Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

Somatizing in children and adolescents

Most professionals accept the need to take a holistic approach bringing together the physical and psychological dimensions in the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents. Complaints of somatic symptoms are common in children presenting with psychological problems. This chapter deals more specifically with conditions in which the main complaints are of somatic symptoms and where there is inadequate explanation in terms of a physical cause. Developmental factors play an important role in the presentation of these disorders. Parental attitudes to ‘illness behaviour’ in children include the extent to which concessions are made for responsibility for alterations and lifestyle and medical consultation. Very young children are less able to convey psychological distress based on their verbal competence and cognitive development. The categories of somatic disorder differ based on the nature, chronicity and impact of unexplained somatic symptoms. There are certain factors associated with an increased reporting of physical symptoms; girls consistently report more symptoms, the gender difference becoming more marked during adolescence. This may, in part, be related to the increase in symptom reporting associated with the onset of menarche. Other factors, including temperament and conditions such as anxiety and depression, family discord, major life events, poor parental care and experience of abuse are also significant factors.

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