Kids who have (frequent) mysterious stomachaches should see both medical and psychological health professions according to Lynn Walker of Vanderbilt University, lead author of a recent study which shows that they are “20%-40% more likely to grown up to be anxiety-riddled adults and suffer from depression than those who didn’t have “abdominal issues.”
After following approximately 300 children who suffered from chronic tummy pains (as well as 150 who didn’t) for 9 years until they reached maturity, Walker’s findings were in line with earlier studies including a 2004 report by John V. Campo, MD, of the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which discovered that “nearly 1 out of every 4 youngsters complain of chronic stomaches, although doctors failed to find any physical reason for the pains in “the overwhelming majority,” of them. He also found that the condition seemed to worsen as the kids got older. This was “particularly true among girls and children in lower income homes.”
At the time of his study, Campo and his colleagues reviewed medical records of 42 children and adolescents who suffered at least three stomachaches within a 90 period, and 38 who did not. According to his report, Campo found that “81% of the stomachache group had either anxiety (primarily separation anxiety disorder) or social phobia, as well as depression. He also noted that the anxiety disorders generally began around the age of 9, although the stomachaches did not become prevalent until they reached 12-years old.
Still, Walker admits that despite the years of research devoted to this phenomena, investigators are still unable to state for certain whether the stomachaches are caused by severe anxiety, or visa versa.
“Children with frequent tummy trauma often miss a lot of school and other social activities, which in turn may lead to isolation and stress,” she noted. “However, we also saw that once the abdominal distress went away, 40% of these patients still suffered from anxiety and depression as adults.Therefore, it is prudent for professionals treating these children to address their stomach pain and extreme nervousness together,”