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Psychosomatic Illness (Somatoform Disorder)

Introduction

Sometimes a child or adolescent continually complains of a discomfort or a pain for which a physician cannot find a cause. The pain or the discomfort, however, is very real to the child or adolescent. Physical complaints with no apparent medical basis may be a reflection of a stress, such as nervousness in a social situation, a demanding school setting, separation from parents, or other stressful situation. Stress, as it affects the body and the mind, has an effect on some illnesses and can influence how a child or adolescent perceives the symptoms of the illness, how he or she deals with the illness, and the rate of recovery.

Somatoform Disorders is the term used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - IV (DSM-IV) to describe a group of disorders characterized by physical symptoms that cannot be fully explained by a neurological or generalized medical ("organic") condition. It is common for children to report recurrent physical symptoms with no physical cause, and the actual diagnosis in children can be made. However it is rare because the criteria for Somatoform Disorders were established for adults and certain symptoms are not yet experienced by children.