Advice for Teenagers

Life is never quite straight-forward when you’re a teenager! There are so many exams to take, so many decisions to make. What subjects should I do at school next year? Should I leave, or stay on and hope to go to University? What career do I want to choose? Will I be any good at it? On top of this there are dramatic changes occurring in boys’ and girls’ bodies, and often tensions within the family about so many things - activities, money, restrictions and especially dates.

It is not surprising that teenagers often feel anxious and confused. They inevitably keep very much together, and this leads to peer pressures which are difficult to avoid.

IBD is particularly likely to develop in the second decade of life, with the onset of puberty, and it may all seem just too much to cope with. ‘Why should this happen to me!’ Some teenagers are so angry about getting Crohn’s or colitis that they refuse to co-operate with treatment. They don’t want to have to take pills or follow a diet which their friends don’t need. They are tempted to rebel and to hope that it all just goes away.

Such an outlook, is of course, merely counter-productive, and the disease just gets even worse!

It is vital to remember that IBD is not a life sentence. It can successfully be controlled. If you keep to the recommended treatment, there is no reason why you should not play rugby, or go to medical school, or take up dramatics just like your friends are planning to do. Yes, it’s awful when all your mates go down to a café and eat bacon sandwiches when you can’t . But the chances are that you will find something suitable on the menu and although you may feel everyone comments when you do something a little different, if you go about it cheerfully and confidently they probably won’t even notice! There’s no need to keep explaining it’s because you have Crohn’s or colitis.

Remember that you are planning for your future. If you keep yourself well, the world is your oyster. It’s certainly much more important than a bag of chips or a bacon butty with your mates.

Learn to work with your doctors and your specialist nurse. Build up confidence with them and work on your treatment together to get the very best results. By the time you are in your twenties the problem may have disappeared completely.

Some hospitals now run special Adolescent Clinics where teenagers can be seen, with no noisy children around, but with more understanding than perhaps they may get in a busy clinic for adults. This may help enormously. Ask your doctor if there is one which you could go to.

Whatever you do, don’t give up!