Approach to psychosomatic illness in adolescents

Curr Opin Pediatr. 2011 Aug;23(4):384-9. doi: 10.1097/MOP.0b013e3283483f1c.


Purpose of review: Due to the increased prevalence of psychosomatic presentations and the difficulty of managing such patients, this article summarizes the latest findings for identifying individual and family risk factors, and new trends in the evaluation and management of pediatric patients with psychosomatic illness.

Recent findings: Up to 50% of patients in pediatric care will complain of medically unexplained symptoms with significant functional and emotional impairment. Such patients place heavy burdens on the healthcare system (frequent utilization of health resources and hospitalizations, specialist consultations, unnecessary investigations, and treatments). Somatoform disorders in pediatric care are associated with risks for psychiatric co-morbidity (anxiety and depressive disorders), family conflict, parent-perceived ill health, and school problems/absenteeism.

Summary: Gaining expertise in addressing pediatric psychosomatic illness can make a great difference in patients' life and in physicians' professional satisfaction. Effective treatment approaches involve a multidisciplinary approach to consolidate care and facilitate communication, target the patient/family's understanding of the mind-body relationship and their acceptance of the bio-psycho-social formulation and treatment, and utilize functional rehabilitation and cognitive behavioral therapy for the individual and family and management guidance for schools.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Family Relations
  • Humans
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders* / complications
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders* / therapy
  • Risk Factors