Daily Israel Report

Children With Stomach Aches are at Risk for Anxiety, Depression

A recent study shows that unexplained abdominal pain at an early age may cause anxiety disorders and depression in adolescence.
By Kochava Rozenbaum
First Publish: 8/19/2013, 9:24 AM

Child (illustration)
Child (illustration)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

A recent study by the Vanderbilt University in Nashville Tennessee reveals that children who suffer from childhood chronic abdominal pain are at a high risk of developing depression and anxiety disorders during adolescence. Researchers from the University say that early intervention would likely prevent the advancement of these disorders, according to a New York Times report.

Dr. John V. Campo, head of the Department of Psychiatry in Ohio State University, analyzed the results of the study and said, “What this study shows is that there is a strong association between early abdominal pain and anxiety during adolescence and later in life. There is a connection, but it’s difficult to say what the source is.”

Dr. Lynn Walker who carried out the study said that, “even if the young child says that the pain is gone, it still needs to be treated. Without such treatment, it will probably lead to anxiety and depression down the road.”

However, experts say that there should be no reason to jump to conclusions whenever a child has a stomach ache.

"If no significant disease is found, parents should encourage their children to continue their regular activities even if they are having pain or anticipate that they might have pain," said Dr. Walker. "When children stay home from school and other activities, they get behind in schoolwork and peer relationships, which increases stress, which in turn increases their suffering."

Walker added that children should be encouraged to socially interact and play with others instead of spending time alone and focusing on their health issues. The lack of social interaction could add up in the long run.

An associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Miranda van Tilburg, who was not involved in the study, explained to the New York Times that the root of these abdominal troubles are not always known, but parents should be open to all possibilities. Being referred to a mental health professional by a pediatrician doesn't necessarily mean psychological issues are to blame.

"The take-away message should be you should not be afraid, if your doctor talks to you about anxiety in your child, to seek help from a mental health professional, because it could help your child feel better," Dr. van Tilburg said.