Teens and Chronic Illness: Managing Their Mental Health

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Teens and Chronic Illness: Managing Their Mental Health

Living with chronic illness is a challenge for anyone. It can be particularly difficult for those early in life. While parents with children with a chronic illness may find themselves focusing on their physical wellness, their emotional well-being often gets overlooked. Even chronic illnesses such as a food allergy or asthma can take their toll, but serious ones such as rheumatoid arthritis or a cancer diagnosis can be devastating. Helping our children manage these experiences in a healthy way with optimism and realism is essential.  

How Families Manage With Childhood Chronic Illness

When a family member has a chronic illness, it affects everyone involved. The one experiencing the condition, especially when it’s a child, can have a particularly rough time of it. Chronic illnesses can impact the ability of the child to participate in family activities. They may also experience guilt over the limitations their condition can place on the family’s ability to plan other activities. They may also begin to feel like a burden due to the extra care they require when their condition flares up. These possibilities don’t even touch on the difficulties their illness may cause in their relationships with their siblings.

Other areas of the child’s life that a chronic illness may impact include:

  • School: When flare-ups of the illness cause your child to miss school, it can impact how they perform academically. Some conditions may require that the child be home-schooled.
  • Friendships: While home-schooling can interfere with the child’s ability to form friendships, it can impact those doing normal schooling as well. This may foster a feeling of loneliness and isolation.
  • Extra-Curricular Activities: Their limitations may make it difficult for them to participate in activities they enjoy or are interested in. This may result in their becoming frustrated or developing a sense of hopelessness. If they were engaged in these activities prior to their diagnosis, they may also have feelings of loss and being ‘left out.’
  • Social Activities: Conditions such as food allergies or the need to follow a medication schedule can impact their ability to enjoy birthday parties, outings, and sleepovers.
  • Normal emotional/psychological development: When chronic illnesses develop early in life, they may interfere with the child hitting certain milestones. They may develop an increased sense of development, struggle with developing emotionally and psychologically, etc.

These are just a few of the ways that growing up with a chronic illness can affect a child’s emotional and mental health. 

Seek Family Counseling To Manage These Challenges

The impact of having a family member with chronic illness can impact everyone in the family. Reaching out for assistance from a therapist professional can help everyone manage their experience and improve the outcome for all involved. Call to arrange a consultation and begin a therapy plan involving the whole family. The time spent learning to communicate and understanding the experiences of everyone involved can help the family grow closer. Schedule an appointment and help your child and family begin developing the tools to communicate and navigate hard times together successfully.

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April is the founder of Prestige Mental Health and is a board certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP-BC) who is qualified to practice primary care and psychiatry. She is passionate about providing quality, compassionate, and comprehensive mental health services to children, adolescents, and adults. April specializes in psychiatric illnesses including but not limited to depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, PTSD/trauma, bipolar, and schizophrenia.