Stories about: emotional stress

The science of stress

Adolescence is a hard time for just about everyone. School pressure, changing relationships, craving the independence of adulthood while clinging to the security of childhood; it can all lead to a lot of emotional turmoil. But while the stress of growing up may be almost universal, how teens handle it varies wildly.

Data shows that poor reaction to stress can lead to the onset of mental illnesses and associated problems like substance abuse or antisocial behavior. In many cases, the first signs of these disorders surface when the person is feeling stressed. Research also shows that adolescents who have experienced trauma or adversity when they were younger, like the death of a close relative or abandonment by a parent, are more likely to have mental health issues triggered by stress, compared to people who have never faced that kind of hardship.

Even though there’s plenty of research linking stress and early adversity to mental disorders, there are very few studies looking at how the two are connected. Why does early life adversity or trauma make some people more prone to mental illness, especially when dealing with stressful situations? And if warning signs are identified early enough, can these problems be avoided? These are questions Boston Children’s Hospital researcher Kate McLaughlin, PhD, is trying to answer. McLaughlin, along with Margaret Sheridan, PhD, are analyzing how teenagers’ brains react to stress. The project involves over 200 adolescents, some with mental health issues and some without, as well as teens who have experienced early life adversity and others who haven’t.

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Helping a family with medical issues

When your child is sick, a good friend can make all the difference in the world. But when you are that friend, it can be hard to know what to say or do. Unfortunately, sometimes even the best intentions miss their mark. I recently spoke with a few parents with chronically sick kids who said even some of their best meaning friends were anything but helpful when trying to relate to their position.

“Something I hear repeatedly that has become a thorn in my side, without the person realizing the negative connotations, is the question:  “How do you guys manage? It must be so hard to handle all that responsibility,’” says one dad. “I appreciate the sentiment, but we already know that being a parent of a sick child is hard; we don’t need to be reminded of it. We get through it with some work, but manage to love and have fun in process. The challenge doesn’t define us.”

To help people become better helpers, I’ve spoken with several parents of children with medical conditions, who together helped create this list which we hope can act as a guideline for people looking to help families with a medically fragile child.

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How do I talk to my child about Demi Lovato's emotional issues?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Children’s Hospital Boston’s media expert and director of Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Take a look at his blog archive or follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston.

Last week he talked about the subtleties of racial humor and if children picked up on them, or if they simply reinforced negative stereotypes. This week he advises a father on how to talk to his daughter about the recent emotional breakdown of her favorite pop star.

Q: My 6-year-old adores singer/actress Demi Lovato: She watches her Disney Channel show, “Sonny with a Chance” (with supervision), listens to her albums, and went to see Demi as her first concert this summer. But now the media are reporting that Demi just checked into rehab for “physical and emotional issues” that may involve an eating disorder and cutting issues. My daughter shares a playground and bus ride with older kids who are bound to be talking about this. There’s almost no way we can keep her away from the story, so how do I even begin explaining concepts like rehab, eating disorders and cutting to a 6-year-old?

Star-Struck-Down Dad in Boston, MA

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