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The chart below lists some of the many somatic symptoms a child or adolescent with an SSD may experience. Some youth have just one kind of symptom; others have many symptoms in different parts of their body. The type and location of symptoms can also change over time.
Symptoms from the stomach and gastrointestinal tract
Symptoms from the heart and lungs
Symptoms from the musculoskeletal system
Symptoms from the neurologic motor system
Symptoms from the neurologic sensory system
Adapted from American Psychiatric Association, DSM-5, 2013.
The brain is a powerful organ. In addition to being responsible for processing our thoughts, feelings and behaviors, the brain manages all of the body’s functions, from sensations like pain, touch and temperature to movements of our limbs, our heartbeat, bowel and bladder function and more. Think of the brain as a control tower that sends and receives messages, or “signals,” from the entire body, carried by the nerves. The mind-body connection is very real!
When the mind-body connection works well, the brain filters out unimportant signals without us even knowing. However, children and adolescents with SSDs tend to have hypersensitive signals and become aware of body signals that are normally filtered out by the brain. The brain and parts of the body where there is no disease may also start signaling to each other more frequently. For instance, some children with SSDs have many signals in the brain’s pain centers, which can make pain feel worse and may even show up on brain scans.
During childhood, SSDs are equally common in boys and girls, but in adolescence and adulthood, they are more common in females. Up to half of children and adolescents with an SSD also experience depression and anxiety.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”