Pain associated with gall bladder dysfunction is a source of concern for children and parents. It is known that the discomfort associated with gall bladder disease is severe and recurrent. When negative emotions interact with the experience of pain, the outcome is higher levels of subjective distress and diminished use of coping strategies.
When the source of pain is unknown, a child is likely to make inaccurate attributions about their health and well-being. Catastrophizing, or assuming the worst about their health is known to intensify the experience of pain. Once the cause of their symptoms is know, however children can still have difficulty finding ways to cope with the unpredictable nature of this illness. Misguided attempts at problem solving around the causes of the pain can sometimes make their symptoms worse. Failure in the process of problem solving can lead to a child the give up trying. This loss of hope and the perception that they have lost all control is another problem for pain management.
Fortunately there are several very effective ways to help children with pain management. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that incorporates modified diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and/or guided imagery has been found to be useful and effective in providing children with tools to effectively cope with pain. These strategies focus on developing cognitive distractions for their experience of pain as well as techniques for relaxing their physiology. The goal is to empower the child to be in control of their thoughts regarding their pain. When we can neutralize catastrophic thought processes, emotional well-being will follow.
The key to effective treatment however is early intervention. The sooner a child is given good coping techniques, the better their perception of control of their health and body. Adequate coping with the pain of gall bladder disease allows more time for medication and dietary changes to have an effect and therefore possibly prevent the need for surgery.