A study initially published in Pediatrics and reported by NBC News reveals that 51 percent of adults who regularly suffered from stomach aches as children experienced an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, while only 20 percent of those who had no such pain reported having the condition.

These findings were based on eight years’ worth of data on 332 children from ages eight to 17 who were diagnosed with chronic abdominal pains and 147 children who suffered no pain. After the experiment, researchers from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine interviewed the study participants, who were by then in their 20s for a follow-up. They found that most of the subjects who suffered juvenile abdominal pain were diagnosed with social anxiety disorder.

“You get into a vicious cycle of avoiding activities and isolating yourself because of the pain. And what that does for kids is it creates stress. They fall behind in school and get out of sync with their peers. Because they’re not involved in things, it gives them more time to focus on their pain and to worry about it,” explains lead author Lynn Walker.

In order to lessen the impact of chronic abdominal pain, experts recommend that parents teach their kids how to manage stress early on. Breathing exercises during times of anxiety could help relax the body and settle acids in the stomach. Children should be encouraged to go on with their daily routine if they can in order to take their mind away from the pain.

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(Photo by Emran Kassim via Flickr Creative Commons; photo used for illustrative purposes only)

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