Anxiety disorders in children

An anxious kid’s days are dominated by tension and “what if?” thinking. Here’s how to help a child who’s struggling with an anxiety disorder.

  47
anxiety disorders in children

Photo: iStock

It’s a maddening Tuesday morning, with our grab-the-lunches-coats-and-backpacks, hustle-them-out-the-door routine in full swing, when I notice that one of my two daughters has disappeared. Ten minutes tick by as I search for Payton, who’s 10, before I find her hiding in the closet, crying. When she first started avoiding school, around age six, I thought it was a game. Headaches and stomach aches came first, but hiding in the closet was clearly an escalation in her anxious behaviour. I check my watch. There will be late slips again today for both my girls. How will I explain this at the office?

Many children can manage a healthy bit of anxiety in life, but for others, like Payton, it becomes a force that interferes with development. I see her anxiety as an invisible opponent — a mental illness that creates paralyzing physical symptoms. She’s more than a worrywart. When Payton complains of an upset tummy or feels headachy, she is literally sick with worry.

The onset of clinical anxiety is typically around six years old, usually at the same time children start school full-time; symptoms can escalate around age 10. Generalized anxiety disorder (or GAD) affects about three to five percent of youth and often occurs with one or more of the other types of anxiety (such as separation anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or social anxiety). More girls than boys struggle with anxiety disorders. Payton and I characterize her anxiety a “worry bully,” who sits in the corner and is always telling her to expect the worst. But the good news is that today we have a better understanding of children’s anxiety than we have ever had before, and there are ways to help our children wrestle it into submission.

Read more: 5 ways to beat back-to-school anxiety>

What is an anxiety disorder?
Essentially, it’s any worry that’s out of control. But adults, including specialists, teachers and doctors, often misread children’s anxiety as a learning disorder, depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in October 2010 identified anxiety as the most common adolescent mental disorder, with more than 30 percent of the 10,000 adolescents surveyed meeting diagnostic criteria. (Nineteen percent had experienced behaviour disorders; 14 percent had experienced mood disorders.) Children with anxiety can appear oppositional or irritable, because they are so distracted by worries. They can be explosive, moody or tearful.

Here’s what anxiety can look like. Jack, 10, is a sensitive child attending a French first-language school in Kitchener, Ont. Recently, private assessments confirmed he is gifted. Last year, his mom, a teacher, celebrated the final day of school before the summer break. But her son couldn’t. He furrowed his brow, started wringing his hands, and hunched his shoulders. When she asked why he wasn’t excited about summer, he answered, “In two months I still have to come back.”

Meghan is a mother of seven-year-old twins. Her son has autism, and she’s seeking an anxiety disorder diagnosis for her daughter, who finds change stressful, has trouble getting to sleep, and has an intense need to know what to expect next. After a change in a daily routine — like a rescheduled, midday doctor’s appointment — her daughter peppers her with questions. “So what time are you coming again? When is that? What if I’m in gym class? What if I’m at recess? How will you find me then? What if the car breaks down? What if we get out early? What if you forget?” Meghan says parenting her daughter requires extreme patience. “I have to sit down with her and address each and every one of her concerns. It could be two or three questions, or it could take 45 minutes. You never know.”

Read more: New study: childhood shyness linked to adult anxiety>

Nine-year-old Jasmine has stomach aches every day before school starts. She tells her mom that her head often hurts, too. She can’t bring herself to eat lunch in front of the other children, and although she’s a straight-A student, she never raises her hand to speak in class. If she is called on by the teacher, her heart beats too fast, she gets knots in her stomach, her face flushes, her hands sweat, and she thinks she will faint. Her mother fields calls from the school secretary every week, reporting that her daughter is sick and wants to go home. But Jasmine never has a temperature and nothing irregular shows up in checkups or on X-rays.

