Celiac disease (CeD) has been associated with increased mental health disorders (MHD) and psychosocial distress in children, which may complicate treatment with the gluten-free diet (GFD). This single-center cross-sectional study examined psychological comorbidities in children with CeD to assess psychological needs in CeD care.
Participants were 73 parents (95% mothers) of children (ages 3–18) attending a multidisciplinary celiac disease clinic. Parents completed electronic surveys about their child's MHD history, psychological symptoms, and GFD experiences. Rates of MHD were calculated and compared with National Institute of Mental Health population-level data. Differences in psychosocial symptoms and GFD experiences were examined based on child age, time since CeD diagnosis, and MHD.
Thirty-four percentage of children had at least 1 MHD; anxiety disorders (16%, P < 0.001) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; 16%, P = 0.01) were more common than general population rates. More than 1 quarter of parents reported current child psychosocial distress (28%–39%), and approximately half reported parent stress (51%) and financial burden (46%) associated with the GFD. Parents of children with new CeD diagnoses reported lower confidence in the GFD (P < 0.01) but MHD, stress, and financial burden did not differ by time since CeD diagnosis. Children with MHD had more anxiety, anger, overall distress, and parent distress than those without MHD (Ps < .05).
Comorbid CeD and MHD was common and was associated with increased child and parent psychosocial distress. Our findings emphasize the importance of psychological screening and services to assess for and treat comorbid MHD and to mitigate psychosocial distress associated with the GFD.