chapter  41
7 Pages

Physical presentations of emotional distress

ByQuentin Spender, Judith Barnsley, Alison Davies, Jenny Murphy

Emotional distress can present itself in a number of ways and can be expressed in the form of very real physical symptoms: these are in no sense imaginary. Thorough assessment is important to ensure that both emotional and physical dimensions of the presenting problem are understood as well as possible. As a number of different terms are used to describe overlapping physical and emotional conditions, some definitions may be helpful. Somatisation is a narrower term used to describe the way that some physical symptoms are especially likely to represent emotional distress. A physical presentation of emotional distress is any physical presentation where the doctor feels that psychological or social factors are contributing in a significant way. Explanations that having such symptoms may be very stressful or distressing, and that in some children stress or psychological upsets can make physical symptoms worse, can often help the engagement of the child and family in co-operation with professionals.