Strong Link Between Psychiatric Disorders And Physical Pain Among Teenagers

June 27, 2023; Unhurry Expert Research Team

Seven out of ten young people who experience mental health issues also experience chronic physical pain. The worst victims are depressed girls.

Researchers have examined the type of physical discomfort that bothers adolescents with various mental health issues for the first time. Everyone working in the health care system, from medical professionals to psychologists, according to Professor Marit S. Indredavik at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), must be more aware of the chronic pain that can afflict young people with mental health issues.

Most teenagers with mental health issues suffered from musculoskeletal pain

566 teens between the ages of 13 and 18 who all had problems ranging from ADHD and depression to anxiety, eating disorders, and a variety of autistic disorders were given a questionnaire by the researchers.

The teenagers were questioned regarding any physical pain they might have been experiencing, as well as the kind and location of that suffering. All of the young people took part in a wider health study that St. Olavs Hospital in Trondheim, Norway, undertook from 2009 to 2011.

Seven out of ten respondents said they experienced persistent pain. Eight out of ten depressed teenage participants reported having chronic pain, with musculoskeletal pain being the most common type. Regardless of the mental health diagnosis, more girls than boys reported experiencing discomfort.

“These numbers are so high that the entire support system for children and adolescents needs to be made more aware of the link between physical pain and psychiatric disorders. Physical pain is most common among young people who have conditions such as anxiety and depression, where they tend to be more focused on their problems. This is not a surprise, but it is a clear signal that we need to keep this in mind when treating mental health problems,” says Indredavik.

Along with NTNU PhD student Wenche Langfjord Mangerud, Indredavik is one of the survey’s primary authors. The Regional Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare at NTNU is where they both work. Mangerud emphasizes that treating mental illnesses aside from treating physical discomfort is impossible.

Effective treatment must be provided in younger years

“Both anxiety and depression on their own can decrease the quality of life for these adolescents. Now we see that they also suffer from chronic pain. To treat anxiety in a positive way, physical pain must also be treated, and vice versa. It is important that treatment in their younger years be effective so that these problems don’t continue into adulthood, as they unfortunately often do,” says Mangerud.

She stresses that medical professionals must, at the very least, ascertain whether adolescents also experience physical pain. If they do, they must be treated properly. Their physicians should collaborate with physiotherapists.

Important for healthcare workers to provide both body and mental care

“Unfortunately, there are too few physiotherapists working in child and adolescent psychiatry, but you can find them elsewhere in the health care system. It is important that the health care providers work more closely so that both body and mind are taken care of,” says Indredavik.

Mangerud will now compare the physical activity of teenagers with mental health issues to those without similar difficulties.

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Story Source:

Materials provided by Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Wenche L Mangerud, Ottar Bjerkeset, Stian Lydersen, Marit S Indredavik. Chronic pain and pain-related disability across psychiatric disorders in a clinical adolescent sample. BMC Psychiatry, 2013; 13 (1): 272 DOI: 10.1186/1471-244X-13-272

Page citation:

Norwegian University of Science and Technology. “Depressed girls suffer most: Adolescents with psychiatric problems also likely to suffer chronic pain.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 February 2014. <>.

Help is here:

Name of the Organisation: Vandrevala Foundation

Vandrevala Foundation is a non-profit that partners with organizations to help communities thrive by providing education and healthcare. Vandrevala Foundation launched a mental health helpline in India in 2009 to offer free psychological counselling and crisis mediation to anyone who is experiencing distress due to depression, trauma, mood disorders, chronic illness, and relationship conflict.


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