Unlike children, who, essentially, see their bodies as tools that can be used to make or feel something, perceiving them as familiar and safe containers, teenagers look at their bodies and require them to play a structuring and integrating function that can support their transforming identity. Illness is often seen as an attack against the body, but in adolescence it risks becoming, above all, a threat to this symbolic function and to the future. More or less consciously, in these situations teenagers often trigger certain self-defence strategies and expedients. Unfortunately, these defences do not always reach the objective they were triggered for and become self-destructive acts or processes of which the teenager is only partially aware. In the article the authors explain some of these critical issues, on the basis of their experience with adolescents who were admitted to the hospital because of chronic or acute diseases, and who often needed a lengthy hospitalization or several surgeries. Finally, the authors suggest some considerations on the importance of a therapeutic function that could preserve the continuity of the growth process and that could reduce the risk of flattening the inner world on disease.
Keywords: Adolescence, body, illness, identity, protection, hospital psychology