The symptoms are biological and aren’t voluntary or 'fake'.


Somatic Stress Disorders: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment- All You Need To Know

Somatic Stress Disorder causes physical distress, and it can affect any part of your child’s body such as the head, chest, arms, and joints. The symptoms are biological and aren’t voluntary or 'fake'.

Somatic Stress Disorders

Post-pandemic, there has been a heightened screen time in children that has resulted in increased anxiety and suppressed emotions. This condition causes physical distress, and it can affect any part of your child’s body such as the head, chest, arms, and joints. The symptoms are biological and aren’t voluntary or 'fake'. In this article, we will delve into the symptoms, causes, and treatment of somatic stress disorders.

But before that, let us know what somatic stress disorder is.

What Is Somatic Stress Disorder

Dr ravindra Kanna Kakara, who is a Consultant Pediatrician at Apollo Clinic, manikonda said, "Somatic stress disorder among children refers to a condition where psychological stress manifests as physical symptoms. Unlike adults who may articulate stress through emotions, children might express distress through bodily complaints like headaches, stomachaches, or fatigue. These symptoms often lack a clear medical explanation, making diagnosis challenging. 

While transient symptoms, such as 'signals of distress', are responsible for 50% of outpatient visits in the pediatric age group, somatoform disorders represent only the severe form of this continuum. Somatization that occurs in the context of a physical illness is identified by symptoms that go beyond the expected pathophysiology, affecting the child's school, home life, and peer relationships, thus becoming the focus of the patient and family's life."

Coming to symptoms and causes, Dr. sushma Gopalan, who is a Child Psychologist - Child Life Specialist, Pediatrics & Neonatology at aster CMI Hospital, Bangalore listed some of the concerning causes and symptoms of SSD.


Unexplained Physical Pain: Frequent complaints of stomachaches or headaches without clear medical cause.

Sleep Disturbances: Disrupted sleep patterns or insomnia due to emotional distress.

Nutritional Changes

Altered eating habits, either excessive or insufficient, are linked to emotional struggles.

Hydration Fluctuations

Inconsistent fluid intake is associated with emotional stress.

Anxiety and Stress

Experiencing excessive worry, fear, or tension contributes to physical symptoms.


Major changes like divorce, family conflict, bullying, or academic pressure can overwhelm children, manifesting in physical complaints.

Children who struggle to verbalize their feelings may unconsciously express them through bodily symptoms like stomach aches or headaches.

Some children are naturally more aware of their physical sensations, and stress can amplify these perceptions, leading to perceived illness.

Anxiety, depression, or trauma can co-occur with SSD, further complicating the picture.

Excessive use of screen time in children can lead them to bottle up their emotions and isolate themselves from everyone

Treatment For SSD

Talking about this, Dr. Shruthi Badarinath Pranav, who is a Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist at SS Sparsh Hospital, RR Nagar, Bangalore said, "Mental health professionals prioritize addressing the underlying emotional factors through counseling and support services. The physician enhances the overall well-being of affected children while facilitating their smooth transition into adolescence and adulthood. Recognizing the importance of early intervention paired with a multidisciplinary strategy is crucial when aiming to navigate somatic disorders successfully and minimize their impact on our resilient young patients' lives."

In addition, Dr. sushma Gopalan mentioned other ways in which this can be treated

Establish age-appropriate screen time limits to promote real-world engagement.

Encourage the child to regularly exercise to alleviate stress and enhance overall well-being.

Foster an environment where children feel comfortable expressing emotions.

Provide access to counseling or therapy to address underlying emotional distress.

Establish consistent sleep routines for better emotional regulation.

Ensure a balanced diet to support overall physical and mental health.

Parents should stay involved in a child's life, offering support and understanding.

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