Helping You Cope With Anxiety
- 12-time swimming Olympic medalist Dara Torres, 56, hosted the 2023 Swimming Hall of Fame ceremony, but the hosting duties caused her anxiety and stress. Since she lives with incurable plaque psoriasis, stress can trigger a reaction.
- Psoriasis causes red, itchy patches to develop on the skin. There are seven types of psoriasis, with plaque psoriasis being the most common.
People with a family history of psoriasis increase their risk of developing the chronic disease.
- Symptoms for psoriasis can often be managed with different treatments and some lifestyle adjustments. Treatment options include topical creams, phototherapy, or systemic treatments such as oral medications.
- When dealing with anxiety, psychologist Dr. Marianna Strongin says it’s important to have a healthy relationship with your anxiety and get to know it rather than fear it, avoid it, or push it away. Also, relying on your support group can help, too.
12-time Olympic medalist Dara Torres, 56, is a source of inspiration for many people because of her swimming accolades and her bravery in publicly battling psoriasis. This incurable skin condition causes red, itchy patches to develop on the skin.
Despite her resiliency, the decorated athlete still occasionally deals with anxiety. She recently hosted the 2023 Swimming Hall of Fame induction ceremony on ESPN. Moments before stepping into the spotlight, she admitted she was scared but still mustered the inner strength she’s done many times previously when confronting adversity to deliver a stellar performance.
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“Sometimes you just have to get out of your comfort zone and try something you’ve never done before,” Torres wrote in her Instagram caption.
Her video shows her backstage wearing a lavish and shimmering pink dress, nervously waiting for her cue to go on stage.
“I just took a deep breath and walked out with confidence even though I was scared shitless and acted like I knew what I was doing!! Believe in yourself,” the swimming Olympian added.
Torres’ bravery inspired many of her supporters online. Instagram user Lisa Palmisano wrote, “You’re a champion at everything.”
“One would have never known you were anxious because you were amazing…and your beautiful dress flattered your chiseled abs, and back….as you say, we must rise above our fears to quiet any doubtful voices!” Instagram user Tiffany Cohen Lalonde wrote.
Torres responded to Lalonde’s positive message by saying, “As you know, hosting was not an easy task, I know pronouncing the names was probably the toughest part!”
Helping Your Manage Psoriasis
How to Cope with Stress and Anxiety
Many of us experience anxiety from time to time when facing a stressful situation. Torres’ swim career involved wearing swimsuits displaying large body parts.
“I was in a swimsuit, and everyone could see everything…I was embarrassed by it and put lotion on it and thought it would go away, but it got worse,” Torries told Teen Vogue.
In a 2001 interview with Future of Personal Health, Torres said, “[My psoriasis] really just had to do with my stress levels. I had to figure out how to maintain the levels of cortisol in my body and not get so stressed, but also put some ointment on that was going to help reduce the inflammation.”
Over time, she embraced her predicament and became an advocate, which touched on managing mental health and psoriasis.
“Be proud in your own skin. My business suit was a swimsuit, so I couldn’t cover up, and I realized I don’t really need to. This is who I am. If I have psoriasis, I have psoriasis.”
Psychologist Dr. Marianna Strongin shared some simple tips to help maintain good mental health and healthily reduce stress.
When dealing with anxiety, Dr. Strongin said it’s important to have a healthy relationship with these feelings and get to know them rather than fear them, avoid them, or push them away.
“By learning more about your anxious thoughts and tendencies, one can begin to answer their anxious thoughts even in moments when there aren’t any answers. For cancer patients, the worried thoughts tend to be, “Will I survive?” It’s important to let those thoughts come in and be able to tolerate them before answering them. This is a very powerful coping skill,” Dr. Strongin explained.
Torres’ Skin Care Journey
Torres’ diagnosis came shortly after she noticed red, itchy patches while training for the 1992 Olympics. She was eventually diagnosed with plaque psoriasis.
According to the National Institute of Health, “Many people with psoriasis have a family history of the disorder. Researchers have identified certain genes linked to the disease but still don’t fully understand the disease process. They do know that it isn’t contagious.”
Dr. Saakshi Khattri, a dermatologist/rheumatologist at Mount Sinai Health System, tells SurvivorNet. “It is a chronic condition, which can ebb and flow. You can have good days and bad days.”
Dr. Saakshi notes that while anyone can develop psoriasis, the disease is more common in people between 30 and 50. Researchers believe genetics and environmental factors may play a role in the development of psoriasis.
Common symptoms often include:
- Red patches of skin covered with silvery-like scales
- Small scaling spots
- Dry, cracked skin that may bleed or itch
- Itching, burning sensation, or soreness
- Thickened or ridged nails
- Swollen or stiff joints
WATCH: There is good news for people suffering from plaque psoriasis.
Torres worked with her dermatologist for a treatment regimen, although specifics remain unclear.
How is Psoriasis Treated?
Topical medicines in the form of skin creams are considered mainstays in treating psoriasis symptoms. The topical you take depends on the kind of psoriasis you’re dealing with and its related symptoms.
The seven different types of psoriasis include:
- Plaque psoriasis is the most common form of the disease and causes dry, raised skin patches that may be covered in scales. The patches may be itchy and tender.
- Nail psoriasis: This disease can affect fingernails and toenails and might cause nails to loosen from the nail bed.
- Guttate psoriasis: This disease typically affects young adults and children and is often caused by a bacterial infection like strep throat.
- Inverse psoriasis: This type of psoriasis mainly affects skin folds, so it will often present in areas such as the groin, buttocks, or breasts and can worsen with friction or sweating.
- Pustular psoriasis: This rare form of psoriasis causes pus-filled blisters to develop in widespread patches across the body.
- Erythrodermic psoriasis: This is also a rare form of the disease. It can cover the entire body with a red, peeling rash that may itch or burn intensely.
- Psoriatic arthritis: With this form of the disease, joints may become swollen and painful. Sometimes, joint pain is the first or only symptom, while other times, other symptoms like nail changes will occur.
Other psoriasis medicines include oral drugs.
- Methotrexate: This medication was approved for psoriasis in 1972 and can be administered orally or intravenously. It works as an immunosuppressant that inhibits rapidly dividing cells. According to the American Academy of Dermatology and National Psoriasis Foundation guidelines, methotrexate is typically administered in doses ranging from 7.5 mg to 25 mg weekly as one dose or divided into three dosages over 24 hours. Common side effects include fatigue and nausea.
- Apremilast (Otezla): This medication suppresses an enzyme inside inflammation cells. The most common side effects are diarrhea, nausea, upper respiratory tract infection, and headache.
- Cyclosporine: This drug isn’t used for long-term psoriasis treatment due to potentially serious adverse effects. However, it does have a role “as a rapid-acting medication for severe, recalcitrant disease, acute flares, and erythroderma.” Nephrotoxicity (kidney issues) and hypertension (high blood pressure) are cyclosporine’s most common adverse side effects.
Other systemic treatment options for psoriasis Biologic drugs or biologics, which are given by injection or intravenous (IV) infusion (a slow drip of medicine into your vein), may also be provided. These drugs target only specific parts of the immune system, while other systemic drugs target the whole system.