Last updated on January 18th, 2022 at 08:58 am
Going back to school is hard enough for any child. It’s a special kind of torment when you’re an adolescent with scoliosis.
People rarely talk about the emotional side of scoliosis. Most conversations focus on the medical aspects: for people with scoliosis, emotional effects are as accurate as physical ones—sometimes more so.
“The scars on my body are nothing compared to the emotional scars that scoliosis has left on me,” says patient Leah L.
The psychological effects of scoliosis can be significant for both adolescent and adult sufferers. Uncertainty, inevitability, hopelessness often accompany the initial diagnosis of scoliosis for kids and parents alike. These feelings are often increased after meeting with an Orthopedic spine specialist who offers little optimism and unattractive treatment options like back braces and scoliosis fusion surgery.
Adults with scoliosis have their own set up of scoliosis struggles. Beyond the physical struggles, many worry about their scoliosis mental health. Scoliosis and depression, how does scoliosis affect the body, how does scoliosis affect the brain, even scoliosis and marriage are common scoliosis causes of concern. Get recommendations on living your best life with scoliosis sent to your email.
Significant emotional difficulties
People with scoliosis are often genetically predisposed to depression and anxiety. Idiopathic scoliosis is rooted in genetic predisposition, which triggers scoliosis, hormonal imbalances, and neurotransmitter deficiencies. All of these are scoliosis risk factors and mental health red flags. Scoliosis self-care should focus on the physical, emotional, and physiological aspects of the whole scoliosis condition, not only the spinal curve.
Numerous studies have identified direct correlations between emotional health issues and scoliosis. Depression (possibly due to low serotonin levels commonly found in scoliosis patients) appears to be one of the most common mental health problems associated with idiopathic scoliosis. Anxiety is another emotional health issue common among people with scoliosis, although it is unclear if this results from body image concerns or increased norepinephrine levels.
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Connecting with other kids can be hard when your spinal curves set you apart. Uneven posture or even wearing a brace often makes kids with scoliosis feel ostracised from their peers.
As many as 56 percent of scoliosis patients struggle with relationships. More than a third become shy or isolated, while one in five defensively avoid others. This can lead to “paranoia because you feel like you are being judged for being less than sociable,” says Denise C.
Pain and discomfort can cause patients to avoid social situations such as games or concerts with hard chairs, outdoor activities, and trips that involve long cars, planes, or train rides. As a result, up to 43 percent of teens with scoliosis spend less time dating and enjoying recreational activities than their peers.
“Staying indoors alone so much does begin to impact your social skills, creating an endless, vicious cycle,” she says.
Having an abnormal body at a time when fitting in is paramount can wreak havoc on a child’s self-confidence. Many kids—especially girls—develop body image issues.
They may secretly feel much like Robin K., a scoliosis patient who struggles with “the shame and frustration of a physical deformity that makes me feel more and more unattractive. Inside and out, I’m uncomfortable with myself,” she says.
Scoliosis patients are 45 percent more likely than their peers to feel ashamed of their bodies. Six in 10 are dissatisfied with the way they look. Some report hating the way their body looks in the mirror or obsessively thinking about their curves. Many are even teased for their differences.
“I was always self-conscious about my shoulder hump under my clothes,” says Sophie N. “A boy at school sometimes made fun of me about my back, which made me feel horrible.”
Many kids with scoliosis outgrow their struggles and live happy lives. But some develop serious emotional problems.
More than a third of scoliosis patients express feelings of emptiness. Girls with the condition are 55 percent more likely than their peers to think about suicide, while boys are 10 times more likely to consider suicide.
“It weighs on your emotions,” says Donna S. “It put me into a deep depression, hiding from the world in my bedroom, just trying to deal with all the pain.
Emotional disturbances often lead to substance use, and teens with scoliosis are no exception. Boys with scoliosis consume 94 percent more alcohol than their peers, and girls with scoliosis are three times more likely to drink than girls without.
Going back to school with scoliosis can be intimidating, but it’s important to let kids know they’re not alone. Opening up conversations about the emotional side of scoliosis can give them the opportunity to express how this lifelong condition affects them on the inside.