Lynn Miller, president of the Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada, and an associate professor of educational and counselling psychology at the University of British Columbia, says it’s possible to find children who have an anxiety disorder as young as age four. “These children are often very intuitive, very sensitive and clever,” she says. “Most are also people pleasers. ” Like both Jasmine and Payton, Miller says the youngest children also frequently experience anxiety as tummy aches.

“It’s a typical response to a perceived threat,” she explains. This is rooted in biology and survival skills: An anxious feeling triggers the stomach to respond physically, making a child feel as if they need to vomit or defecate. Their bodies respond as if in survival mode.

Of course, a healthy dose of anxiety is normal. If we never felt any anxiety, we might not achieve things such as running a marathon, acing a test or delivering a dynamite presentation. Increased adrenaline can propel your healthy anxiety into a gold medal performance. But adrenaline in the bloodstream also causes the body to release cortisol. (Both adrenaline and cortisol are crucial to the fight-or-flight response.) Cortisol affects neurotransmitters in the brain, which are used by brain cells to carry information, and the disruption may cause confused thinking or disorganized behaviours. In children, anxiety that interferes with a child’s everyday living in one of the three domains — at school, at home or with friends — is a disorder needing treatment. The day Payton hid in her closet to avoid going to school was, to us, a clear signal she needed more help.

How to treat it
The key to helping a child thrive is early intervention. After an anxiety disorder diagnosis, Miller says even very young children can participate in their own treatment. When Payton was first diagnosed at age six, we tried multiple approaches. Art therapy and play therapy each had a turn, but they seemed limited. When we inquired about cognitive behavioural therapy (or CBT), a therapy aimed at teaching a patient how to change behaviour patterns, the standard reply was that it couldn’t be used before age 10 or 11. Miller disagrees, and recommends CBT as the first line of treatment — it can be adapted to work for patients as young as four. The Canadian Psychiatric Association and the Canadian Medical Association also support CBT as the first course of action.

Relaxation techniques, meditation, deep breathing and calm music at various times throughout the day can also help ease tension. Having a clear road map or blueprint of the day can help anxious children feel less stressed. For visual learners, it may be in the form of a pictogram schedule; for others, it is simply a verbal rundown of what to expect. With Payton, we have also used deep breathing techniques and relaxation CDs produced by Lori Lite, a mom and owner of Stress Free Kids. Her company makes books, lesson plans and CDs with soothing music, which my daughter listens to at bedtime. It helps her shut out the noises in her room and the worries racing in her head. Lite’s deep breathing techniques have helped both of our kids, and we use them at any time in the day when they’re feeling or acting overstimulated. (The technique is simple: Put your hand on your tummy and feel it going in and out, while breathing through the nose.)

Read more: Kids’ health: What’s in a label?>

Positive statements are another one of Lite’s favourite go-to tools. “Positive self-talk can reduce anxiety in minutes. Negative self-talk can increase it just as fast,” she says. (Negative self-talk is the inner critic in a child’s head: “I’m stupid. I can’t do this. I stink at math.”) Positive mantras developed by, or with, the child and repeated throughout the day can help override worry. It can be as simple as: “I can do math. I am good at it.” I’ve found it helps to get to know what triggers my daughter’s anxious thoughts.

Changes in routine, school work that isn’t perfect, airports, emergency drills at school — these all stress her out. Payton is also not a child who can function overtired or hungry. Some other treatments for children’s anxiety disorders include controlled exposure (which is repeated, gradual and planned exposure to the thing or event that the child is anxious about), and improving sleep-management skills with meditation or yoga.

Medication may be necessary if nothing else is breaking the pattern of anxious behaviour. After several years of trying to help Payton tackle her “worry bullies,” the day she hid in the closet I knew we had to start talking about medication. Our family doctor referred us to a child psychiatrist, who ran a series of assessments to determine a diagnosis. (A psychologist can also assess for anxiety, but they can’t prescribe medication.) After Payton told the psychiatrist she felt worried at least 45 percent of her day, and described the panic attacks she had every day before school, we decided on a combination of continued CBT, talk therapy and medication. A brief course of an antidepressant such as Prozac or Luvox is safe for children, we learned.

