Somatic symptoms in anxious-depressed school refusers

Gail A. Bernstein, Elise D. Massie, Paul D. Thuras, Amy R. Perwien, Carrie M. Borchardt, Ross D. Crosby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Objective: To identify the most common physical complaints in a sample of adolescent school refusers with comorbid anxiety and depressive disorders. Whether somatic symptoms are more likely to be associated with high levels of anxiety or high levels of depression was also explored. Method: Forty-four adolescents in a treatment study were evaluated at baseline with structured psychiatric interviews and measures of anxiety, depression, and somatization. Results: The most common somatic complaints were in the autonomic and gastrointestinal categories. In simple regression analyses, anxiety level as measured with the Revised Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale and depression level as measured with the Beck Depression inventory each significantly predicted the severity of somatic symptoms. The correlation between percentage of days absent from school and severity of somatic symptoms approached significance (r = .27, p = .074). Conclusions: Knowledge that somatic complaints are commonly an expression of underlying anxiety and depression may facilitate more rapid referral for psychiatric assessment and treatment and thereby help avoid unnecessary medical workups and sequelae from school refusal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)661-668
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1997


  • anxiety
  • depression
  • school refusal
  • somatization


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