Talking to your parents about hyperhidrosis
"John," a reader of this blog, wrote to me asking for suggestions on how to tell his parents about his hyperhidrosis. I think John is very smart to put some thought into this, because your approach will help determine what kind of support you will get from your parents.
I think I could have handled this issue better as a teenager. I used to put on a tough facade...I would pretend I didn't like any kind of activity that might expose my hyperhidrosis. Dances are stupid. Theater is stupid. Church is stupid. Class rings are stupid. Group pictures with the swim team are stupid. Sometimes I even believed what I said. It was easier to reject everything than to show up at the group picture with my wet feet making marks on the floor or to have someone notice my class ring *and* my sweaty hand. I definitely wouldn't advise the "tough facade" approach to talking to parents.
When I did ask for help, I was told that I was lucky to have my problem compared with other people's problems. I had enough food to eat, a healthy body, good grades in school...what more could I want? Yes, there are always people who are worse off, but hyperhidrosis is a real problem. In fact, studies show that treatment of hyperhidrosis improves one's quality of life more than treatment of many conditions that are considered more serious.
So before you ask for help, I suggest rehearsing what you're going to say and letting your parents know how the condition impacts your social life. Tell them about the time no one wanted to dance with you because of your sweaty palms, or the time a teacher made fun of you in front of others, or whatever might have happened to you because of your sweating. Tell them that non-surgical treatment is available from dermatologists, and your visit is most likely to be covered by health insurance. Print out information from the internet (especially www.sweathelp.org) to show to your parents. Try not to get angry if you don't get the response you want...it may take your parents some time to understand what you are going through. Finally, mention the problem to your doctor at your next office visit. The doctor could talk to your parents about the need for treatment. Hyperhidrosis is a common problem (3 or 4 percent of the U.S. population), so I would be shocked if your doctor even blinks an eye when you talk to him or her.
The International Hyperhidrosis Society has a lot of good information for teenagers, including an "ask frances" column written by a teenager who got treatment for her hyperhidrosis. Scroll down the page to see a letter that addresses this issue in great detail.
I'd like to write more about this important issue, so please feel free to jump in and offer your thoughts and suggestions for me and John.
Thanks for writing, John, and please keep us posted!