A new study says that insecure teenagers experience more intense pain in the form of frequent headaches, abdominal pain and joint pain and are more likely to be depressed than peers with secure attachments.
Dr. Isabelle Tremblay, a researcher at the Université de Montréal and its affiliated Sainte-Justine University Hospital Center, and Dr. Michael Sullivan, a psychology professor at McGill University examined adolescent experiences of pain and depression.
The researchers based their study on previous findings that childhood experiences play a major role in the relationships people develop in later life.
Dr. Tremblay said: "Although previous studies in adults found that an individual's security level was influenced by painful experiences, it was not clear why relationship security should be related to pain.
"We found that adolescents with insecure relationships tend to be more 'alarmist' about their pain symptoms; they have a tendency to amplify the degree of threat or severity of their pain. This amplification leads to more intense pain and more severe depressive symptoms."
Dr. Sullivan added: "It is possible that individuals who have insecure relationships may perceive the world as more threatening or more stressful and that manifests in physical symptoms.
"Alternately, it is possible that individuals who feel insecure might 'express' more intense distress as a means of eliciting support from others in their social environment."
The study, "Attachment and Pain Outcomes in Adolescents: The Mediating Role of Pain Catastrophizing and Anxiety," was published in the Journal of Pain.