Family matters
In families with an anxious child, parents may feel as if they have to walk on eggshells. (I sometimes liken the experience to living with a pint-sized powder keg.) But that approach doesn’t do an anxious child any good; anxiety can feed itself if you dwell on it or give it too much attention.

Anxiety often runs in families, so if you suspect your child may be suffering from it, it may be a good time to assess your own anxiety levels and coping techniques. Other family members may need management strategies. In my family, our children are both adopted, and neither my husband nor I have anxiety disorders. (Most experts and doctors we’ve seen surmise that Payton’s anxiety is something she inherited from her biological family.)

This year, Payton is 11, and in grade six. She’s a typical tween, and happy about school again. In the spring, our family doctor will start to stagger her off the medicine to see if she just needed a short-term bridge. For a few years, a part of my daughter seemed broken, and we tried to treat it a million different ways. None seemed to work for very long. But now, we’re seeing her make friends and her confidence is flourishing. I know generalized anxiety disorder will always be in Payton’s life, but it no longer holds her prisoner.

This story originally appeared in our November 2012 issue with the headline “Worried sick” (p.40).

47 comments on “Anxiety disorders in children

  1. Pingback: ADHD: To medicate or not to medicate? - Today's Parent

  2. Pingback: Tips to get your slowpoke kids moving - Today's Parent

  3. I have a 8 year old daughter who has been having anixety a lot. We just started seeing a therapist. She won’t tell us why she’s getting these. I feel sometimes it’s for attention. She would always complain about a stomach ache, headache before school. Can someone please give me some advise? Thank you.

    Renee

    Reply

    • Maybe it’s the lifestyle your subjecting him to..shrugging it off as attention seeking while paying a therapist is absurd..you should parent..obviously they need inspiration and help from you the parent..you say they seek attention but out of concern you step aside for a therapist ..what have you done to your fullest ability?

      Reply

    • I had the same thoughts but our therapist assured us that these fears are real to our children, and while it is frustrating, we parents have to do our best to come up with coping strategies and take these concerns seriously. When the child knows you are listening to their concerns, then hopefully they will open up to what is bothering them so you can deal with that as best as you can.

      Reply

    • It is NOT for attention. It is also NOT something she can control. It is something that just takes over her body. She cant just tell it to go away. It is a struggle and her symptoms are a manifestation of anxiety in a child her age. You need to be patient and be there for her. My son started middle school and had those exact same symptoms each and every morning. He would get an upset stomach and be throwing up. We would get to the front door to the school and he would break down crying. Anxiety can cause physical pain. The whole body tenses up and there is a strong feeling of fear that wont go away even when someone like you thinks there is nothing to be afraid of there is for her. She needs you to do your research and homework on the anxiety subject and help her through it not tell her she is faking for attention. She cant tell you exactly why her body is reacting this way it just does. She may not even know why she is so scared to go to school. Talk to her and ask her what could be worrying her. The key is to learn about the disorder and TALK to her and help her.

      Reply

      • She asked for advice, not condemnation. If she weren’t wanting to help her daughter she wouldn’t be posting on this site. For one who seems so educated on anxiety, you are lacking in the compassion department.

        Reply

    • If you suspect a divorce is not too far off the path for you and mate then watch your kids closely. These situations can cause anxiety in your kids. One kid I know went from a super clean room to tummy aches and a super clean room. And while you should be truthful to your kids be careful you don’t burden them with all the tit bits. Remember they are kids and don’t have the screening apparatus in place that an adult supposedly has.

