A study from Vanderbilt University reveals children who have regular abdominal pain complaints are more likely to have an anxiety disorder during adulthood.

The research, published in Pediatrics, looked at what can happen in adulthood for children who had recurring stomach pain.

The research team, led by Dr. Lynn Walker, followed up with young adults who had chronic abdominal pain as children. Results were that out of the 332 patients who previously suffered as kids, 51% had an anxiety disorder as adults. This is in comparison with the control group consisting of 147 people, of which only 20% had an anxiety disorder in adulthood.

Additionally, 40% of the childhood sufferers experienced depression during their lifetime, compared with 16% from the control group.

The researchers conclude the study by noting that patients who suffer recurring abdominal pain as children carry a vulnerability to anxiety as children and into adulthood, even if that abdominal pain ceases.

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Researchers found that children who suffer from chronic abdominal pain are more likely to develop anxiety disorders as adults.

Dr. Walker, as reported by NBC News, says that children can get into a “vicious cycle” of avoiding certain activities because of the pain. She notes that because they are not involved in these activities, it allows them to focus more on their pain, causing them to worry even more.

Pediatricians say complaints of abdominal pain from children can mean a number of things, but when it frequently occurs, it could be associated with stress.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that the first clue a child may have this type of recurrent abdominal pain is that it usually appears and disappears over the course of a week or more. There are usually no other symptoms that accompany the pain, such as fever, vomiting or a sore throat.

Dr. Walker recommends that parents nudge their children to continue normal activities in spite of the pain, adding:

That can be very hard if the parent has a child who is terrified of the pain, and is crying and doubled over in pain.

It’s also important to find ways to support the child’s interests and activities outside of the ‘sick role.’ So if a kid really likes to draw, get them art lessons or if you’ve got a dog, get them involved in training the dog – something they can feel good about.”

In other recent research, one study suggests that diets lacking in omega-3s can lead to anxiety and hyperactivity in teens.