Psoriasis study will target stress and state of mind

People with psoriasis could benefit from a new study that aims to improve symptoms through the psychological concept of ‘mindfulness’.

Researchers at The University of Manchester will be asking 40 volunteers with psoriasis to participate in a therapy group to help reduce their stress levels, and to see if this has a positive impact on the severity of their disease.

Psoriasis is a chronic, currently incurable skin condition that affects at least 2% of the population. It is characterised by red, scaling patches of skin.

The minfulness study, funded by the Medical Research Council and Pfizer pharmaceuticals, is being led by Dr Christine Bundy, from the School of Community-Based Medicine, and Professor Christopher Griffiths, from the School of Translational Medicine. Professor Griffiths said: “As a Consultant Dermatologist, I find that many patients report that their psoriasis worsens during periods of stress. I believe that this research will give us an opportunity to assess a new intervention, which may be of direct benefit to patients.”

Established scientific tests will be used to measure changes in the clinical severity of the condition, the level of psychological stress experienced, and any alterations in stress hormone levels (salivary cortisol).

First used at The University of Massachusetts in the 1980s, mindfulness-based therapy has been used to help people living with a variety of conditions, including chronic pain, depression and cancer. This is the first study to examine the clinical, biological and psychological effects of an eight-week mindfulness course on people living with psoriasis. The research presents an opportunity for people who live with this chronic disabling and often very stressful condition to reduce physiological and psychological stress, which may enhance the effects of medicinal treatment.

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PhD student Beth Shackleton, from the School of Community-Based Medicine, is conducting the research, and has undertaken specialist training to become a Mindfulness Practitioner. She said: “It has been found that during Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, people can adopt a subtle change in how they view the world around them, leading to a greater sense of well-being.”

Volunteers will be recruited from the Greater Manchester area and from the Dermatology Centre at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust. Participants will be asked to join the group for eight weekly sessions at a central Manchester location. Beth Shackleton added: “We hope that people will have a positive experience being part of the group, and will enjoy meeting other people with similar experiences of living with psoriasis.”

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