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Children Suffering from Chronic Stomach Aches Might Have Anxiety Disorders

Update Date: Aug 12, 2013 10:57 AM EDT

Stomach aches and pains are often due to spoiled food. People suffering from stomach-related pains, ranging from cramps to diarrhea might have to endure it for hours before the pain subsides. Although the majority of stomach issues could be tied to bacteria found in bad produce, a new study is reporting that chronic stomach issues in children might be due to anxiety issues.

For this study, the researchers decided to look into the cases of chronic stomach pains in young children and teenagers. Chronic stomach pains are usually tied to inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease. But, based from previous studies, researchers know that statistically around eight to 25 percent of young children suffer from chronic stomach pains that originate from an unidentifiable source.

"It's very prevalent, and it's one of the most common reasons that children and adolescents end up in their pediatrician's office. It's one of the most common reasons kids are mission school," the head of the Medical Coping Clinical at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, Dr. Eva Szigethey said according to Reuters.

For this study, researchers headed by Lynn Walker from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine located in Nashville, TN monitored 332 children between the ages of eight and 17. The children had gone to their doctors hoping to find relief for their stomach pains. The researchers also followed another group of 147 children in the same age group who did not have any stomach pains. The researchers measured the children's mental health by the time they reached 20-years-old. They interviewed the participants via the phone or in person and asked them questions that looked for anxiety and/or depression symptoms.

The researchers discovered that by 20-years-old, 40 percent of the participants from the stomach pain group still suffered from gastrointestinal discomfort. The research team also calculated that 51 percent of the kids with stomach pains had an anxiety disorder at some point with 30 percent of them meeting the criteria at the time of the interview. In the group of children without stomach pains, 20 percent of them had an anxiety disorder with 12 percent of them suffering from one at the time of the interview.

"What this study shows is a strong connection between functional abdominal pain and anxiety persists into adulthood, and it drives home the point that this isn't by chance," said Dr. John V. Campo, chairman of the department of psychiatry at Ohio State University, who was not involved in the new study reported by the New York Times. Campo headed a study in 2001 that found evidence that adults who had stomach pains in their childhood were more likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder.

The study was published in Pediatrics.

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