      Reply

  4. Normally I would never post but I am lost as to what I should do with my 6 year old son. He worries about everything. He worries about hurricanes and tornados (we live in the desert where these things don’t happen!). His new thing within the last month is he thinks he’s gonna be sick all the time and that his stomach hurts or has “pains” and “cramps”. Took him to the dr and they found nothing, nothing on an X-ray… Nothing to explain the random pains. The family had a bad stomach flu over a month ago and ever since he was sick he now thinks he’s always going to get sick! It’s to the point where it’s interfering with his every day life, not sure what to do or who to call? I’m lost.

    Reply

    • Maybe the news you subject him to (with hurricanes tornadoes..etc) scares him..you need to educate him on the matter and talk to him about his worries..maybe home schooling if public school is causing so much anxiety..do everything in your power instead of subjecting to x rays and medications..work hard at nurturing mentally and physically..stop running to “professionals” who will only finally sell you drugs..there are many healthy exercises out there for the mind you can try but it takes your assertive effort not everyone else’s. ..take care of your child to your fullest ability

      Reply

      • Hey Jeremy, Do you have kids? Have you ever suffered a panic attack? Clearly you have not, It does not matter what they are hearing in the news or lifestyle, it will happen anyway, if there is nothing they hear, they will invent things.

        Paul

        Reply

    • My five year old daughter has these symptoms, but she was also diagnosed with sleep apnea a few months ago. I am a Dental Hygienist and work for a Dr that treats TMJ and sleep breathing disorders. In reading this article, there are a number of statements about poor quality sleep. With my knowledge of sleep apnea and the flood of symptoms that come with it, I am confident her stomach aches and anxiety about school are strongly associated with the sleep apnea. Push your pediatrician to have a sleep study. The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines states that all children who snore should be screened for sleep disordered breathing. I will be treating my daughter with orthodontics to expand her palate and help develop a proper airway along with changing her diet to a deflamed diet by eliminating gluten and dairy.

      Reply

      • I find it interesting that you felt that you needed to include the fact that your daughter is adopted and this anxiety must have come from her biological parents because you and your husband don’t have anxiety disorders. Hmm?????

        Reply

    • OMG.. you just wrote the exact story of my 7 year old daughter.. i know this is old post, but hoping maybe you see it and can give any advice… she had a virus a month and half ago… and now she is convinced she is going to be sick.. cause she cant idenify that its butterflies in her belly… I am lost as well

      Reply

    • Hi,
      My 8 year old daughter has upset tummy, throws up, has had breakdown when I added an area rug to her room. Classic anxiety…she has just finished 9 therapy appointments with a therapist & tells me she does not have anxiety, even struggles to say the word. Also she doesn’t want to attend because she prefers to spend time with friends.
      I learned that 8 year olds can not understand what it means and often don’t accept it. I continue to be very patient and understanding.
      Also I let her teacher know so that she can help her accordingly.

      Reply

  5. My husband has 1/2 custody of his two boys; ages 8 and 10. The 10 year old suffers from anxiety. He chews fingernails off , asks 100 questions if there is a change in any aspect of his life, forces himself to throw up to get out of going to school and so on.

    Reply

    • Both you and your husband’s life choices has effected your childs

      Reply

      • Jeremy…you certainly seem to act as if you have the answers and prescriptions for everyone’s child’s concern. Why and what puts you in the enviable position of having all of the answers?

        Reply

        • Walter,
          I was thinking the same thing.

          Reply

          • I’ve got five kids. Three are the I-can-pat-myself-on-the-back-because-I’m-so-great-at-this-parenting-thing, but two of those five are anxious (probably going to need further help) and are nothing like the other three. According to Jeremy, I must be screwing two of them up (even though we haven’t sought treatment yet) and I need to apply myself more. lol
            I’m going out on a limb and guessing that Jeremy’s parents were the “run to the doctor but change nothing about parenting” type of parents. Did they expect a pill to be the answer to “their” problems? Remember that your experiences in life are not what everyone else is also experiencing. Or we could be going through the same experience, but our perception is very different.
            Regardless, there wasn’t enough information in these posts to make the assumptions that you made.

