Your teen has colds, headaches, stomach aches and a host of other physical complaints. You may find yourself wondering if he is becoming a hypochondriac! The unique stresses of adolescence can make some teens appear to be hypochondriacs.
• First, the physical and life changes in teens cause stress and heightened body awareness, so aches and pains are more likely to be noticed.
• Second, while a teen is struggling for independence, there are times when he needs to feel taken care of again. Being sick is an OK way, in a teen’s mind, to get some of the loving care he craves.
• Third, school and peers are more demanding. Illness can be a way to get a “time-out” from these stresses.
• Fourth, changing feelings can be stressful and confusing. When they get bottled up, stress and stress-related symptoms occur.
To help, see your teen’s pain as real, not imaginary, and encourage him or her to discuss the feelings behind the pain. Reassure him that his physical and emotional changes are normal. Help him to find ways to cope with tough situations at school. Most important, let him know you’re there to listen and to help.
Dr. Wibbelsman, M.D., is an award-winning author and former “Dear Doctor” columnist for Teen magazine. Chair of Adolescent Medicine for the Permanente Medical Group, Northern California, he is chief of the Teen-Age Clinic at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco, and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco Medical School. Dr. Wibbelsman is the news anchor for a Bay Area television series, “Medicine in the Nineties”.