- and it's a vicious circle, the more you have it, the more you might scratch at it and it only gets worse.

"It came to a point where I was in hospital for three weeks, and I was close to suicidal in my teenage years.

"I felt so isolated, there was no one in my school who had it and I would get a lot of remarks.

"It was nothing physical but you'd be told: 'I hope you don't go near the same hairdresser as me' and so on. I had very few friends.

"My parents were brilliant but I didn't confide in them, I was really quiet, but they'd do anything for me so when they realised, I left school and got a fresh start elsewhere."

A new study sponsored by healthcare company Abbott has revealed that nearly one in two patients living with moderate-to-severe psoriasis are more affected by the disease psychologically than physically.

According to the Psoriasis Uncovered survey, a patient's mental health can sometimes be a source of more concern than the lesions which appear on their skin as a result of this chronic autoimmune disease.

A clinical psychologist at Queen's University Belfast, Dr Kate Russo explained this disease can often lead to "depression and severe anxiety" as sufferers lose their self-esteem and try to avoid social situations.

In Ireland, over 100,000 suffer from the disease and in the long run, they may feel like "this can impact upon their ability to meet a partner; or they may avoid intimacy which can interfere with a long term relationship," Dr Russo said.

"This can result in not being able to live their lives in the way that they would wish, which can be very upsetting. Even choices of career can be influenced by psoriasis."

hnews@herald.ie