Yeah. I’ll bet you didn’t see that one coming! But in all seriousness, I’ve been considering contacting the American Psychological Association for quite a while now. Having visited just about every spina bifida-related medical specialist since birth– urologist, neurosurgeon, orthopedic surgeon– I am more than a bit stunned that one doctor they don’t usually bring into the picture early on is a psychiatrist.
It should come as not surprise that people with spina bifida have a higher risk of experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety. In fact, it is well-documented, if not highly-publicized, that people with spina bifida have a greater propensity toward depression than do people who don’t have spina bifida.
So, why all the secrecy? Why not introduce an individual with spina bifida, along with the family, to a psychiatrist and a psychologist, around, say, early puberty? That’s when the hormones kick-in, emotions are fluctuating, and that “omigosh-everyone-can-see-how-insecure-I-feel” attitude is beginning to take hold of the typical teenager.
And what happens to the young adult who can find no frame of reference for their own bodily changes, the one that likely no one else in his/her school will experience– tethered cord, central precocious puberty, frequent UTIs (which probably don’t change from one year to the next), etc., etc., etc.
How are young adults with spina bifida expected to deal with these inconsistencies when no one else will tell them, “That’s exactly what happens to me” and provides them with some level of solace?
As a matter of fact, there is no information to be found on the APA Web site that relates to depression and disability in general, let alone spina bifida, the number one cause of paralysis in children in America.
My goal is to write to the APA and urge them to include information about chronic illness/disabilities and how it relates to a higher incidence of mood disorders. In fact, this is part of my senior research project this semester. (I’m going out of my mind, by the way– it’s due next week!)
And so, I’ve found yet another area of our already complicated lives that desperately needs some advocacy. (*Resigned sigh*) Yeah, sure, sign me up!