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Adolescence in itself is a stressful developmental process even for physically healthy teens. Chronic liver illness occurring during adolescence further complicates adolescent development. The chronic liver disorder, treatment requirements, hospitalization, and liver transplant surgery (when necessary) all intensify concerns about physical appearance, interfere with the process of gaining independence, and disrupt changing relationships with parents and friends. Also, adolescent developmental issues complicate a teen's transition toward taking responsibility for managing his or her illness and learning to comply with recommended treatment.
Adolescents who are faced with acute or chronic liver illness are more likely to experience increased mental or physiological health concerns and fears when their illness or healthcare needs conflict with the following normal developmental issues:
Adolescents are normally focused on the physical changes occurring in their bodies. Chronic liver illness intensifies these concerns with fears or distortions related to their illness (such as fearing a surgical scar will interfere with physical attractiveness or the ability to wear certain clothes).
Chronic liver illness frequently interferes with an adolescent's comfort in becoming less dependent on parents. Parents of chronically ill adolescents often are more resistant to adolescent's efforts to act independently. Some ways to address the conflict between normal development of independence, while still addressing healthcare needs of the chronic illness include the following:
Chronic illness and treatment often interfere with time spent with peers or in the school setting, which is the adolescent's primary social environment. Self-esteem issues related to acceptance of one's self and concerns about acceptance by others are intensified by chronic illness and related treatment needs. To address these concerns, consider the following:
As adolescents with chronic illness learn more about their illness and are encouraged to take responsibility for its management, attempts to make their own decisions about management are common. Trials of decreasing their medication or not taking it without consulting a physician often occur. While this behavior may be developmentally normal, it may create the need for additional healthcare intervention.Angry or self-conscious feelings related to having a chronic illness, or poor judgment in how to cope with their feelings about their illness, might also affect compliance with recommended treatment or management techniques. For example, adolescent diabetics are more likely to use poor judgment in making food choices when they are with their friends. It is important for parents and healthcare professionals working with adolescent patients to help the adolescent develop emotionally healthy ways of living with their chronic illness and its management requirements. Some ways to help adolescents deal with the complications chronic illness often imposes on development may include the following:
The need for a liver transplant is difficult to understand, accept, and cope with for anyone. The emotional and psychological stress impacts all family members.
For adolescents who are developing the ability to think in new ways and explore new thoughts, the idea of facing liver transplantation stimulates thoughts, concerns, and questions about their bodies, their relationships, and their lives.
Important factors in helping adolescents cope effectively with a liver transplantation experience include the following:
Learn more about the Different Kinds of Coping with Liver Transplantation.
Children's Hospital's main campus is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our main hospital address is:
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
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