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How to Ask for Help When You Need It

By Claire Gillespie
February 24, 2021

Having a good support system is crucial when you have psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. It can be overwhelming, to say the least, dealing with the practical, emotional, and mental challenges of psoriatic disease on your own. Let’s face it: There are going to be bad days; and, sometimes, we all need help getting through them. But offering support doesn’t come naturally to everyone––and neither does asking for it.

Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable

“Asking for help requires vulnerability,” says Amy Rollo, a family counselor in Houston, Texas. “Sending the message, ‘I’m having difficulty and need assistance’ involves sharing a side of ourselves that we might not want others to see. Many people see vulnerability as a weakness.”

But in fact, the opposite is true. “Showing vulnerability takes strength,” Rollo says. So, switching up your mindset may make asking for help a little easier. “It takes courage to ask for help—remember that when you need extra support,” Rollo says.

Give Them the Full Scoop

New York City-based Maria S., 41, knows how difficult it can be to ask for help. She has psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, and during a particularly painful flare-up, she needs to rely on friends and family to help her with basic everyday chores, as well as with getting to medical appointments.

“When I first got my diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis two years ago, I needed more help than ever,” she says. “To make sure my family understood what kind of things they might have to help me with, I sat down with them and explained exactly what psoriatic disease is and how it impacts a person’s life.” She says the more her friends and family have started to understand her chronic condition, the more they have been willing to help.

“Everybody in my personal support network knows what psoriasis is (an autoimmune disease resulting from an overactive immune system), that the cause is still unknown, and that there’s no cure,” Maria says. “Plus, of course, they know what my individual common triggers and symptoms are and what meds I take to manage the condition.”

Get Specific About What You Need

If you think it might help, invite your friend or family member to go with you to your next doctor’s appointment. This gives them the opportunity to ask questions about triggers, treatments, and any other aspects of psoriasis. Hopefully, your doctor will also emphasize how important support is to someone with the condition.

Maria recommends being specific about what you need. “In my experience, people are more willing to help when I’m very clear about what I need from them on a certain date or at a set time. For example, I might say, ‘I’m experiencing a really bad flare and can’t drive. Can you pick up some things from the store for me tomorrow?’”

Offer Help in Return

If you can’t shake your guilt around asking for help, there’s no reason you can’t repay the favor. “Let the person know that it’s important to you to help them out with something in return,” suggests Heidi McBain, a therapist in Flower Mound, Texas. Also, think about the times you’ve asked for help in the past and how much better you felt after doing so, and think about how you feel after you help someone, suggests McBain. It’s likely pretty good.

There’s actually a name for the feel-good effect of doing charitable deeds: helper’s high. The psychological theory behind it says that acts of kindness produce a natural endorphin high. “Remind yourself that you are actually keeping others feeling this way if you ask them for help when you need it,” McBain says.

And if asking for help face-to-face is simply too difficult for you, it’s absolutely fine to do it by phone, text or email.

Look Outside Your Usual Circle

Asking for help can be even more difficult if you just don’t feel like your loved ones care. If those relationships are toxic, or if you don’t feel they’ll respond to your request in a positive way, you need to consider finding a support system elsewhere. If your family won’t support you, turn to friends or a support group. “Find the people you trust and lean on them for support,” Rollo says. It’s not unusual to find that different people meet different needs. Your neighbor might be great at offering practical help, while your best friend might be the one who’s happy to pick your kids up from school, for example.

The people who are the most helpful to you are often those who know exactly what you’re going through, so take every chance you get to talk with other people living with psoriasis. Not only can they provide emotional support, but they can also offer practical tips and recommend resources and doctors in your area. Your network doesn’t even have to be a “real life” group—don’t underestimate the value of online communities and support groups like our psoriasis community!

“Nothing beats support from other people with psoriasis,” Maria says. “They just get it. They can empathize on your bad days, when your skin is so itchy you want to rip it off. And on your good days, they’re your loudest cheerleaders. They know how big those ‘small’ triumphs are.” And being active in a support group gives you the chance to do things for others and experience some of that “helper’s high” yourself.

A therapist can also provide emotional support, as well as guidance on how to ask for help. “If you know you need help from others, but are still struggling with asking, therapy may be a great place to figure out what’s holding you back,” McBain says. So, if you’re considering enlisting a pro to join your support network, that’s probably a very good idea.

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