Volume 91, Issue 20

Wednesday, October 1, 1997



Research at Western: Facing one's anger

Mark Brown
Gazette Staff

A recent study by Western psychiatry professor Madhulika Gupta has found there may be more to skin diseases such as psoriasis than what appears on the surface.

Psoriasis is a skin disease characterized by red plaques of dry cracked skin caused by skin cells growing up to seven times faster than normal skin, said Tara Roustad, director of public affairs for the National Psoriasis Foundation.

This disease is genetic but can be triggered by environmental factors, stress, skin injury and certain medications, Roustad said. She added the disease is not contagious and currently affects about one in 50 people.

"It can be severe and very disabling – there is a great deal of psychological stress," Roustad said. "It's embarrassing."

Gupta's research attempted to find certain psycho-pathologic factors between late onset of patients age 40 and over and early onset of the disease of those under age 40. Her research was conducted over a 10-year period and studied 137 patients with psoriasis.

The study found a correlation between anger repression and the onset of the disease, Gupta said.

Roustad explained there has been research conducted on stress but there has not been any previous studies linking psoriasis to anger.

A wide range of grading scales were used to ensure most of the psychopathologic factors were tested, Gupta said, adding she could then focus on a particular factor.

The early onset group seemed to have difficulty with expression of anger when compared to the late onset group, she said.

This factor was tested for using the anger-in expression scale, which is a charting scale, Gupta explained. Patients would be asked to rate their response on a scale between one and four to statements such as "I am irritated a great deal more then most people are aware of."

Those patients with psoriasis who have difficulty expressing their anger tend to be more likely to experience flare-ups of the disease as well as being less responsive to treatments, Gupta said.

Doctors need to be more aware of the psychopathologic factors, she added. "Especially in the younger patients, the anger has to be evaluated more [since they are] not able to moderate some emotions effectively."

Treatments include group therapy and learning relaxation techniques. "There are studies that say [relaxation techniques] can help, but maybe it needs to be done more often."

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Copyright The Gazette 1997