Chronic Illness, Teens and Depression: How They Are Linked

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Guide
  • Not surprisingly, there is research to support the association between chronic illness and depression. It makes sense. Often when an individual has a chronic illness such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, there is not only an interruption in his or her daily activities, but there may also be physical discomfort and uncertainty related to the disease.


    What may surprise you is the rate that teens suffer from depression. While most consider teens to be healthy as a population, the National Center for Health Statistics reported in 2007 that adolescents have morbidity and mortality rates twice those of younger children.

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    The needs of adolescents can be complex to say the least. At the same time teens are changing biologically, they are often experiencing intense academic and social pressures. Add to this a chronic illness, and you may find your teen struggling to keep depression at bay.


    If you suspect your teen with acid reflux disease may be suffering from depression, there is no quick fix. There are however, steps of care that make sense.

    1) Depression is treatable. Talk to your child's G.I. specialist and general practitioner about your concerns. Either healthcare provider should be able to suggest a healthcare professional skilled in treating adolescents and depression.
    2) Inquire about school-based support. Many school-aged students are living with chronic conditions such as allergies, asthma, and diabetes. Talk to your child's school counselor about support systems that may already be in place school-wide.
    3) Look for community resources, including national support groups. Often, national support groups offer camps, or one-day programs for children who are living with a chronic disease.
    4) Remember the importance of the support of family. Some tend to think that teens do not want the support of their parents. That's not what the research shows. The research supports the idea that teens prefer to listen to (and be listened to) parents most of all when it comes to advice.
    5) Exercise, healthy eating, and adequate sleep are known to improve symptoms of depression. Make sure your teen is exercising as much as possible, eating a well balanced reflux-friendly diet, and getting enough sleep. Teens actually need more sleep, not less than when they were younger, and they should be averaging over nine hours of sleep each night.


Published On: February 18, 2010