Not much strikes the heart as deeply as seeing a child in pain ,
Over the last year alone, I have seen a significant increase in the number of children experiencing significant anxiety symptoms that manifest themselves with physical or behavioral symptoms. The physical symptoms were what drew the attention of the parents and physicians, as would be expected, however after medical exams and tests, there was no medical reasons found for the childrens' pain. Examples might be : a child who begins manifesting behaviors like having to carry out bedtime rituals that go on for hours ; a child experiencing physical pain that caused him to need crutches months after he had physically healed from a sprained ankle ( psychosomatic pain ) ; a child who had not spoken ( selective mutism ) in eight years ; or a child who had fallen during a soccer game only to claim he had lost feelings in his legs.
In these and other cases , there were no medical or physical reasons for what the children were experiencing, however, their pain was real. In order to overcome their symptoms, each had to realize it was emotional pain and conflict that was the trigger for their continued physical pain. If there was previous harm that existed as in the child with the sprained ankle, or the young man taking a fall at a game, time had passed so that even though the pain was not still caused by those accidents, the emotional pain travelled to the weak or previously damaged part of the body [ the proverbial Achilles Heal ]. Each learned to overcome their symptoms because they were open minded and faced their fears and conflicts and made certain changes that helped them feel more "in control " of their lives.
The many adults I work with have a harder time accepting the reality of what the mind can create when we are in emotional / psychological pain due to conflict.
When I say to the child, " I know you are not faking or making up your pain, your symptoms are real, and we are going to learn to find and deal with the reason for the emotional pain that has caused physical pain in your body ", I am giving him hope against his fears that there is something " really wrong " . These kids were scared as they did not understand what was happening to them. Even the most loving parents become frustrated and begin to wonder if their child is faking, or whether their is some more serious disorder. The parents' frustration can often exacerbate their child's symptoms. So obviously , the parents must learn along with their child so that their anxiety for their child does not cause the child to feel guilty or like a bad person.
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
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