          • Jermey is just trying to get a rise out of you all. Parenting is the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. Give yourselves a break and realize that kids are experiencing so many emotions in their little bodies that they are learning how to cope with. Stay empathetic. I know how trying it is. I have a 6 year old daughter who is worried every day and I’m struggling to ease her pain and worries. One minute at a time they will get through this and we will too.

        • Agreed.

          Reply

  6. Great article, and the tips are super helpful, even for kids who may suffer from less severe anxiety.

    Reply

  7. Every time I hear about mental illness in children, I ask what is the cause? Its obviously related to their brain and, as this article states, high cortisol levels. How many of these affected parents let their children cry-it-out or put them through sleep training as an infant? Curious, is there a correlation since crying increases cortisol levels in the infant’s brain and for this to take place during a critical stage of brain development?

    Reply

  8. I never comment but with this topic I have lots of experience ! Anxiety is a results of something happening PHYSICALLY as well as mentally . Im confused why this article does not address this side….almost all these sweet children complain about tummy issues….what about food allergies…hormone imbalances such as thyroid ….to much processed foods…the digestive system is a direct link to how we feel emotionally .I discovered this after I would have anxiety attacks after consuming caffeine and sugar. Take your children to a trusted pediatrician have a full physical including bloodwork.It changed our lives and it can changes yours too..don’t give up!!!!

    Reply

    • Gluten is also a hidden culprit of anxiety in children, but can often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed in children. The body’s response to the gluten that it cannot tolerate can take many forms, one of which is anxiety and behavior changes.

      Reply

  9. When you say that someone is a ‘typical tween’ you belittle them. If a child said ‘you’re a typical adult’ you’d think that they sounded ungrateful or naive to you. So you sound the same for using that term about a child.

    Reply

  10. My 10 year old son had issues with anxiety when he was 8 yrs old and now again in 5th grade. He complains of his stomach hurting and sometimes a headache. As a family we are focused on positive talk, minimizing conflict and spending quality time together. I am focusing on making sure his diet is appropriate and that we do not change his every day life and give in to the anxiety. A positive attitude chart has helped for daily activities that he struggles with. After 50 checks he will get a reward. If anyone has any more ideas for experiences please share. This is a family altering experience for sure. This week I am going to try prayer/meditation time with him before bed.

    Reply

  11. Children have the same emotions and problems as adults do. They haven’t built up defense mechanisms yet, so it comes out in crying, hiding, holding on to a parent not wanting to let go, stomach aches, headaches, I don’t feel well. Listen to them. Talk to them. Seek therapy in severe cases. I wouldn’t suggest medication, but that’s just me. We’re parents first and foremost, our job is to raise our children to be healthy adults, capable of caring for themselves. It isn’t easy, we aren’t supermen and superwomen. Schools usually have psychologists, if reading and talking about anxiety and panic attacks doesn’t work (give it some time but make sure your children know these are normal feelings, it’s what we do with them to overcome them) then consult with your schools psychologist. Don’t give up, your children need you. Don’t give in either, keeping them out of school is one of the worse things you can do, that tells a child that running from their problems is ok. Obviously you can’t leave them while they’re having a meltdown either. My daughter thinks the worse when we drop her off at school, but only on Mondays. She’s almost 9 and this recently started. I had terrible anxiety as a kid, I was neglected but who wasn’t back in the 60’s and 70’s? Maybe anxiety is inherited? Maybe anxiety is normal and in some of us it’s just bigger? Talk yo your children. Seek help professionally. Just my opinion. We’re all in this together good luck

    Reply

  12. I agree. Its sad that Jeremy should put down parents who obviously care about their children and want to do the right thing by them. I love my daughter but that did not prevent anxiety for her. I’m trying my best and will love her and continue to provide all the support she needs to get her through. So many parents are trying so hard and its imperative we support each other. Jeremy, as for your thoughtless and arrogant posts ? I think you need to fund another website to post on.

