“I was in the midst of starting a new avenue in my career with stand-up comedy by opening my own comedy club, when boom—these “red dots” appeared on my torso and then started to connect and spread into what looked like a rash. By the time I could stop to think about what was happening, nearly half of my body was covered.”
In Hollywood, image can be “everything”. So it was hard for the naturally private Lovitz to step out of the shadows and reveal something to the world that he’s kept under wraps for years.
“I’m a very private person so I kept my psoriasis to myself for 10 years. But I’m talking about it now in the hopes my experience with psoriasis will make the millions of people out there living with the disease know that they aren’t alone.”
The self-professed comedian at heart remains mindful that psoriasis is a serious condition. But says ironically, he’s “using humor to raise awareness and get people talking.”
And in addition to humor, Lovitz has learned a few other tricks along the 10-year path of living with psoriasis to manage the disease. And make sure he lives every day to the fullest.
Here’s a look at how Lovitz overcame some obstacles that stood in the way of him living life to the fullest.
Old habit: Being self-conscious of my skin
People often asked Lovitz questions when his psoriasis was visible on his hands or arms. “I was very self-conscious of having psoriasis on my scalp, which looked to be dandruff, so I would often explain to friends that it was actually a skin disease called psoriasis.”
“There was a point when the questions or the stares would just make me feel numb,” he says.
New habit: Taking control of my skin
Prescription medicines helped Lovitz get under control and helped him reclaim his life. “Once I was able to get my symptoms under control, I was comfortable telling people I have psoriasis. That’s the main reason why after so many years of living with the disease, I decided to share my story with the psoriasis community. I was in a position to empower others who may be in the same shoes.”
Researchers at the University of Buffalo found tooting your own horn can help boost your confidence. And they say social media options like Facebook are the perfect way to advertise your best features. The scientists say ‘advertising’ or conservatively bragging about accomplishments on FaceBook is a great way to rev up your self-confidence and self-esteem.
Old habit: Stressing out
“Stress is the number one trigger for my psoriasis,” says Lovitz.
And the stress of a major life event like starting a new business that Lovitz endured as well as the loss of a loved one, divorce, on-the-job-stress, etc. can often lead to psoriasis flares.
“In addition to life stress, the stress of dealing with a psoriasis flare can compound and create a ‘vicious circle’ for a patient with psoriasis,” says dermatologist Joel Schlessinger MD, FAAD, FAACS, immediate past president, American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery.
New habit: Managing stress
Building a support system is very helpful for patients with psoriasis to feel ‘normal’ or to have an outlet for their feelings.
In addition to support groups, Hullett says creative diversions can also help you manage stress to reduce the chances it manifests in a flare. He says outlets like gardening, knitting, writing poetry, yoga, etc. can also boost your spirits as well as help you purge negative feelings.
Old habit: Hiding my skin to minimize public reactions to my skin in public
Lovitz says he used to do anything possible to cover his skin under long sleeves and pants, even during summer months.
“At my own comedy club, under the heat of the lights on stage, I’d wear long sleeves to cover as much of my skin as possible. I dreaded going out in public when I had a flare-up because of what people might think or say about my skin. Even when my friends would invite me to events or pool parties, I often chose not to attend because I felt too embarrassed. It was horrible.”
New habit: Putting the public at ease with humor
Instead of covering up, Lovitz says he uses humor to make people feel more comfortable about speaking up about their psoriasis, without making fun of the disease. “If you live with the disease, you know that psoriasis is anything but funny.”
So he has performed a song parody Maroon 5’s “This Love” as an attempt to talk about his experiences with psoriasis through a comedic platform.
“My passion has always been comedy, and I can sing a little, too, so I use those things to make fun of myself, but not the disease, and to raise awareness about psoriasis,” he says.
“Humor is a healthy defense mechanism that allows a person to master an unpleasant situation, so they can gain control over the situation,” says Joseph Hullett, MD a psychiatrist in private practice in San Juan Capistrano, CA.
Old habit: Constant discouragement
“There was a point when I felt like I had tried every cream or medication known to man, and I became very discouraged thinking nothing would ever relieve my physical symptoms,” says Lovitz.
For Lovitz, the itching, even bleeding on some occasions, were by far the worst symptoms to cope with. “When my psoriasis was at its worst, I couldn’t even sleep at night from the itchiness. Sometimes when I would wake up there would be flakes covering my whole bed.”
New habit: Clear communication
“I learned to take my psoriasis seriously. Which meant speaking with a dermatologist and getting my symptoms under control,” says Lovitz.
That move lead to Lovitz developing what he calls “a respectable relationship” with his dermatologist. “It’s extremely important to be completely open and honest about the full impact of the disease with your dermatologist,” he says.
That’s why he suggests patients seek out a dermatologist that specializes in psoriasis who is proactive in helping you overcome the disease.