Approximately 1.5 million Americans are affected by lupus, with the factors having the most effect on people being pain, lifestyle changes and emotional problems. Art therapy can be particularly helpful for lupus patients as it addresses these issues and can help patients to feel and cope better, both physically and psychologically. Art therapy can be completed in whatever form suits the individual, such as drawing, painting, writing, acting, listening to music or sculpting. All have been found to have similar beneficial outcomes.
Art therapy can reduce stress
Stress can be a trigger for lupus and many people living with lupus report that symptoms are exacerbated during stressful times, often leading to flare ups. This may be down to an increased production of cytokine caused by the stress. Art therapy can help with stress management and reduction, making it ideal for people living with lupus. Research from Kaimal et al. compared stress levels before and after coloring alone for 40 minutes and coloring in a 40-minute open session with an art therapist. Both showed improvements, but the open session saw better results for stress relief and improvement in mood.
Art therapy helps patients to communicate
38 women with lupus participated in a study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology in 2007. Participants were asked to draw a picture of their perception of their disease and add comments. The researcher believes that drawing was a “good beginning” to start a conversation, as well as an effective way to communicate challenges and differences clinicians face. Participants could draw anything they liked but it needed to represent their disease and how they felt. For example, a patient could sketch themselves with prominent facial features to illustrate how they feel they are perceived in others eyes compared to how they view themselves. This can be a powerful message that can help to start a conversation. Overall, this type of art therapy was considered more beneficial than just verbal communication.
Other ways art therapy can help lupus patients
Both lupus itself and the treatments for it can leave people with an extreme sensitivity to natural sunlight, often resulting in them spending a lot of time indoors. Unfortunately, this can mean that people are forced to give up hobbies and spend less time socializing. Art can be a new hobby that can be done indoors that anyone can get involved in. You may be able to find online groups to share your art, helping you to reconnect with people. Art also offers a much-needed distraction from pain and fatigue. Art often results in a creation at the end, which can help people to feel like they’re not defined by lupus. Re-creating happy memories in art form also helps to bring thoughts away from the negative, offering hope.
Living with lupus can devastate people’s lives, so it’s important to offer therapies that can help with the psychological impacts of the illness to help them cope and have a more positive outlook. Art therapy can be done by anyone as it’s not about the art, it’s about being able to express yourself in any way that suits you.
Written by, Jess Walter