    Reply

  13. My seven year old has been displaying almost every behavior mentioned above. We feel helpless. She starts therapy next week and we are praying for some peace for her. It is good to see that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Has your daughters doctor told you if this would always stay with her? I do worry about how this will play a roll in my daughters life as she develops.

    Reply

  14. This was a good article in terms of highlighting some natural remedies to this rampant problem. However, I tend to agree with Jeremy because I believe certain medications should be avoided, especially in kids. Everyone should watch the the documentary from 2008- Generation Rx. I’m surprised it’s not mentioned, but this is Today’s Parent, I guess. Basically Prozac and meds like it are proven to cause suicidal thoughts and there are casesahown in the film where it has lead to suicide in teens. There are other studies on it also. But I know the struggle. I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression since about age 11 or so, right around the time my parents split, but I’ve had anxiety revolving around school stuff since grade one that I recall. I think parenting and creating that routine and structure and positive self image goes a long way. I am a mom now, and I am concerned with how things will play out for my daughter. she’s two now, and I am hoping I can prevent such behaviours in her life. I urge you not to resort to meds though at such a young age, or in general. There are much better ways to cope.

    Reply

  15. Thank you for publishing this article!! I have a six year old daughter who has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. Life is challenging on most days as we navigate our way through the worries. I can relate to so many statements in this article, especially the comment by Jack about worrying about the new year of school two months later. Our family trips are burdened with worry about returning from the minute we leave, or the chance that we may encounter a dog/bee… or forget something. Thanks for making parents like me feel less isolated and alone <3. These are special kids.

    Reply

  16. Jeremy needs a good pop in the mouth. He’s wrong on so many levels. I have a 12 year old who is getting stronger anxiety attacks. They are even happening in the middle of the night. Sick stomach, head aches, breathing, etc. My husband suffers from anxiety. His suggestions are as follows for the kids…..walk it off, do jumping jacks, exercise in some form to get the serotonin flowing. Also reassurance that the attack will pass, and no one ever dies from an anxiety attack. Positive reassurance, empathy and warm words. It will all get better in a few minutes. Hope this helps some of you out there. I understand what a lot of you are going through.

    Reply

  17. I started reading this article and then the comments parents were writing. I have a 12 year old 6 grade student who was diagnosed with ADHD two years ago. He is a in the child study program at school. For the past two years he has complained before school about headaches and tummy aches and now it has been happening more often and while in school. We notice that it was normally before he was ready to start a new (harder) assignment. He teachers had mention anxiety. Thoughts?? I had a sleep study test done on him about 4-5 years ago which came back mild and no reason for medication. As most children with ADHD had a hard time falling asleep anyway. He does take medication for the ADHD. I have a call into his pediatrician but just curious as to what kind of test do they perform or what can I do to help him through this? Any answers or help would be appreciated as this is all new to me. I also have another child who is 17 and who is an A/B student so it is NOT our parenting as some people mentioned :)

    Reply

  18. I definitely feel for all of you. My 11 year old son suffers from an inexplicable phobia that he will throw up at night. He won’t even sleep in his own bed any more (which drives his teenage sisters crazy). One important point to understand is the difference between anxiety, and a phobia. Anxiety is the general fear of change or worry that plagues many of us at some point in our lives, sometimes to the point of dysfunctionality, and of course children can get that too. A phobia on the other hand is an irrational fear about something that is going to happen, and can debilitate the one suffering from it. Obviously, Jeremy’s comments are irrelevant, but I say kudos to any parent who sticks with it, and tries whatever they can to help their own child. There is often not one path to help, but many different ones. Good luck.

