Somatization in Children and Adolescents: practical implications

  • Deepti Gupta Karkhanis
  • Adam Winsler


Somatization is the propensity to experience and report psychological and/or emotional suffering through physical symptoms that cannot be explained by known medical causes. Somatic complaints are often a result of an impaired ability to verbalize emotional distress, and are commonly encountered in children and adolescents. Childrenreport a diversity of somatic problems, including headache, stomachache, dizziness, and lethargy. Several factors contribute to the display of somatic complaints, such as a family history of health problems, parental modeling and reinforcement of illness behavior, temperament, psychological processes, gender, and cultural emotion socialization influences. In this review, we define somatic symptom clusters, and report the frequency of somatic problems in children and adolescents. Second, we discuss biological and environmental influences that contribute to somatization in children and youth. Third, we discuss gender differences and cultural factors related to somatic complaints in childhood. Finally, possible cognitive interventions (such as guided imagery, mindfulness training, and relaxation), and recommendations for practitioners dealing with children with somatic complaints inschools are discussed.

Review Article