The Emotional World of Disability

What is a disability?

It is estimated that more than one billion people live with some form of disability in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which represents 15% of the world’s population.

Disability is a broad and complex concept encompassing difficulties and limitations. 

Disability is a social construct since it aims to explain and illustrate particular support and needs. People with disabilities require this support because they have a specific pathology, disease, or alteration. 

Types of Disability

Within Disability, we can find different types depending on the cause of it, such as the following: 

  • Physical Disability: a result of organic alterations that affect the neuromuscular and skeletal system, limiting or hindering movement, coordination, and gait. 
  • Intellectual Disability: arises from alterations in intellectual function and adaptive capacity, these being below what is expected for their age. 
  • Mental Disability: the result of mental disorders that chronically interfere with the functioning and adaptation of the person. 
  • Organic or emotional Disability: it is the product of chronic diseases or alterations in vital organs. 
  • Sensory Disability: it arises from alterations in any of the senses, such as sight, hearing, touch, taste, or smell. 

Emotions and Disability

People with disabilities face endless challenges that have an emotional impact on themselves and their families. 

In the different stages of the life cycle, the person with a disability faces new situations. These difficulties need to implement other psychological mechanisms of adaptation and regulation, which they usually do not have. 

They frequently develop depressive and anxiety symptoms, which significantly interfere with their functioning and development, affecting all areas of their life. Therefore, providing psychological care and working on emotional education is an essential requirement to improve family and personal life quality.

The emotional challenges of people with disabilities at different stages of the life cycle

In childhood:

From the age of 6, children begin to be aware of their unique characteristics and perceive the differences they have regarding other children their age. 

On many occasions, children with disabilities are vulnerable to rejection or ridiculed by their peers due to their low social skills or physical limitations. 

This type of experience generates emotional wounds in childhood that negatively influence self-esteem. Therefore, it must be addressed from the first moment to mitigate the consequences and achieve greater social integration. 

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On the other hand, in this period, children are becoming more aware of what is happening to them and its meaning, which causes a significant impact and emotional imbalance. 

In this process, it is natural that feelings of negative valence begin to appear, such as sadness, anger, and anxiety, which require special attention. 

In adolescence:

The differences with other youngsters begin to be more significant in teens, implying new adaptation and adjustment needs. 

The social and leisure area take on a great relevance in teenaged life. The limitations that until then were not so evident begin to be, restricting access to many activities, relationships, and possibilities that are offered naturally in the stage of youth. 

These difficulties usually trigger negative emotions such as frustration, loneliness, sadness, and anger. Without enough support, it can lead to severe behavioral and emotional disorders, affecting family relationships and global well-being.  

The transition to adult life:

The beginning of adulthood is also an emotionally complex period since many significant changes occur: the end of the high school period, changes in social relationships, access to the world of work, etc. 

These changes usually generate high anxiety and uncertainty in people with disabilities, needing help reorganizing this new stage of their lives and adjusting their expectations to their possibilities.  

Psychological care in Disability 

Therefore, psychological care is an indispensable tool, which should be considered equally important. Its general objective is to improve the quality of life and ensure a better adaptation to the environment. 

Psychological therapy offers excellent benefits for the person with a disability. Through it, they learn to express their feelings, adapt to changes, and generate emotional resources to face each particular situation in the best possible way. 

Likewise, it is essential for the family since it offers resources and specific strategies to the family to help the person overcome each stage of the life cycle and improve family relationships.