    Reply

  19. I am a family day carer looking after a 3.5 year old girl three days each week. Despite having a Masters in Special Education, I have never come across such anxiety and although I feel we make some progress, it’s easy for her to revert. She asks nonsensical questions all day “I don’t think my mum loves me, I don’t know what my dad does, If I die my mum and dad will be cross, I don’t know what bananas are for …” Her parents think she is not at all anxious, but admit she’s had a difficult time as they’ve coped with her elder brother’s severe epilepsy. Maybe she’s copying mum, maybe she has PTSD. They aren’t willing to seek professional help. I’ve taught her yoga and give her guided meditation on anxieties, deep breathing and lots of talk therapy. Sometimes I indulge her need to talk, sometimes I am strict with her if it’s not a good time. It is so hard to deal with because it manifests in indecisiveness “I don’t want to find work, I don’t want to eat, I don’t want to sit quietly, I don’t know what to, I don’t like to do anything …’ Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply

  20. Unfortunately, many common American early parenting behaviors can exacerbate or even create these issues. It is well proven that attentive and responsive early child care can prevent the development of a “Stress Reactive Profile” within the structure of the brain that leads to a lifelong tendency to anxiety and mental stress. Another unfortunate issue is the lack of support of the family and the marketing push to new families that hides this information and causes the parents stress.

    Reply

  21. I have had this anxiety and separation disorder all my life. I am now 63 years of age and I really suffered as a child and teenager. As an adult it has caused problems in my marraige. I was suspected to be a bad kid and a liar, trying to get out of school or other things. It stopped me from being a good athlete and also a good student. I didn’t know what was wrong, I couldn’t tell anyone what was wrong. I would just feel sick all the time. My mom felt sorry for me but my dad became an enemy to me. I hope all children/adults can get help with this problem. It makes life miserable.

    Reply

  22. Today’s children are too sheltered. Parents think they’re helping their children by sheltering them, they are wrong. Children need to learn how to deal with disappointment, setbacks, and losses at an early age. It helps build character. Then all of the sudden when kids reach their teens they are suddenly held accountable for so much that’s it’s too overwhelming. That’s why we have school shootings and that’s why so many kids are on medication.

    Reply

  23. Anxiety is serious. I have two sons, who both suffered from anxiety, and some other issues.
    Sometimes, we as parents do not think along those lines of anxiety in children. Then we start questioning our parenting, what we might be doing wrong, or why isn’t anything I try helping calm my child.
    When the child’s moods are being affected and changing at the drop of a hat, whether it be a change in daily routine, school, testing, home, whatever, and the mood swings are constant, and you are realizing that it is having an affect on your child, then it is time to seek help. Sometimes, your Pediatrician can be your first line of contact. Bring the issues up and see what the doctor suggests. Sometimes, you might have to find a psychologist or psychiatrist all on your own. Don’t be discouraged either. It took 4 doctors to finally realize that my first son suffered from Agoraphobia, and ADHD. I knew he was suffering, and I started the process and on the 4th doctor I put my foot down (best decision I ever made). My second son had been diagnosed with anxiety, ODC, and tics, but not till the age of 9 (and school brought the issues to the for front when he suffered a mental breakdown). His behavior was completely different then the oldest son, so I was very confused, even though I am on medications and my eldest son was on medications, I just couldn’t see what was happening with my youngest son, his symptoms and behavior was different. I got him help too, and it is the best thing I could have done for my child.
    People are the first to sway you from help, and also medication, but sometimes you need to step out of the box and have a look at your child and see how much they could be suffering. We adults can handle a lot, but sometimes things are just too overwhelming for a child.
    The process can also be discouraging, so don’t sway from the goal, the child’s best interest. Anxiety can be heart wrenching for a child, and heartbreaking for a parent.

