People with chronic urticaria often struggle with mental health. Studies show one of every three people with chronic urticaria live with anxiety, emotional stress or depression. Because chronic urticaria symptoms can arise at any time or any place, it can negatively affect daily activities and quality of life.
Chronic urticaria can impact your self-esteem, body image and social interactions. Here are 10 actions you can take to support your mental health while living with chronic urticaria, or hives that won’t go away.
- Connect with your Doctor: Patients AND doctors work together to find the right diagnosis and treatment plan. Your doctor is your first line in understanding your condition and helping you get medical care for chronic urticaria. If possible, see a specialist – an allergist or dermatologist – and make a list of questions to ask so you’re not overwhelmed when you’re in the office. Get involved in your treatment decisions to help build your confidence and alleviate any feelings of powerlessness you may have over your condition.
- Meet with a Mental Health Professional: Depending on your insurance, you will want to seek out a therapist who can help with anxiety, stress and depression related to your chronic urticaria. A mental health or behavioral health counselor can help you with the emotional support you need.
- Find Support Groups: Remember that you’re not alone! Look for support groups both online and in your area. Since chronic urticaria is so rare, you may want to find a local support group for general health challenges. Online support groups and social media can help you connect virtually with others, share disease management strategies and receive emotional support and practical advice. Be wary of misinformation, though. Confirm information or advice you find online and talk about it with your doctor.
- Grow Your Personal Support System: Having family and friends aroundis one of the leading indicators of better health. If you moved to a new area and you’re looking to build a circle of friends, consider joining a gym or exercise class, volunteering in your community or joining a local special-interest club.
- Move Your Body: Regular physical activity releases chemicals called endorphins that can improve your well-being. It’s important to move your body in ways that feel good and don’t cause stress or worsen hives. Even something as simple as a 30-minute walk every day can help support your mental health.
- Meditate Daily: If you’ve never meditated before, it may seem odd at first. Meditating is a mental practice that is proven to help people manage anxiety, stress, depression, pain, and other symptoms. Being mindful will help keep you moving forward on your journey.
- Choose Enjoyment: While life definitely has ups and downs, focusing on the ups at any given moment can be helpful in maintaining a healthy outlook. Trying new things and/or choosing activities that bring you joy are a great start in supporting your mental health. Here’s a list of things one woman did to feel better, and a good number of them are free.
- Write it Down:Keeping a journal, either in a private space online or in an actual book, can help reduce mental distress.
- Get a Pet – or a Houseplant: Having something to take care of and nurture can help a lot of people take care of themselves, too. If furry pets tend to trigger your hives, there are non-furry animals to consider such as goldfish or a turtle. Simple plants like air plants only need a spritz of water once a week and take little time and effort. You don’t have to jump in over your head.
- Eat Healthy: A healthy diet gives your body the right nutrition to help fend off illnesses and infections. Low-histamine foods, such as vegetables, fresh and lean meats, rice and pasta, can help you manage chronic urticaria. Just be careful not to eat foods that can worsen symptoms. One recent study found that vitamin D can help relieve symptoms. Also, for some families, access to nutritious foods can be a big challenge, especially those who are food insecure or live in food deserts.
Jacqueline Eghrari-Sabet, MD, FACAAI, is board-certified in allergy, immunology and pediatrics. She is the Medical Director of Telehealth for Allergy & Asthma Network. Dr. Eghrari-Sabet is the founder of Family Allergy & Asthma Care and the FAAR Institute in the Washington, DC area, where she has been in private practice since 1994. Dr. Eghrari-Sabet is Assistant Clinical Professor at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences where she mentors the next generation of doctors. She is also President of White Coat Resources, a health education consulting service.