For the first time researchers have studied the kind of physical pain that troubles adolescents with different mental health problems.
Professor Marit S-b- Indredavik at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) thinks that everyone working in the health care system, from medical doctors to psychologists, must be more aware of the chronic pain that can plague young people with mental health woes.
From anxiety to ADHD
The researchers gave a questionnaire to 566 teenagers between 13 and 18 years old, all of whom had conditions ranging from ADHD and depression to anxiety, eating disorders and a range of autistic disorders.
The teens were asked whether or not they had physical pain, and if so, what kind of pain and where it was located. All the youths were participants in a larger health survey conducted by St Olavs Hospital in Trondheim, Norway from 2009-2011.
Seven out of ten answered that they suffered from chronic pain. Among depressed adolescents, the percentage was even 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.
Must be treated concurrently
"These numbers are so high that the entire support system for children and adolescents needs to be made more aware of the link between physical pain and psychiatric disorders. Physical pain is most common among young people who have conditions such as anxiety and depression, where they tend to be more focused on their problems. This is not a surprise, but it is a clear signal that we need to keep this in mind when treating mental health problems," says Indredavik.
Indredavik is one of the main contributors to the survey, along with PhD candidate Wenche Langfjord Mangerud at NTNU. They both work at NTNU's Regional Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare. Mangerud emphasizes that physical pain and mental conditions cannot be treated separately.
Hard to cure