Psychogenic pain disorder in children

S Afr Med J. 1989 Sep 2;76(5):195-6.


The concept of psychogenic pain in children is by no means new; it has been researched for at least 3 decades. There is increasing recognition of the relationship between emotional factors and complaints of pain in the absence of organic disease. By their very nature these conditions warrant a team approach, incorporating both medical and psychological perspectives, to treatment. A study was undertaken that focused on identifying the incidence and related features of this problem at a general hospital. Over a 2-year period 46 children showed psychogenic pain disorder according to the criteria of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Physical examinations and basic investigations revealed no organic disease. The majority of the children (34, 73.9%) complained of abdominal pain, although limb and chest pains also featured. Marital problems between parents constituted the most common stressor, affecting 31 of the children (67.4%). Psychotherapeutic management was initiated with all the children and their families. Thirty-five (76.1%) had remission of symptoms after psychotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychology, Child
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / therapy
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications