Body Image

Body perception

Some teenagers with certain heart conditions may have to live with symptoms that are obvious to others, like constant cyanosis or fatigue. Others are left with scars from surgery or show the side effects of certain drugs. For instance, steroids can increase hair on the body, as well as acne, while some other heart medications result in weight gain and stretch marks. These effects can cause teenagers to be very self-conscious and self-confidence, which affects all areas of life, from relationships to career success.

Building self-confidence in the teenager with CHD

Encourage your child to talk about concerns she may have about physical appearance as it relates to her illness. Be sure that she understands the possible effects of treatment and seek out options for ways to cope with or eliminate side effects. For example, acne concerns might be managed with the help of a dermatologist, by changing the drug dose, or by switching drugs. Discuss ways to answer any questions people may ask about her appearance. Try to involve her in activities in which she takes pride (such as music or art), to discourage her from focusing too much on appearance.

Ross Hetherington, PhD, C.Psych