Psychosomatic Disorders in Children

Psychosomatic disorders in children are when they complain of aches or pains that, according to their pediatrician, have no physical cause.
Psychosomatic Disorders in Children

Last update: 08 May, 2021

When it comes to parenting, there’s nothing more important than your child’s health. When your child is in physical pain, you won’t hesitate to visit the pediatrician so they can tell you what’s wrong, as well as the best treatment options to help reduce your little one’s discomfort. However, on many occasions, the doctor might tell you they can’t find anything wrong. That’s why today, we’re going to talk about psychosomatic disorders in children, which could be the cause of that pain.

After countless visits to the pediatrician, and several tests that always come back negative, you’ll start having doubts. How is it possible that all the tests are fine, but my child still says they’re in pain? Are they lying? Is it such a rare disease that the doctors can’t detect it?

Parental concern is common and understandable; a lot of that is due to the fact that many parents don’t know about psychosomatic disorders in children. Therefore, in this article, we want to help you learn more about it so that you can better understand what your little one is going through.  

Psychosomatic disorders in children

Psychosomatic disorders in children are all the symptoms, ailments and discomfort that a child experiences when there isn’t a cause for those symptoms. In other words, it’s the pain that your child feels when there’s really no physical disorder that’s causing the pain. 

Psychosomatic Disorders in Children

The most common symptoms are headaches, stomach problems, skin irritation, asthma attacks, and sleep disturbances. Experts estimate that about 4% of pediatric consultations are because of psychosomatic disorders in children. 

Any time you’re faced with this issue, the first thing you should do is take your child to the doctor. They’ll run the necessary tests to determine if there’s a physical problem. Then, once the doctor has ruled out any physiological problems for the symptoms, you can start thinking about a possible psychosomatic explanation.

Causes of psychosomatic disorders in children

Psychosomatic disorders can occur in people of any age, but children are especially vulnerable to suffering from them. This is because they don’t have the personal tools and the necessary strategies to manage their emotions. 

Adults are usually capable of identifying how they feel and they know various ways to manage their emotions. For example, they can talk to someone they trust, focus on positive activities, keep a journal, or go for a walk. Adults are mature enough to deal with different emotional states without feeling overwhelmed.

On the other hand, children don’t have that knowledge or experience, so they don’t know what to do with those intense feelings building up inside of them. They need help, but they might not even know it. And, even when they do realize they need help, they may not know how to ask for it. However, what the child does know is that, in the past, when they’ve been sick, their parents have cared for them. 

You should know that your child isn’t doing this on purpose. Also, your child isn’t faking their symptoms or making them up. They’re not trying to be manipulative. In fact, this is just their body’s way of expressing that something is wrong. Your child can’t say it with their mouth, so their body is saying what they can’t.

Psychosomatic Disorders in Children

How can you help your child?

If your little one has a psychosomatic disorder, there are several things you can do to help them:

  • Try to understand what they’re going through. Don’t blame them or make them feel bad about what they’re feeling. Also, don’t doubt what they’re saying or tell them that they’re just making it up.
  • Work on their emotional intelligence and teach them to identify the emotions they’re feeling at all times.
  • Teach them coping strategies, like writing down their feelings, practicing relaxation techniques, or talking to a trusted person. In addition, make sure they always know you’re there for them.
  • Set an example by expressing and managing your own emotions in an appropriate way.

Conclusion

When your child’s body is in pain, it’s because it needs to be heard. Make sure your child feels heard and talk to them about their concerns. Try to find out the cause of their pain and do as much as you can to reduce or eliminate whatever is causing their discomfort.

If that’s not possible, help them learn to manage the situations they’ll face in life without feeling overwhelmed by stress. When your child understands that they’re not alone, that you’ll always listen to them, support them and guide them, it will make a huge difference.

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  • Pedreira, J. L., Palanca, I., Sardinero, E., & Martín, L. (2001). Los trastornos psicosomáticos en la infancia y la adolescencia. Revista de Psiquiatría y Psicología del Niño y el Adolescente3(1), 26-51.
  • Cohen, S., & Manuck, S. B. (1995). Stress, reactivity, and disease. Psychosomatic Medicine57(5), 423-426.