Prevalence of Pain-Predominant Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders and Somatic Symptoms in Patients with Anxiety or Depressive Disorders

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To determine whether children with symptoms of internalizing psychiatric disorders have a greater prevalence of pain-predominant functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) and migraine-like headaches.

Study design

Children and adolescents aged 6-18 years were recruited from a behavioral health center (n = 31) and a primary care center (n = 36). Subjects completed Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition–based symptom inventory questionnaires to screen for internalizing psychiatric disorders, the Questionnaire on Pediatric Gastrointestinal Symptoms, and a somatic distress assessment interview.


Thirty-three subjects (19 of 31 from the behavioral health center and 14 of 36 from the primary care center) screened positive for symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders. The remainder screened negative and served as controls. Pain-predominant FGIDs were more common in the group with symptoms of anxiety or depression compared with controls (prevalence, 51.5% vs 8.8%; P = .0002). Migraine headaches occurred in 57.6% of the subjects with internalizing psychiatric disorders vs 23.5% of the control group (P = .006). The prevalence of functional constipation did not differ significantly between the 2 groups. The data remained essentially unchanged when analyzed within each center of recruitment.


Youths with anxiety or depressive symptoms are more likely to suffer from pain-predominant FGIDs and migraine-like headaches, but not from functional constipation. The lack of an association between functional constipation and internalizing psychiatric symptoms suggests that FGIDs associated with pain may bear a specific relationship to emotional disorders.

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