Illness & disability
Did you know that millions of young people have an illness or disability?
An illness is a sickness. Some illnesses are acute, which means they come on quickly and are over quickly (like a cold or the flu). Other illnesses are chronic, which means they last a long time and perhaps a lifetime (like asthma or diabetes).
A disability is a physical or mental problem that makes it harder to do normal daily activities. You can be born with a disability or get it from an illness or an injury.
Many different kinds of illnesses and disabilities can affect people. If you have an illness or disability, you know that taking care of your needs can be hard sometimes. But you can learn about the skills and support you will need to live well with a disability or chronic illness. This section of girlshealth.gov offers lots of helpful tips. Some things you can learn about here include:
Illnesses and disabilities can often come with words that you don’t understand. Have no fear! You can look them up in our glossary of medical terms. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor to explain anything you don’t understand.
- Some types of illnesses and disabilities and how each one affects teens in a different way
- Tips to boost self-esteem and cope during tough times
- How to play sports and stay active
- A plan to help you do well in school
- Tips for getting along with family, friends, and classmates
- How to talk to your doctor and health care team
- Tools to help people with disabilities live independently
- Celebrities with illnesses and disabilities
- Real girls with illnesses and disabilities
If you know someone with an illness or disability, this section is for you, too. When you understand the types of challenges faced by someone with an illness or disability, you will know how to be a better friend or family member to this person.
You may have heard about H1N1 flu in the news. What is it? Learn more about the flu here.
Keep in mind that people with disabilities are, above all, people who have great gifts to share. In fact, some people who might seem to have a disability don’t even think of themselves as having one.
In the end, teen girls of all shapes, sizes, and conditions want many of the same things in life — to feel good about themselves and their relationships, to be able to take care of themselves and their needs, and to pursue their hopes and dreams.
“I had a problem with my right leg from the knee down when I was born, so it was amputated. I joined the swim team when I was 12. One girl told me that I was her hero because I swam with only one leg. But I hardly think about it now that I’m older and used to it!”
“My first asthma attack was on the soccer fields when I was about 8. I had to be carried off. A few years later, and now there’s no more soccer for me. It was my life, what I lived and breathed for. But I’m still coping. I have learned how to put my passion and determination into other things.”
“I have ADHD, which means I have a hard time staying focused. I used to worry a lot about what people think. Now I don't care as much. I have learned from my disability not to let people get to you. Stand up for yourself!”
“I have depression, so most days I don't want to even get out of bed. Now that I have friends that understand what I am feeling inside it makes it worth getting up in the morning. If you suffer from severe depression like I do, don't be ashamed to talk about it. Even if it is just to your closest friend, they might be able to help. Keeping my friends close and trusting in them is how I live with my depression.”
–K.C., North Carolina
Content last updated February 16, 2011