Chronic Illness and Children:
The child who is diagnosed with a severe and chronic medical illness is at greater risk of developing emotional problems. Unlike a child who has a temporary medical condition such as the flu, the child with a chronic illness must cope with knowing that the disease is permanent, incurable, and may even get worse with time.
The young child, unable to understand why the sickness occurred, may assume it is a punishment for being “bad.” He or she may become angry with parents and doctors for not being able to cure the illness. The youngster may react strongly against pampering, teasing, or other attention because they highlight his or her differences from other healthy children. Uncomfortable medical treatments and restrictions in diet and activity may make the child unhappy and withdrawn.
Children with long-term illnesses are often treated by a team of medical specialists. This team often includes a child and adolescent psychiatrist, who can help the child and family identify and overcome problems resulting from the burden of chronic medical illness. The psychiatrist can help families and their children understand the impact on the family of coping with multiple life changes imposed by the illness and develop emotionally healthy ways of living with the disease and its effects.