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Children Do Not Say They Are Anxious, They Say, "I Have A Stomach Ache"

Children Do Not Say They Are Anxious, They Say, "I Have A Stomach Ache"

According to CBS News, between 8% and 25% of children with persistent stomach pain, without a distinct medical explanation, actually suffer from what is known as "functional abdominal pain". As a result, the digestive system is functioning properly, without any noticeable infection or illness. So, when your child tells you he has a stomach ache, it does not mean that the pain is not real, but simply that its origin is elsewhere.

Does your child have a stomach ache on the first day of school, before an exam or other major event? In fact, this is very common because a child's anxiety will often express itself through abdominal pain. Dr. Eva Szigethy told our colleagues at CBS: "This is actually one of the most common reasons why children and adolescents miss school and end up at their pediatrician's home. "

The stomach is a "second brain"
When we take a closer look at our entrails, we can discover an entire ecosystem of bacteria and a large network of neurons operating in this hidden environment. Thus, the enteric nervous system is a network of neurons that form a kind of mesh covering the entire digestive tract. This is actually what causes us that famous sensation of nervous butterflies or this impression of hole in the stomach as a response to psychological stress. In other words, the stomach constantly reflects our emotions. In fact, Professor Michael Gershon of Columbia University has identified him as a "second brain." This is why the nervousness and anxiety that reigns in your child's head can create this sensation of pain in the abdominal area.

Consequences in adulthood
A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics reveals that 51% of people who suffered from abdominal pain as children ended up having a type of anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Lynn Walker, a professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., And author of the study, told our HealthDay colleagues, "More than a decade later, people who had suffered from stomach pain continued to present anxiety disorders, even if it was not expressed any more through stomach pains ".

By way of comparison, the study also stated that among people who had no abdominal problems during childhood, only 20% had developed an anxiety disorder in their lifetime.

In addition, in addition to anxiety disorders, researchers also found that 40% of respondents who experienced abdominal pain during childhood ended up suffering from depression during their lifetime compared to only 16% of those who did not experienced this kind of problems.

How to react as a parent?
It is very important to pay special attention to these kinds of complaints, because even after you have eliminated any possibility of a physical problem, it is important to understand that your child is not pretending. Also, doctors recommend that you continue to send your child to school and encourage him to continue his usual activities, as lack of social interaction may aggravate the problem in the long run. Indeed, according to Miranda Van Tilburg, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine: "Parents should not panic if the doctor tells them about anxiety in their children, they just need to ask help from a mental health professional, because it is one of the only solutions that could help their children feel better. "

Other methods to help your child relieve his anxiety
In the short term: Breathing is very important in these situations. Ask your child to take long breaths, it will act on his diaphragm by raising and lowering his stomach which will reduce his stress. Also, allow your child to express his / her discomfort, give him all your attention so that he can exteriorize his emotions.

Long-Term: Make sure your child has a healthy, balanced diet, adequate sleep, regular physical activity, and time to relax. Feel free to listen to soothing music with him or to teach him how to mediate. If the pain is too overwhelming, it is important to address the source of the problem with the help of a therapist.