THE BLOG

Your Teen's Pains May Be Caused by Friends Not Faking

01/25/2012 02:16 pm ET | Updated Mar 26, 2012
  • Barbara Greenberg Clinical Psychologist featured on CNN, Good Morning America and ABC Nightline

This just in...

Many of us have accused our kids of faking stomachaches to get out of going to school. Well, if we take the results of a new study seriously, we may realize that their aches and pains may in fact be caused by stressful friendships and social interactions.

A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA and done at UCLA found that negative social interaction are linked to increased inflammation. And they are not yet talking about emotional inflammation but instead about physical inflammation that can lead to all kinds of physical symptoms. Although, this study focused on the reactions of young adults, there is no reason to believe that this wouldn't be the case with the younger generation.

We, as adults, know that stomachaches, chest pains, and even colds and headaches can follow a string of stressful social interactions. So, why on earth wouldn't this be the case with children and teens? For the love of God, I have been waiting for this study for decades. I can remember being curled up like a pretzel with writhing stomach pain in 7th grade when Lisa K. decided that I was an "undesirable" and that none of the girls in my English class should be allowed to talk to me. Her complaint was that I didn't show enough emotion. No one has ever accused me of that in my adult life.

When my teenage daughter complained about feeling pain and not wanting to go to school I was notorious for always doing a brief psychological check-in. "Amanda-Darling, I would say -- Is anything bothering you at school?" To which she would invariably say -- "Mom -- please stop being a psychologist." But now, I feel validated. Yes, probably she was ill when she stayed home from school-ill because of a virus or some other infectious illness but my heart and brain were in the right place when I did my psychological assessment.

Even as an adult, I choose to spend time with friends who make me feel good. Constant headaches from speaking to one friend or chest pains after speaking to a critical and downer friend and they are crossed off my list of go-to people. Friendships, I have always thought, should be a source of joy, understanding, and attunement. So, the next time your child-teen or tween wants to avoid school or a party for an unclear reason you should feel good about swooping right in and asking more questions -- gently, indirectly, and unemotionally.

Good Luck!