Psychosomatic Disorders in Children: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

04 September, 2018
Psychosomatic disorders usually appear when a child reaches the limit of his or her emotional endurance. To prevent them, it's important to consider certain actions and also be attentive to symptoms of anguish and stress.
You’ve surely heard of many different types of disorders in children. But did you know that there are certain physical disorders whose origin is actually psychological? These are psychosomatic disorders, and today we want to tell you more about them.

Psychosomatic disorders in children arise because of emotional mismanagement. When children are unable to control their emotions, they may externalize their problems by means of a physical disorder.

This problem doesn’t only exist in children. Adults can also develop these same disorders, and with the same causes. Therefore, individuals can come to suffer psychosomatic disorders throughout their entire lives, from childhood into old age.

Paying attention to the symptoms and seeking professional attention can help minimize both physical and psychological damage.

What are the causes of psychosomatic disorders in children?

In the case of children, an absence or deficiency in emotional management can cause them to develop these disorders. When a problem affects children, they become immersed in a set of emotions that arise due to this problem.

But how can they express what’s happening to them in words? Many children don’t know how to put what they’re feeling into words. Others don’t feel that others listen to them when they do. 

If this occurs, the problem remains in the child’s psyche. Sooner or later, the little one’s body manifests the issue through physical symptoms.

These disorders are real, as are their complications. Treatment is not as simple as administering pharmaceuticals. It also involves discovering and treating the underlying psychological issue.

“In the case of children, an absence or deficiency in emotional management can cause them to develop these disorders”

Psychosomatic Disorders in Children

Symptoms of psychosomatic disorders in children

It’s hard to distinguish between disorders whose origin is physical and those that stem from a psychological issue. Paying careful attention is important. If not, we may be basing the solution on an exclusively physical perspective while ignoring a psychological one.

Children tend to display the following psychosomatic symptoms:

  • Digestive apparatus: In the form of diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain.
  • Breathing apparatus: Asthma, or sudden attacks where his or her breathing is interrupted or accelerated.
  • Skin: Psoriasis or eczema, producing different skin disorders.
  • Headache, abdominal pain, or pain in other parts of the body.

As for a possible psychological origin, there are many situations that can lead to physical disorders. Any event that a child is unable to understand or assimilate that brings him or her to experience the above symptoms.

Parents should be especially attentive during events such as: separation or divorce, the birth of younger siblings, new schools, bullying, etc. If children are very self-demanding, parents should also pay attention to symptoms.

Evaluating how long your child has been experiencing symptoms is fundamental. It’s also important that parents ask themselves if something significant occured that could have affected their child.

“The greatest mistake in the treatment of diseases is that there are physicians for the body and physicians for the soul, although the two cannot be separated”
–Plato–

Psychosomatic Disorders in Children

What can be done in the face of psychosomatic disorders in children?

There are no miracle solutions to this type of problem, but there are certain recommendations that can be useful:

  • Teach your children to manage their emotions. You can never go wrong if you help your children get to know their own emotions. Children need to learn to express these emotions in a healthy way.
  • Ask your children about their day. As an adult, your children’s everyday activities and interactions may seem insignificant. However, they may be vital to your children. Showing concern for your children’s day can give you clues about what might be bothering them.
  • Look for the source of the issue. Figure out how long the discomfort has been going on, when they become more intense, and when they fade. There may be moments when your child’s symptoms disappear, for example, when a child feels far away from the source of the issue.
  • Allow your children to express themselves. They may have a hard time at first, but it’s important your children at least know you’re available to listen. However, be careful not to badger your kids with questions. Rather, offer to listen whenever they need it.
  • Avoid getting angry if your children are unable to express what’s going on. If they can’t put their feelings into words, getting angry will only make things worse.

Lastly, don’t forget that you may need to seek the help of a psychologist. Psychosomatic disorders usually appear when children reach the end of their rope as far as their emotional endurance.

Don’t deny your child the help her or she needs, nor rule out the need for medication prescribed by a pediatrician.

  • Cornellà I Canals, J. (2008). Trastornos psicosomáticos. Pediatria Integral.
  • Pedreira, J. ., Palanca, I., Sardinero, E., & Martin, L. (2001). Trastornos psicosomáticos en la infancia y la adolescencia. Rev. Psiquiatria y Psicol. Del Niño y Adolescente.