Can stomach pains cause depression?
Researchers say that kids who experience consistent stomach pain may actually be more likely to have a mental health disorder as an adult, including social anxiety and depression.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, took at a look at adults who had recurrent stomach pains as a child. The goal was to find out if these specific adults had any developing health issues.
The Vanderbilt University researchers found that out of 332 adults surveyed who had the frequent abdominal pain as kids, 51 percent of them currently have some form of an anxiety disorder. They also found that of this group, 40 percent have seen a form of depression.
Comparatively the control group included 147 adults who did not have the chronic stomach pain as a child and only 20 percent had anxiety. Depression only affected 16 percent of the control group.
Experts say that because these people went through the aches and pains at a young age, they became worrisome and more stressed, which can lead to disengagement and these disorders into adulthood.
“The most important finding is they had clinically significant anxiety in long-term follow-up, even if they no longer had abdominal pain,” said Dr. Lynn Walker, the study’s lead author, in a statement. “We’ve known these children often have anxiety and you could argue that stomach aches make you anxious. But this shows there seems to be a longstanding susceptibility to anxiety disorders.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, repeated abdominal pain episodes can be attributed to a multitude of issues including: constipation, allergies, urinary tract infections and upset emotions.
“You get into a vicious cycle of avoiding activities and isolating yourself because of the pain,” Dr. Walker said. “And what that does for kids is, it creates stress. They fall behind in school and get out of sync with their peers. Because they’re not involved in things, it gives them more time to focus on their pain and to worry about it.”
Experts recommend that children should stay involved in activities they enjoy doing whenever possible. If you suspect your child has prolonged stomach pains, consult with a pediatrician.
About the Author
Sarah Scroggins, health enews contributor, is the director of social media at Advocate Aurora Health. She has a BA and MA in Communications. When not on social media, she loves reading a good book (or audiobook), watching the latest Netflix series and teaching a college night class.