Physical Pain Can Accompany Mental Illness Among Teens

If your teen complains of headaches, stomachaches, muscle pain, or back pain, there might be a reason behind it. Many psychological illness, especially if they go untreated, can have a physical component. Furthermore, that pain can become chronic if both the physical and psychological symptoms are not tended to.


A study published in February of 2014 revealed that seven out of 10 adolescents with mental health problems also suffer from chronic physical pain. The study also found that depressed girls suffer the most physical pain. The study included surveying 566 teenagers between 13 and 18 years old, all of whom had psychological illnesses including ADHD, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, and a range of autistic disorders. The teens were asked whether or not they had any physical pain. Teens were invited to share the type of pain, its location, and its severity. Surprisingly, seven out of ten answered that they suffered from chronic pain. Among depressed adolescents, the percentage was higher with eight out of ten reporting chronic pain, most often musculoskeletal pain. Girls reported having pain more often than boys, no matter their mental health diagnosis.


The numbers were surprisingly high. Researchers concluded that the results of the study revealed that there needs to be a greater support system for children and adolescents. Furthermore, parents, educators, mental health professionals, and doctors should be made more aware of the relationship between physical pain and psychiatric disorders. The study also confirmed that physical pain is most common among young people who have conditions such as anxiety and depression, especially if teens are focused on their problems.


Spreading the news about the relationship between physical and psychological pain becomes more acute when recognizing the staggering numbers of adolescents who are affected by mental illness. For instance, according to Suicide.Org, approximately 20% of teens experience depression before they reach adulthood and 10% to 15% of suffer from symptoms of depression at any one point in their adolescence. Furthermore, because suicide is closely related to depression, suicide rates among teens can indicate the severity of increasing rates of depression in teens and adults. For instance, a teen takes his or her own life every 100 minutes. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for teens between the ages of 15 to 24. Sadly, only 30% of depressed teens are being treated for their psychological illness. Despite the severity in these statistics, anxiety disorders are in fact the most common type of psychological illness. According to Moretza and Karen Khaleghi, authors of the book Anatomy of Addiction, one in eight children are affected by anxiety disorders.


Fortunately, most mental illnesses are treatable. With the right medication combined with therapy, an individual’s mood can stabilize and, over time, he or she can return to a healthy level of functioning at school, home, and work. Disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and others are best treated with a combination of both medication and therapy. Medication alone is not a thorough treatment plan. Therapy can facilitate a teen’s understanding for the need of medication treatment, and it can even improve the effectiveness of that medication. Both treatment forms are necessary for a safe, effective recovery.


However, for teens who experience physical along with psychological pain, the researchers involved in the February 2014 study emphasize the need treat each concurrently. They recognized the need for parents and other trusted adults in a teen’s life to know the importance of having both ailments treated at the same time. Certainly, as the psychological pain is tended to the physical pain will also begin to subside. Nevertheless, the physical component of the illness should be treated appropriately.


Lastly, the study emphasized the presence of physical pain among teens that many health professionals may not be aware of. Providing this sort of education can facilitate treatment and the well being of adolescents with psychological illness.




Norwegian University of Science and Technology. (2014, February 12). Depressed girls suffer most: Adolescents with psychiatric problems also likely to suffer chronic pain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 9, 2014 from