Symptoms of physical pain often are associated with mental health issues. People who have anxiety or depression may experience a number of somatic symptoms long before they are diagnosed with a mood issue. But can these somatic symptoms, which often go untreated, be an indicator of future psychological concerns? When adolescents experience depression, it can put them at risk for future mood problems. However, when they experience physical pain with no identifiable physical cause, they often are never referred for psychological evaluation. Hannes Bohman of the Department of Neuroscience at Uppsala University in Sweden wanted to find out if somatic symptoms in adolescence predicted future mental health issues.
Bohman conducted a study that compared somatic symptoms and mental health symptoms in adolescence to adult outcomes 15 years later. In all, Bohman had longitudinal data from 369 individuals. He found that the best indicator of adult depression was the presence of somatic symptoms and depressive symptoms in adolescence. However, Bohman also found that adolescents without depression, and only somatic symptoms, had a high risk of future mental health issues. “Several somatic symptoms concurrent with adolescent depression are strongly linked to later high rates of suicidal attempts, bipolar disorders, psychotic disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, recurrent depression, and chronic depression,” Bohman said.
As the number of somatic symptoms increased, so did the severity of future issues. Specifically, those with the most somatic symptoms in adolescence were at risk for bipolar, psychosis, and suicidal ideation. The most common and telling somatic symptom was abdominal pain, a symptom often dismissed by health care professionals as anxiety related even though it may not be. This suggests that somatic symptoms, and adolescent abdominal pain in particular, may be more accurate indicators of adult psychological issues than symptoms of depression. Bohman believes that the link between adolescent abdominal pain and adult mental illness should not be ignored. Further, he hopes that the results of this study will prompt other research efforts aimed at isolating factors that could identify young people most at risk for mental health problems in adulthood.
Bohman, Hannes, et al. Prognostic significance of functional somatic symptoms in adolescence: A 15-year community-based follow-up study of adolescents with depression compared with healthy peers. BMC Psychiatry 12 (2012): 90. Health Reference Center Academic. Web. 28 Sep. 2012.
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.