Psychological Challenges Associated with CMN
Having a mole that covers a significant part of your body is no picnic. Most of the time visible large moles or birthmarks are both unusual and noticeable. They definitely look "different," and especially draw attention when they're on the face. Other people sometimes react, without considering how they come across.
Reactions from the Outside
People with large moles get more than their fair share of looks, stares, whispering and finger-pointing. Teasing and bullying can be ongoing problems for children who look different from their peers.
These reactions are not limited to peers; it is common for adults to react in immature ways when they come upon a child with a visible large nevus.
Reactions from the Inside
Because of the way they are treated, and/or the way they perceive themselves, a person with a large nevus may suffer from anxiety, depression or a self-esteem deficiency.
Children with large nevi may act out their frustration in all kinds of different ways.
Adults with large nevi, who have suffered under more negative experiences than they can comfortably manage, face a significant challenge. They may prefer to rule their own lives instead of allowing their life to be dominated by their nevus, but may feel they are not succeeding.
It is not uncommon for family members, especially older generations, to either truly believe or delude themselves into believing that a birthmark will “fade.” Some birthmarks do fade. Some large nevi lighten over time, but not to the extent that they go away.
It is also common for grandparents or aunts/uncles of newborns with large nevi to hit the books and champion their grandchild’s cause. (We hear from these relatives-on-a-mission all the time, and we love it. NOTE: This can overwhelm the parents of the newborn! Consider your timing.)
Some family members may insist the best thing to do is hide the child and deny there is anything wrong. Psychologists identify this as a self-centered response rooted in their own subconscious discomfort at being related to someone less than perfect. Perhaps they should look in the mirror.
Unfortunately, new families are still commonly told to take their little disfigured bundle of love home and love on them because they are not going to live very long. Unless they have symptomatic NCM at birth (most don’t), usually nothing is farther from the truth.
How to Deal With It
All the reactions above, though normal, and undeniable, are not in the best interest of the person with the large nevus. To best help the person with the large nevus:
Stop and Catch your Breath
If you a new parent of a child with a nevus, you are taking in a lot of information at once. Your emotions are on a roller coaster and you have so many questions you may not know where to begin. It is important to stop and get yourself oriented. Focus on your new bundle of joy and then begin to sort out the most pressing questions you have and start there.
"It Takes a Village"
You can’t do this yourself. Get connected to the thousands of other people who know what you are going through. Nevus Outreach has great resources for connecting with others via email lists, Facebook and in-person. There is a massive amount of reassurance available to anyone who simply gets connected.
Nevus Outreach is not just for the parents of children with large nevi. There is also an extensive network of adults with large nevi. The frustrated adult with a nevus who has not ever met someone else who also has one, may be glad to get connected to this community.
In the long run, putting your head in the sand will not do any favors to the person with the large nevus. Get educated so you can separate truth from fiction, and get involved so you don’t feel alone.
It is so reassuring to me to know that there are other families out there who deal with the same issues as we do.