Kids and Psoriasis: A frequent target for bullies, says new survey

Today is World Psoriasis Day. You may not think you know someone with psoriasis but you likely do. They are the many adults and kids with those plaque like rashes. Not only is the condition tough to treat, but, sadly, these people are subject to a huge amount of bullying, especially kids.

The National Psoriasis Foundation sent me the following press release that highlights the results of their recent survey on Psoriasis and bullying and it’s truly eye opening. Given the report this week on bullying in our Nation’s high schools, this is yet another wake up call that we have to do better in protecting our kids and teaching our kids about tolerance and empathy towards others in general.

I’ll blog more soon on what I speculate as possible reasons for this “mean kid culture” but for now, for today, let’s put our minds to Psoriasis and helping these kids feel less alone and more supported. It’s tough enough being a kid today and even tougher with a visible mark of a condition. No kid should ever have to be made to feel less of a person for being born with an autoimmune condition that they can’t control. Talk to your kids today about this so if they see a child in their school with Psoriasis, they’ll understand and not mock, bully tease or say anything more than “cool backpack” or “want to sit at our lunch table?”.

Childhood psoriasis and bullying: National Psoriasis Foundation survey snapshot

In conjunction with World Psoriasis Day 2010 and the theme of childhood psoriasis, the National Psoriasis Foundation surveyed parents of children with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis to document their children’s challenges with bullying and discrimination as a result of the disease. Highlights from the survey are below.

Psoriasis and bullying:

During the past six months, nearly half (47.2%) of the children surveyed had been bullied at least once or twice. Of those bullied:

  • 83.3% were teased.
  • 44.4% were excluded or left out.
  • 27.8% were called names.
  • 22.2% were threatened or intimidated.
  • 17% were hit, pushed or kicked.

38% of respondents who were bullied said the abuse was a direct result of his/her psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.

Effects of bullying:

The emotional effect of bullying on children with psoriatic disease is great. As a result of bullying, those surveyed said:

  • The most common reaction to the bullying was anxiety (65%).
  • Almost half (47%) of those bullied reported crying.
  • 23.5% said it caused them to have difficulties sleeping; 23.5% also said it caused a decrease in academic performance.
  • 17.6% of those bullied said they choose not to participate in school/group activities.

Actions taken as a result of the bullying:

As a result of their child’s bullying, parents who responded report taking the following actions:

  • 87% have educated their child’s teachers and school staff about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
  • 65% have spoken to the parents of their children’s friends about the diseases.
  • 57% have educated their child’s classmates about the disease.

Respondent demographics:

  • 50 people responded (n=50)
  • 83.7% of children had psoriasis alone, 4.7% had psoriatic arthritis alone and 11.6% had both.
  • 52% of children were in elementary school (grades 1-6), 26.2% were in high school, 14% were in pre-school/kindergarten and 7% were in middle school.
  • 60% of children were female.

Childhood psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis is a serious issue

  • The psychological impact of psoriasis can be particularly traumatic for children and adolescents, with teasing, bullying and discrimination commonly occurring. Of great concern, studies suggest that these negative experiences in adolescence may have long-term negative effects on self-esteem and anxiety levels in adulthood.
  • Although frequently diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 25, psoriasis can appear at any time and affects children of all ages, including infants. Approximately 20,000 children are diagnosed with psoriasis each year.
  • The onset of psoriatic arthritis in children often occurs between the ages of seven and 13 and can produce irreversible joint damage.
  • There are no FDA-approved treatments for children with psoriasis, leading to challenges in insurance approvals and to potential long-term side-effects that come with use of medications intended for adults.
  • An increased risk of obesity, which becomes more pronounced in adolescence, occurs in children with moderate to severe psoriasis as compared to the general child population.
  • Obesity in early adulthood may increase the risk for developing psoriatic arthritis later in life.
  • Studies indicate that in young people, psoriasis impacts quality of life, confidence and self-esteem more significantly than in other childhood diseases including epilepsy, diabetes and alopecia.
  • National Psoriasis Foundation patient surveys indicate that half of children under age 10 find psoriasis to be a significant problem in their everyday life.

For additional information:

For more information about this issue brief or the results of the survey on childhood psoriasis and bullying, contact the National Psoriasis Foundation at 800.723.9166 or getinfo@psoriasis.org.

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If your child has been bullied or cyberbullied and you want to tell your story, contact Dr. Gwenn at media@pediatricsnow.com with the subject line bullying.

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