Functional somatic symptoms in children:current challenges and future directions

  • Vivek Agarwal
  • Rashmi Tiwari


Functional somatic symptoms (FSS) are common in children and adolescents. They can be transient or chronic in nature. In general population 2-10 % of children complains of aches and pains (stomach ache, joint pains and headache. Recurrent abdominal pain accounts for around 5% of the pediatric clinic visits. Headaches have been reported to affect 20% to 55% of all children, with 10% of teenagers reporting frequent headaches. Epidemiologically gender differences have been seen in pain prevalence and intensity (higher in girls) and site of pain (increased back and limb pain in boys, increased headache and abdominal pain in girls). Clinicians have described affected children as conscientious, obsessional, sensitive, insecure and anxious. Difficulties in coping with stressors in infancy, childhood, and adolescence may alter development of the brain and may prolong and heighten the tendency to experience emotional distress somatically. These disorders are known to cause long term psychiatric complications, poor quality of life for the children and families.