It is very unfortunate that until recently there were virtually no studies showcasing the psychological effects from this deformity. Pectus excavatum was considered purely a cosmetic deformity and the psychological effects were incorrectly overlooked. Luckily, in recent years, the awareness about this deformity has substantially increased and medical doctors and scientist took notice of that. Many detailed studies have been performed about the both physical and psychological effects and the result have surprised many professionals in the medicine world . The studies have confirmed that the initial diagnose that pectus excavatum should only be treated as a physical deformity and the only psychological downside was that patients were unwilling to take their shirt off in public, was not only wrong, but completely incorrect. In fact, the studies have shown that the psychological effects were much more intimidating and damaging than the physical symptoms and affect patients in all aspects of life.
How deeply does Pectus Excavatum affects patients quality of life?
Even though some patients are able to accept their deformity and try to lead a happy and normal life, studies show that in most cases pectus excavatum victims share the same psychological restrictions. Feeling of negative body image, low self-esteem and overall dissatisfaction with life are the usual remarks between all patients. It is particularly worrying because the psychological symptoms start manifesting just as patients start entering their adolescence years – period when the concept of body image and self-worth is firstly formed. This can have a negative domino-like effect in their further development as individuals.
Here are the results made in a study by Einsiedel & Clausner in 2009 which showcase the psychological restrictions on patients with pectus excavatum in different period of life. According to Einsiedel and Clausner, psychological effects are larger after 11 years of age, when feelings of embarrassment, social anxiety, shame, limited capacity for activities and communication, negativity, intolerance, frustration, and even depressive reactions are observed. The results are divided in two tables, based on age. First table is on younger patients (age 11 – 18) and second when patients start entering adult years (18 – 35)
Patients ranging from 11 to 18 years old
Patients ranging from 18 to 35 years old
Suffering from pectus excavatum should not be underestimated. No matter how strong the child is, they almost always fall under the heavy unexpected pressure that is placed upon them. What is worse of all, the children refuse to speak with anyone on the subject, including their parents and friends. They will rather close in their rooms and in their thought than admit to the problem. This is very dangerous because the more we repress the issue , the bigger it will get. The psychological symptoms will only continue to get worse and worse with time and the problem will still be there. The little feeling of being different only enlarges with every day passed until it finally isolates the child and inflicts it with permanent psychological damage.
And it does not stop with the passing on the formative years. The psychological issues continue well into the patient adult life and thoroug out his entire life-span. That is the main reason people get operated in all different ages.
How Can Parents Help Their Children?
Are you a parent of a child with pectus excavatum? Have you noticed some recent changes with their behaviour? Even if you have not, do not be surprised, pectus excavatum victims often become masters at hiding their real feeling and emotions from the outside world. Nobody likes to be classified as a freak (common self-adjective between P.E. individuals) or show such level of vulnerability, especially in their formative years. It is your job as a parent to try and help your child the best way possible.
But a parent should be careful with a delicate topic such as this one, because a wrong approach could be wrongly interpreted by the child and result in bigger withdraw. It is not easy to get inside the head of your child and ask the right questions. If you are ready to confront your child about his behavioral problems, do it prepared with the right questions.
For this topic we recommend this book . From what is offered in the market this is in our opinion the most influential book. It will not cure yourself or your child, but if processed right, it can take some off the pressure by not making you feel like you are all alone in this.