Kids who suffer from inexplicable, chronic stomach pains are at a high risk for developing an anxiety disorder in adulthood, according to a new study. This makes total sense to anyone who's ever been nervous to the point of diarrhea.
For the study—published in the journal Pediatrics—researchers at Vanderbilt University followed 332 children with stomach issues that weren't linked to any physical causes, and a control group of 147 children who never experienced chronic stomach pain.
About half the teenagers and young adults who had had functional abdominal pain as children developed an anxiety disorder at some point, compared with 20 percent of the control group, the researchers found. The vulnerability to anxiety persisted into adulthood even if the pain had disappeared, although the risk was highest if the pain continued.
Forty percent of the children with functional abdominal pain went on to experience depression, compared with 16 percent of those who had never had these stomachaches.
Dr. Lynn S. Walker, senior author of the study and director of the division of adolescent health at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, says that the study isn't designed to freak parents out about their children's mental health, but that it "underscores the importance of screening children with the condition for anxiety or depression."