Living with a chronic skin condition like HS can be emotionally and physically stressful, but stress can also make HS symptoms worse. Finding ways to de-stress can help you break the cycle.

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a chronic inflammatory skin condition. Also known as acne inversa, HS features painful skin cysts and nodules, abscesses, and tunnels of infection beneath the surface of your skin called sinus tracts.

It’s natural to feel stressed about painful, visible symptoms. But stress can make your symptoms worse. When you’re stressed, your body releases inflammatory substances that can compound existing inflammation in HS.

Being proactive about stress management can reduce how significantly stress affects your quality of life with this skin condition. Follow these tips to get started.

There’s no cure for HS. But with the right treatment plan, it’s possible to successfully manage your symptoms.

Your primary care doctor or dermatologist will develop a treatment plan based on your symptoms, pain level, and how HS is affecting your life.

Stick with your prescribed treatment even if you don’t see results right away. Finding the right combination of therapies for HS can take time — and some trial and error. It’s also possible the therapies you’re on take time to fully work.

Once you find a treatment regimen that’s effective, symptoms can significantly improve. You may even go into remission for long periods of time.

Certain lifestyle factors, like smoking and obesity, are associated with an increased risk of developing HS and experiencing worsened HS symptoms.

Smoking and obesity are also linked to poorer treatment outcomes and remission rates, according to a 2022 review.

Working toward your weight goals and stopping smoking are just two of many lifestyle modifications that can make a positive difference in your HS experience. Other healthy lifestyle modifications to consider include:

  • eating a balanced diet
  • exercising regularly
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • not smoking
  • limiting alcohol
  • not using illegal drugs
  • getting plenty of quality sleep
  • staying hydrated

By focusing on habits that promote overall health and wellness and lower levels of inflammation in the body, you’re able to keep your body as strong and functional as possible to fight back against HS symptoms and stress.

According to a review from 2023, depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder can co-occur with HS.

Living with chronic pain and facing social stigma from HS can take a significant toll on your mental health. Talking with a mental health professional is one way to ease psychological distress and explore effective coping strategies.

A cross-section study from 2023 notes effective, positive coping strategies are important for reducing anxiety and depression and improving quality of life in HS.

Therapists and counselors are more than just empathetic listeners. They can teach you how to recognize unhelpful thoughts related to HS, like negative self-talk or feelings of low self-worth, and help you develop more beneficial patterns of thinking.

You’re not alone in your HS experience. Approximately 4% of the population worldwide lives with this condition. That’s millions of people who understand what you’re going through and the challenges you’re facing.

By connecting with others living with HS, you can learn from their successes, share your own, and gain insights into different perspectives on life with the condition. Support groups and other community engagements can keep you socially connected, warding off feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Learning relaxation techniques can support other stress management strategies in HS. This can help with managing in-the-moment stress. You can also add these practices to your daily routine to promote ongoing stress reduction.

Types of relaxation techniques you can learn include:

  • mindfulness
  • meditation
  • mind-body arts, like tai chi
  • deep breathing/breath work
  • structured counting
  • grounding methods
  • creative hobbies (writing, art, sculpting, music)
  • distraction tactics, like watching a funny video

Journaling is a great way to express what you’re feeling and experiencing with HS without fear of judgment. It’s also an effective way to promote a positive outlook, which can keep negative thoughts and stress from taking over.

Gratitude journaling, or writing down at least one thing you’re thankful for each day, can keep your brain focused on the positive in life. Gratitude expression is associated with lower levels of stress, reduced anxiety and depression, and greater life satisfaction.

Journaling to express gratitude is something that can easily fit into your day.

It’s natural to feel stressed about living with HS. This chronic, inflammatory skin condition is often associated with social stigma, physical pain, and psychological distress.

But stress can also make symptoms of HS worse by compounding inflammation, creating a stress-symptom cycle.

Adding stress management strategies to your routine can help improve your quality of life with this condition.