What is Pervasive Refusal Syndrome?


Pervasive refusal syndrome (PRS), also known as pervasive arousal withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is a rare hypothesized paediatric mental disorder. PRS is not included in the standard psychiatric classification systems; that is, PRS is not a recognised mental disorder in the World Health Organisation’s current (ICD-10) and upcoming (ICD-11) International Classification of Diseases and the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Refer to Resignation Syndrome.

Purported Signs and Symptoms

According to some authors, PRS symptoms have common characteristics with other psychiatric disorders, but (according to these authors), current psychiatric classification schemes, such as the DSM cannot account for the full scope of symptoms seen in PRS. Purported symptoms include partial or complete refusal to eat, move, talk, or care for oneself; active and angry resistance to acts of help and support; social withdrawal; and school refusal.

Hypothesized Causes

Trauma might be a causal factor because PRS is repeatedly seen in refugees and witnesses to violence. Viral infections might be a risk factor for PRS.


Some authors hypothesize that learned helplessness is one of the mechanisms involved in PRS. A number of cases have been reported in the context of eating disorders.

Hypothesized Epidemiology

Epidemiological studies are lacking. Pervasive refusal syndrome is reportedly more frequent in girls than boys. The average age of onset is purported to be 7-15.

Development and Implementation of a Hospital-Based Clinical Practice Guideline to Address Paediatric Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders

Research Paper Title

Taking the Pain out of Somatisation: Development and Implementation of a Hospital-Based Clinical Practice Guideline to Address Paediatric Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders.


The diagnostic category of somatic symptom and related disorders (SSRDs), although common, is often poorly recognized and suboptimally managed in inpatient pediatric care.

Little literature exists to address SSRDs in the inpatient paediatric setting.

The purpose of the study was to characterise current SSRD practice, identify problem areas in workflow, and develop a standardised approach to inpatient evaluation and management at a tertiary care academic children’s hospital.


A multidisciplinary group identified patients with SSRD admitted between May 2012 and October 2014.

A retrospective chart review on a convenience sample was performed to identify population characteristics and current practice.

Lean methodology was used to define current state practice and future state intervention.

These methods were used to guide identification of problem areas, which informed protocol, a clinical practice guideline, and resource development.


Thirty-six patients aged 8 to 17 years met inclusion criteria for chart review.

Most patients presented with either neurological or pain-related complaints.

The mean length of stay was 5.44 days (SD = 6.3), with few patients receiving a mental health consultation within 24 hours of hospitalisation.

Patients averaged 5.8 medical and/or psychiatric diagnoses on discharge (SD = 5.2), and two-thirds did not have an SSRD diagnosis.

Half of patients had co-morbid psychiatric diagnoses, whereas one-quarter were discharged with no mental health follow-up.


In this study, the researchers describe the process and content development of a single-site institutional protocol, clinical practice guideline, and resources for the evaluation and management of paediatric SSRDs.

This study may serve as a model for similar standardisation of SSRD care in other inpatient paediatric medical settings.


Kullgren, K.A., Shefler, A., Malas, N., Monroe, K., Leber, S.M., Sroufe, N., El Sakr, A., Pomeranz, E., O’Brien, E. & Mychaliska, K.P. (2020) Taking the Pain out of Somatization: Development and Implementation of a Hospital-Based Clinical Practice Guideline to Address Pediatric Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders. Hospital Paediatrics. 10(2), pp.105-113. doi: 10.1542/hpeds.2019-0141. Epub 2020 Jan 2.