HS and Your Mental Health: A Conversation Guide for You and Your Doctor

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) can have a major impact on your mental health. The obvious sores can also have an odor, making it more embarrassing and stressful. Some of your friends and family may not understand your condition. This can add frustration, anxiety, or even anger.

Those with HS have a greater risk of anxiety and depression. In fact, studies have shown that suicide risk is greater for those with HS. This risk increases in women.1

Talking to your doctor about your mental health may not be easy. You may feel uncomfortable or afraid to mention your feelings to your doctor. There is a stigma that surrounds mental health and mental illness. This stigma can be even greater in those with skin conditions such as HS.2

Even if the thought of talking to your doctor about your mental health is scary, remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Deciding to talk to your doctor about how HS is impacting your mental health is your first step.2

Do I even need to see my doctor?

Because anxiety, depression, and risk for suicide are increased among those with HS, it is important to know the signs of these conditions.

There are different types of depression. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, depression is the leading cause of disability among people aged 15 to 44.3

Depression impacts 322 million people worldwide. General symptoms of depression usually include:3,4

  • An ongoing, sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feeling hopeless, guilty, or helpless
  • Lost interest in pleasurable things and activity, including sex
  • Decreased energy and increased fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating and remembering things
  • Changes in weight from not eating enough or eating too much

What will my doctor do for me?

You may feel like your thoughts and feelings will go away, but this is usually not the case. Your doctor can help you. Having a doctor that you can trust and is nonjudgmental is key to feeling comfortable talking about your mental health.

Your doctor can:2

  • Ask you questions about your thoughts and feelings
  • Reassure you that your thoughts and feelings are not “crazy” and that you have a medical condition
  • Provide you with supportive services
  • Prescribe you medications, if needed
  • Refer you to a specialist, if needed

Before, during, and after the appointment

It can be hard to know how to start a conversation with your doctor. Here are a few tips to keep in mind before, during, and after your appointment.2

Before:

  • Be reasonable about what you want to accomplish. It is best to know that your symptoms will not go away overnight. Rather, setting more reasonable goals will keep you motivated.
  • Write down what you want to talk about. It is hard enough to remember what to talk about with your doctor. Anxiety and depression can make your memory worse. Be sure to write down what you want to talk about with your doctor and bring it with you to your appointment.

During:

  • Be as clear as possible. Try your best to use clear language to tell your symptoms.
  • Be honest. Your doctor wants to hear the true story of your symptoms. Try not to be embarrassed or shy.
    Use your notes. These will keep your thoughts organized.

After:

  • Follow the recommendation of your doctor. Sometimes treatment for mental health conditions takes time. Do your best to follow as directed.
  • Keep your appointments. Make sure you keep your follow-up appointments as needed to keep communication with your doctor.

Remember that your mental health is as important as your physical health. HS can be very hard on your mental health, and you may need help from your doctor. You are not alone. Having an open and honest conversation with your doctor will help you achieve a total plan of care of physical, emotional, and mental health – an important key to daily living with HS.

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Written by: Katie Murphy | Last reviewed: December 2020