The Effects of Chronic Illness and Medical Trauma on Child, Adolescent, + Teen Mental Health
When you hear the terms “chronic illness” and “medical trauma,” what comes to mind? Chronic illness may be defined as a chronic physiological condition that affects a person’s physical abilities that may require extended medical treatments. Medical trauma results from continued or extended medical treatments that may be painful or invasive in their goal towards overall better health.
With chronic illness and medical trauma, the average person may assume that this only affects adults, but it also affects our children, adolescents, and teens. They too, are dealing with medical trauma because of their chronic illness. And that can lead to a decrease in their overall mental well-being.
What it may look like in children, adolescents, and teens
In children, adolescents, and teens with chronic illnesses, you may see difficulties with their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional interactions, which can take a toll on their siblings as well as their parent’s relationships. Due to the high levels of stress equated with chronic illness and medical trauma they may present anxiety, depression, and adjustment disorders. Furthermore, there may be signs of decreased energy, difficulty sleeping, difficulty focusing, changes in appetite as well as other physiological discomforts like aches, pains, headaches, and cramps. With their difficulties Adjusting to continued physical pains as well as invasive treatments, parents, siblings, and extended family members who may not be aware of ways that they are able to help in this process. Here are a few ways that family members may help during and after the hospital or medical facility visit.
Ways parents can help at the hospital or medical facility
- Be patient with your child.
- Help your child understand what is happening
- Talk about your feelings together.
- Help your child see the hospital staff or medical staff as helpers.
- Young children are often more affected by being left alone.
- Take care of yourself
Ways parents can help at home.
- Go back to everyday routines.
- Be patient and give everyone time to readjust.
- Set normal time limits.
- Allow your children to talk about feelings and worries if they want to
- Encourage your child to spend time with friends.
- Help your child to do some things on his or her own.
- Take time to deal with your feelings.
- Follow up with your doctor.
If you, your child, adolescent, teen, or someone you know is experiencing a decrease in their mental health due to chronic illness and medical trauma, please contact The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, click Trauma Types, and scroll down and you will see Medical Trauma. For medical trauma resources, click the NCTSN resources.