Stomachaches in childhood often occur before anxiety disorders in adulthood

The journal Pediatrics reported a cross-sectional study linking childhood stomachaches to anxiety disorders in later life. A cross-sectional study looks at a medical condition in a population. This type of descriptive study is often used to show the prevalence of a disorder in a population and may lead to evaluations of the cause and effect of an illness.

Functional abdominal pain (FAP)

It is common for pediatricians and family doctors to see children complaining of stomach pain. Often this pain has no specific medical cause such as bowl obstruction or food poisoning. It may often be associated with general “worries” such as school, homework, or friend problems.

What the research showed was that children with FAP, “carry long-term vulnerability to anxiety that begins in childhood and persists into late adolescence and early adulthood, even if abdominal pain resolves.”

What is an Anxiety Disorder?

An anxiety disorder is a general classification of mental health disorders that is typified by anxiety and worry occurring most days for at least 6 months. The person finds it very hard to control their worrying. Because of their state of worry, they often have problems at home, work, or school.

 

Often the symptoms of anxiety are one or all of the following:

  • Restless feelings or feeling keyed up all the time
  • Months and months of being easily fatigued (without medical reason)
  • Difficulty concentrating or losing track of one’s thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep. This is often reported as “restless” sleep or “feeling tired all the time”

What should a parent be looking for?

It is often impossible to know why your child is having so many upset stomachs. It is best to start with your pediatrician or family doctor to rule out medical stomach problems.

If your child is having any of the symptoms discussed above, tell your child’s doctor. There is effective treatment for anxiety issues. Your MD may refer you to a mental health professional. Often a little support from a counselor can go along way to help your child. Most therapists will start by teaching your child effective coping mechanisms for dealing with life’s stressors. This often shows quick and long term rewards. If the problem is moderate to severe, it is best to get help sooner than later. Unfortunately, children can miss out on lots of the important social and academic milestones of childhood because of an untreated anxiety issue.

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