Somatoform disorders and trauma in medically-admitted children, adolescents, and young adults: prevalence rates and psychosocial characteristics

Psychosomatics. Nov-Dec 2014;55(6):630-9. doi: 10.1016/j.psym.2014.05.006. Epub 2014 Jun 5.


Objective: The purpose of this study is to describe past traumatic experiences in medically-admitted pediatric and young adult patients diagnosed with somatoform disorders and to explore the demographic, diagnostic, and psychosocial differences between those with and without trauma histories.

Methods: Retrospective medical record reviews were performed for patients (aged 3-29 years) seen by the Psychiatry Consultation Service (2010-2011) at a pediatric medical hospital and diagnosed with a somatoform disorder. Clinical data collected included demographics, medical history, current physical symptoms, psychiatric diagnoses and history, trauma history, coping styles, family psychiatric and medical history, peer and family factors, psychiatric disposition after discharge, and service utilization.

Results: The mean age of the 180 identified patients was 15.1 years. Most patients were girls (75.0%) and White (71.7%). Somatoform diagnoses were primarily pain (51.4%) and conversion disorders (28.9%). Rates of trauma were similar to national norms (29.7%). Trauma history did not correlate with age, sex, race, income, length of hospitalization, or type of somatoform disorders. However, patients with trauma histories had significantly higher rates of psychiatric comorbidities (76.0% vs. 50.8%), past psychiatric treatment (81.1% vs. 59.1%), parent mental illness (69.8% vs. 38.6%), and family conflict (52.8% vs. 37.0%) and were more likely to require inpatient psychiatric hospitalization on discharge (18.9% vs. 6.3%).

Conclusion: Prevalence of trauma in a sample of medically-admitted pediatric and young adult patients with somatoform diagnoses was similar to national norms. However, patients with a history of trauma had unique psychiatric and psychosocial profiles compared to those without a history of trauma.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Psychology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Somatoform Disorders / epidemiology
  • Somatoform Disorders / etiology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications*
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology
  • Young Adult