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For a child or teen, living with a chronic GI condition can be more stigmatizing than cancer. Living with the debilitating and often embarrassing symptoms that accompany inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)— most frequently Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis—and other GI illnesses may result in high levels of stress, anxiety and social stigma for patients. In turn, the stress and anxiety can cause the disease to flare up. It’s a painful cycle for patients.

Connecticut Children’s Program for Pediatric Psychogastroenterology is helping to change the paradigm for how kids with chronic digestive conditions are treated. While the burdens of living with these conditions may be invisible to others, our doctors see it clearly. Psychogastroenterology focuses on the relationship between the brain and the digestive system—the mind-gut connection.

Dr. Baker with a GI patient

Understanding Medical PTSD in Kids

There has been a growing body of research on medical post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the adult population, but medical PTSD in children and adolescents has been studied far less. Connecticut Children’s pediatric psychologist Bradley Jerson, PhD, is working to change that with a new initiative: Promoting Resilience and Inclusive Disease Experiences for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (PRIDE-IBD). The goal of PRIDE-IBD is to expand upon the clinical understanding of how IBD affects youth and to better understand the medical traumatic stress experienced by pediatric patients living with IBD.

PRIDE-IBD will also examine other clinical and psychosocial variables relevant to pediatric patients— including levels of school connectedness and the relationship to personal resilience, disease activity and types of medical interventions and treatments. Dr. Jerson is partnering with University of Connecticut School of Education doctoral candidate Rebekah Charles to study the impact that living with chronic illness has on youths’ ability to form positive school connections with peers and trusted adults, and the reciprocal role this has on their IBD illness trajectory.

Invest in a Better Future

When you give to Connecticut Children’s, you make an investment in pediatric health and better futures for children. Healthier children grow into healthier communities. At Connecticut Children’s, no child is denied care based on a family’s ability to pay. We are here for anyone who needs us…maybe even you.

Helping LGBTQIA Youth Cope with Chronic Illness

The PRIDE-IBD study has a second component—looking at LGBTQIA youths’ experiences living with IBD and receiving health care within the current medical system. The challenges of chronic illness compound the already significant stress that LGBTQIA youth cope with daily. PRIDE-IBD will identify what these patients need from our healthcare system in order to build greater resilience in the face of these stressors and to buffer the effects of psychosocial stress on their inflammatory processes that may potentially worsen their IBD activity. Melissa Santos, PhD, Division Head of Pediatric Psychology at Connecticut Children’s, will also contribute her expertise and experience working with LGBTQIA youth to PRIDE-IBD.

In the United States, medical research is funded by investors, grants and charitable donations from people like you. Interested in supporting the world-class research happening at Connecticut Children’s? Consider joining Connecticut Children’s Connection, a community of members who care deeply about supporting medical research and improving the lives of children across the state and around the world.

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