Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 13th 2013 Contents The interviews also showed 40 per
cent of participants with childhood
stomach pain had been depressed at
some point, versus 16 per cent of
those in the comparison group.
Szigethy noted that the study didn t track how children
were treated for anxiety or stomach pain and whether
that affected their symptoms as young adults. That, she
said, is "a next step to be looking at in this type of work."
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Children with chronic or
recurring stomach pain with-
out a clear medical explanation
were also more likely to have
an anxiety disorder than those
without stomach problems, in a new study.
By the time children with stomach pain reached
age 20, just over half had had symptoms of an anxiety
disorder at some point, most often social anxiety,
Anxiety tended to start in early childhood, around
the same time as the chronic stomach problems.
Past studies suggest between eight and 25 per cent
of all youth have chronic stomach pain, researchers
noted. When there s no clear medical cause for the
pain---such as inflammatory bowel disease or celiac
disease---it s known as functional abdominal pain.
"It s very prevalent, and it s one of the most com-
mon reasons that children and adolescents end up
in their paediatrician s office. It s one of the most
common reasons kids are missing school," said Dr
Eva Szigethy, head of the Medical Coping Clinic at
the Children s Hospital of Pittsburgh Inflammatory
Bowel Disease Center.
One small study of children with that type of pain
found they were at a higher than average risk of
anxiety disorders as young adults.
To build on those findings, Lynn Walker from the
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville,
Tennessee, and her colleagues followed 332 children
who visited a doctor for unexplained stomach pain
between age eight and 17.
For comparison, they also tracked 147 youth from
the same area schools without stomach problems.
When participants were 20 years old, on average,
the researchers interviewed them in person or over
the phone about symptoms of anxiety and depression.
At that point, four in ten of those with a history of
stomach pain still had a gastrointestinal disorder.
Based on the interviews, Walker s team found 51
per cent of people with stomach pain as children
had ever had an anxiety disorder and 30 per cent
currently met the criteria for a diagnosis.
In comparison, 20 per cent of people in the no-
stomach pain group had ever had an anxiety disorder
and 12 per cent currently had one.
"What was striking was the extent to which anxiety
disorders were still present at follow-up," Walker told
Anxiety was more common among people who
continued having stomach pain compared to those
whose childhood symptoms went away, she and her
colleagues wrote Monday in Pediatrics.
Although the researchers couldn t tell from their
analysis which came first, the pain or the anxiety,
most anxiety disorders traced back to early child-
Szigethy, who wasn t involved in the new research,
said that in her experience it s "extremely common"
to find functional abdominal pain and anxiety occur-
"We ve noticed clinically that often the anxiety
does predate the onset of pain," she told Reuters
She said children with anxiety may be more sen-
sitive to pain, and may constantly worry about any
pain they do feel.
"People who are anxious tend to be very vigilant
to threat, scanning their environment or their body
for something that might be wrong," she said. Those
children are more likely to get into a "vicious cycle"
of staying home from school due to a stomachache,
getting behind on schoolwork and becoming more
anxious, Walker added.
The researchers both said doctors treating kids
with unexplained stomach pain should be asking
about anxiety as well.
found that by
reached age 20,
just over half
symptoms of an
Children's chronic stomach
pain tied to anxiety disorder
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