Living well with lupus

How can a teenager learn to live well with lupus?

Dr. Rex E. Jung is an Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico, a Research Scientist at the Mind Research Network, and a Practicing Clinical Neuropsychologist in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

See all of Rex E. Jung, PhD's answers.

Just as important as physical health is your teenager’s emotional health. As a normal part of growing up, teenagers experience a wide range of physical and emotional changes as they move toward becoming independent adults. When a crisis occurs, such as a diagnosis of lupus, some teenagers may react with expressions of anger, frustration, and/or sorrow. Others may become withdrawn. However they react, teenagers, like all of us, will deal with a lupus diagnosis in their own ways.

This is an essential time for you to listen and be as understanding as possible. You may want to consult your teenager’s doctor about the best way to talk to your teenager about lupus. And you may find that honest and open discussion of your feelings will help your teenager to express his or her own feelings.

Having a chronic illness that causes pain and fatigue can make teenagers feel left out of the life that friends and peers are leading. But even though they may not be able to take part in a favorite activity one day, it may be only a temporary setback. Helping teenagers to focus on the many things they can do, rather than what they cannot do, is a good strategy. 

Both lupus and the medications used for treating the disease—especially corticosteroids—can cause agitation, changes in mood, and other symptoms. Once the medication dosage is lowered or stopped, your teenager’s usual temperament will likely return.

However, there is a link between lupus and clinical depression. If you find that your teenager is having uncommonly negative feelings or engaging in self-destructive behaviors, arrange an appointment with a mental health professional. If your teen is reluctant to go, explain that sharing feelings with an objective listener can help put things into perspective, and will make both of you feel better.

Medically reviewed on August 11, 2013

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