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The Social, Emotional, & Psychological Effects of Adults With Cerebral Palsy

by
author image Mary Lehrman, Ph.D.
Mary Lehrman is a licensed psychologist with a Ph.D. in health psychology. She is also a personal trainer. Lehrman has published in academic journals and has more than 10 years of experience in helping people improve their health and well-being.
The Social, Emotional, & Psychological Effects of Adults With Cerebral Palsy
A disabled man with cerebral palsy is sitting at an outdoor cafe. Photo Credit Dmitry Berkut/iStock/Getty Images

Overview

Cerebral palsy is a group of brain disorders that affect the coordination of body movement. As result of medical innovations, many people with cerebral palsy are living into adulthood, but walking, eating, dressing and performing other everyday activities may be challenging for these individuals. These challenges may interfere with social well-being and cause distress. Difficulties with cognition, or thinking ability, may also be present among those with cerebral palsy.

Social Effects

According to an article in the December 2006 issue of “Clinical Rehabilitation,” young adults with cerebral palsy are less socially active and have fewer romantic relationships than their peers who do not have the condition. The physical impairments of cerebral palsy may limit the ability to participate in activities with others. Relationships may be established with people who do not engage in many physical activities, as noted in a study in the September 2008 issue of “Journal of Physical Activity and Health.” Individuals with cerebral palsy have increased self-esteem and sense of belonging if they feel accepted and supported by others.

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Emotional Effects

Distress may develop among individuals who experience difficulty adjusting to having cerebral palsy as an adult. Some people with cerebral palsy may feel frustrated, angry or sad as a result of having physical or cognitive impairments, especially if the impairments pose challenges to finding a significant other or living independently. These feelings seem to be present with more severe physical limitations. Poor self-esteem and a negative self-image may develop from distress related to impairments. Adapting to cerebral palsy may help improve mood and perceived quality of life, according to the September 2008 study in “Journal of Physical Activity and Health.”

Psychological and Cognitive Effects

Individuals with cerebral palsy may have cognitive concerns, according to a study in the February 2006 issue of “Disability and Rehabilitation.” Learning disabilities may be present, depending on the area of the brain that was damaged. About a third of individuals with cerebral palsy have mild intellectual impairments, a third have moderate-to-severe intellectual impairments, and another third have normal intellectual functioning. Mental retardation or considerable mental impairment may be present among those with severe cerebral palsy. However, an increasing number of adults with cerebral palsy who have mild or no cognitive impairment are furthering their educations and are employed, according to a study in the June 2000 edition of “Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.” Advances in treatment, educational accommodations and supportive services are allowing adults with cerebral palsy to further their educations, work and live more independently.

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References

  • “Clinical Rehabilitation”; Social and Sexual Relationships of Adolescents and Young Adults with Cerebral Palsy: A Review; Diana, Wiegerink, et al.; December 2006
  • “Disability and Rehabilitation”; The Epidemiology of Cerebral Palsy: Incidence, Impairments and Risk Factors; Else Odding, et al.; February 2006
  • “Journal of Physical Activity and Health”; Physical Activity, Health-Related Quality of Life, and Psychosocial Functioning of Adults With Cerebral Palsy; Cadeyrn Gaskin and Tony Morris; September 2008
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