Psychosocial stress and abdominal pain in adolescents

Ment Health Fam Med. 2010 Jun;7(2):65-9.

Abstract

Children and adolescents may express psychiatric symptoms via somatic complaints. Likewise, children with chronic somatic illnesses are likely to experience psychiatric sequelae. We report three cases of adolescents who were admitted to general paediatrics services for abdominal pain and/or nausea and vomiting with a negative medical workup. In each case, a clear psychosocial stressor was evident. It is possible that somatic symptoms without clear medical causes may reflect psychosocial stress, but it is difficult to discern whether the psychosocial issues preceded the somatic complaints or were a result of them. Making an accurate diagnosis is difficult, and broaching such a subject with patients and their families is a delicate matter. More research is needed to determine appropriate screening tools for identifying cases where psychosocial stress may play a relevant role in symptom presentation, as well as potential treatment modalities for such cases.