Tummy Aches vs Anxiety

July 13, 2017
Tummy Aches vs Anxiety

Many caregivers and healthcare providers know about the connection between tummy aches and anxiety.  Figuring out if a stomach ache is caused by anxiety or physical illness is a tricky and often frustrating journey.

Here are a few things for caregivers to keep in mind.


  • Abdominal complaints are very common in childhood. Paying close attention to any reports of tummy aches can help you get a sense of whether your child may be ill, or may be nervous.  Stomach pains are associated with many conditions and are worthy of further investigation.

  • Know the signs. Vomiting, diarrhea, fever, weight loss or constipation are signs that the abdominal pain is likely caused by a medical issue.

  • Take notes Record how often and the consistency of stool to make sure your child does not have constipation.  Keep a diary of pain symptoms – when they occur, what has been eaten recently (like dairy or gluten) and what is going on that day (like mornings before camp or before the first day back at school).   You can discuss any patterns you discover with your doctor and have him or her help guide you to the next step.

  • Show compassion. Whether caused by constipation or anxiety, we want children to feel heard and understood. Try not to doubt your child’s explanation of symptoms or assume that you know the cause.  Giving your child the chance to be heard and taken seriously helps them to develop independence and feel confident that what they say and feel matters.


    For more tips on when to get help for your child’s anxiety, see this article from the Child Mind Institute

    Photo courtesy of www.childanxiety.net