Psychological problems connected to the dietary restrictions in the adolescent with coeliac disease

Pediatr Med Chir. Nov-Dec 1999;21(6):279-83.


Aims: To assess the influence of dietary restrictions on psychological development in adolescents with coeliac disease.

Design: Statistical analysis on coeliac patients on gluten-free diet who agreed to answer the questionnaire.

Setting: Children with coeliac disease on gluten-free diet followed by the Department of the Pediatric Division of the City Mayor Hospital, Chair of Paediatrics, Verona University.

Subject: 39 patients (15 male and 24 female) from 10 years old to 21 who chose to answer a questionnaire of 25 questions dealing with the psychological implications of coeliac disease and with the need of following a particular dietary regime, in the presence of a psychologist. The questionnaire was made up of 6 SIGNALLING questions, 15 EVALUATING questions, 4 FILTER questions. They also filled up an information sheet on the composition and social position of the family.

Results: Fathers were on average 45.5 years old, mothers 43. Only 2 parents had no educational qualifications. Father's professions were of various kinds, 22 mothers were housewives. Only 4 patients were only children, 22 had one brother or sister. 13 patients only out of 39 claimed not to have been admonished by their parents, though, showed a conflictual relationship with food. The awareness of their difference from friends was: a) lack in children 10 to 12, b) uneasiness in adolescents 13 to 17, c) maturation and consensus in older patients. A significant number of patients feel different from their friends and these patients showed a latent envy to friends on free diet. A sense of latent envy towards the condition of independence was exhibited by patients who felt different from friends.

Conclusions: The acceptance of a gluten-free diet is problematic for the majority of coeliac children and adolescents, particularly for those between 12 and 17. In this group the search of an individual personality is disturbed. Difficulties connected with gluten-free diet seem to be absent in the family environment, whereas difficulties emerge significantly when relating with friends. The number of cases of our study was limited but we consider these conclusions quite significant.

Descriptors: Gluten-free diet, adolescents and children, relationship with parents, relationship with friends.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Celiac Disease / diet therapy*
  • Celiac Disease / psychology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*