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Adolescent Dealing With Pain

anonymous anonymous
My daughter is 12. She has had a complex history of illness (too much to get into and it doesn’t matter anyway for this) which has left her now dealing with chronic pain. Last year she was heavily medicated but it left her sedated all the time. She just couldn’t function like a kid at all. So we decided that even though she was going to have more pain issues we had to get her off the morphine. Since the beginning of October she has been totally opiate free. So now she is dealing with a lot of pain and when it gets particularly bad she reacts by lashing out, especially at family members. She is a middle of three sisters and she will physically hit and pinch her sisters when she feels bad. They understand but they are also getting very tired of this. She is getting older. So far she has not had any problems at school (she comes home from school when she starts feeling pain) but we are at the end of our rope as a family. We can’t go on like this. We can’t let her hurt our other kids. We can’t put her under the medications again. Our doctor suggested counseling but she won’t go (she hates it) and when we forced her she just barely communicated in sessions so it did no good. There is no answer. What can we do?

Rev. Christopher Smith Says...

Rev. Christopher Smith C. Smith
LCAC, LMHC, LMFT
Google+

As a parent we want to look at our children and see things going well. Parents do not want to see their child in pain. Parents do not want to see their child not being able to function. Parents do not want to see their child acting out. When a number of ways have already been pursued to address these issues, it can be hard to really think about what is going on and how to address it.

Let's think about the specifics of the case raised as an example of the struggle that a parent may need to address. The first step to finding peace and wholeness is to look carefully at what is making your daughter "lash out". There are actually a number of possibilities and each of them would go along with a different answer.

There is little background about how this parent got their child off of medications for her pain. While she was prescribed the medication for her pain, she could still have been addicted. There are different ways of dealing with this withdrawal, however, regardless, after six months there remains the possibility of cravings. If your daughter has not learned how to handle those cravings, cravings can also make someone irritable which could be the root behind her lashing out. If she did not get help while going through the acute phase of the withdrawal, finding a way for her to learn about dealing with cravings would be a helpful thing to do not only for the current situation but also for the future.

Another possible contributor to her lashing out is normal sibling rivalry. You expressed that she does not have problems at school but also that she comes home before the pain becomes too intense - does she have problems with her friends at other times? Depending on many factors (age differences, relationships, rooming relationships, etc) it is not uncommon for someone at her age to have problems with her siblings. If this is the case, there are a number of interventions that can help. These range from time and maturity (which you may not want to wait out), parenting strategies (with appropriate boundaries and oversight of interactions), strategies for the siblings (who may not currently be equipped to handle the relationship, especially if they are affected by the fact that she has serious medical issues), to family therapy (that she might be more open to as the whole family would be participating).

Then, of course, there is the possibility that the major contributor is the pain that your daughter is in. This could be directly in terms of how she reacts when she is under a lot of pain or it could be because of how she feels dealing with chronic pain. While counseling would be a good way to help her in coping and in responding differently, this has not worked so far. You may want to try a different therapist as part of the problem may have been the relationship with the particular therapist (I know I am not the right therapist for everyone). You could also look to see if there are any appropriate group therapy sessions in your area - she may find it easier to relate in a group of people with similar problems or a group of people about her age. The other area to work on would be alternative ways of managing her pain. Medication is one avenue for this and you have chosen to leave that behind because it was not working for other reasons. There are still other ways to help address the pain which will vary depending on the type of pain your daughter has but may include things like meditation, yoga and medications to address other contributing symptoms (like anti-depressants).

Of course, in many cases, the cause is not one of these, but is actually a combination of more than one of these and possibly other factors as well. You will be able to use a blend of things to address the situation. There are still things that you can do and it is possible to find an answer. By continuing to work with the professionals you have helping you, you and your daughter can be on the journey to peace and wholeness.

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Page last updated Apr 26, 2013

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