In the course of their relationship, couples create substantial social contexts that involve sharing domestic, recreational or occupational activities. When skin disease changes companionship in any one of these areas, the maintenance or nature of the relationship may be threatened (Lyons & Sullivan, 1998). Changes in a couple's social network may occur through reduced interactions with others and an increase in companionate activities at home (Morgan et al., 1984). More than often, withdrawal is a response to the damaging effects of social stigma. Porter et al. (1990) reported that vitiligo patients experienced embarrassment and anxiety when meeting strangers and that many had been victims of rude remarks in the face of public ignorance. In the short term, avoidance may serve a protective function, but it may also lead to loss of friendships and activities that would typically increase a couple's social network. In an early survey, Jobling (1976) asked 186 members of the British Psoriasis Association what they considered was the worst aspect about having psoriasis? Eighty-four per cent alluded to isolation based on their difficulties in establishing social contacts, and forming relationships. Negative changes in lifestyle will stress a relationship further, if a couple's ability to function as a unit is continually challenged.
For some couples, skin disease brings new responsibilities into a relationship and this may be taxing if traditional gender roles become unbalanced (Danoff-Burg & Revenson, 2000). For example, in one affected couple, a wife had to seek employment when her husband was unable to continue his job at a dry cleaner because the steam and chemicals aggravated his eczema. Functional limitations may also lead to changes in a couple's leisure activities; for instance, patients with psoriasis receiving psoralen plus ultraviolet light (PUVA) treatment often sacrifice holidays in the sun. If, for the sake of the relationship, partners also forgo valued activities, they too are in danger of becoming isolated through their own loss of freedom. Firstly, by missing out on social interactions that were previously shared and secondly, by having to do more things alone. At times the more intimate the relationship, the increased likelihood of mutual isolation.
Relationship functioning is thus shaped by a couple's desire and competence in readjusting shared activities and social networks to increase companionship. Successful adaptation may involve downplaying the disease as a constraint, focusing on the present and not allowing disfigurement to assume a dominant place in the relationship. Positive readjustment may also include network remodelling, which involves finding and adding resources such as support groups, to existing networks (Lyons & Meade, 1995b). According to Locker (1983) such changes reflect 'legitimacy' in illness, namely having others accept the reality and nature of constraints that are placed on the affected couple.
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Do You Suffer From the Itching and Scaling of Psoriasis? Or the Chronic Agony of Psoriatic Arthritis? If so you are not ALONE! A whopping three percent of the world’s populations suffer from either condition! An incredible 56 million working hours are lost every year by psoriasis sufferers according to the National Psoriasis Foundation.