    Reply

  24. My daughter is 24 now, but about the age of 6 she started in with Anxiety. She would be sick to her stomach, headaches and would cry before school just about everyday. There where days when I got calls from the school that my daughter was having a mental break down and just crying and couldn’t stop, so I would have to come get her. She was awesome at sports but when she would run or be with a crowd of people she would have a spout of “not breathing, crying and shaking” all anxiety. There where times she was good for months no anxiety and would sing in choir and other times would participate. It was so had to deal with, she wouldn’t even go to her dads on week-ends, I would usually have to go get her because she was sick. Its truly a terrible disease. My daughter at the age of 24 still has them everyday, goes to a therapist and another doctor who prescribes her medication. Parents need to see a therapist also to see how to learn with their children who have this disease. There are also other family members that have this disease to, including myself. I go through phases in life. I only hope my daughter gets the help she needs as she gets older and doesn’t pass this to her children. Please Please Please … if your child has been diagnosed with Anxiety. Please get help for yourself and your kids.

    Reply

  25. Thank you for re-posting this article. This describes my nearly 10 yr old daughter to a tee. I would speak with her pediatrician but he would just tell me she will outgrow it, it’s just her personality. We were literally prisoners to her anxiety. We didn’t go on a vacation for 8 years. Her younger brother suffered too. Her friendships suffered. Thankfully, she has gotten better with age but it is still an issue. Her extreme need to control things around her may haunt her later in life. We never got her therapy when she was at her worst. I wish I had read this article two years ago.

    Reply

  26. 50 years ago I had this disorder. I loved school. I had stomachaches daily. It wasn’t any of the typical things mentioned here. It was about the teacher who was a tyrant (yes, in the 1st/2nd grade!). Our personalities clashed big time. And I had the “luck” to have join us for a 2nd year of the next grade. I was a B average student, had some social anxiety. But most of it diminished when my 3rd grade teacher emerged. An angel who genuinely liked young children and was meant to teach. The original teacher would have clearly chosen another profession (e.g. business) had she been a decade or so younger. So I urge parents to consider this synergy or lack thereof as a key element of the issue.

    Reply

  27. My daughter was diagnosed at age 11 with anxiety disorder following a vicious attack by 3 teenage boys. They beat her up and threatened to rape her. She was able to get away to tell me where I then called the police. A report was made and when the boys were identified they said they did it because she started it by throwing a rock at them but she says it was how she got away from them. I was told later by a very nice, sympathetic school resource officer, that the courts would only pursue a case if my daughter was arrested for assault too. I was forced to drop the charges since I didn’t want my daughter, the victim, to be subjected to arrest and detainment. I was so mad at the system. She had to continue to go to school with these kids for a few months before I moved for work. She had counseling and medications that seemed to work and we were able to wean her off the meds for awhile but then she hit High School in August, She’s 14, which brought it back with a vengeance. She is so smart and is in the gifted program at school and she has friends but it’s hard for her to cope with strangers.

    Since summer she has been anxious to the point of nausea and migraines along with paranoia that someone would hurt her or me (I am a single mother). I recently found out she had cut herself in the past so we’ve been struggling to find the right doctors to help her through all this. She hated the counselor she was seeing over the summer so I recently had her eval’d with a nice female therapist (the last one was a male) and she said this lady made her feel comfortable. She diagnosed Alison with severe anxiety disorder, depression, and PTSD. Today I took half a day and got her into see a licensed psych doctor who put her on Celexa and melatonin (to help her sleep). Anxiety is horrible thing for anyone to suffer but seeing kids struggle though it is even worse. I am hoping the meds will help alleviate her anxiety and that therapy will help her regain control of her life. This has been a hard road for all of us because families suffer when kids do. As a single mother when she has her bad days there is no one else there to help me so when she lashes out it it hurts me even though I know it isn’t her. Some days I feel so drained emotionally that it’s hard for me to function.

    Reply

  28. I had this as a kid. Since it wasn’t treated, by HS I would throw up in the bathroom and always knew how many sick days I had left before I had to repeat a class. Now I’m watching my “sensitive” son very carefully for this. I don’t want him to go through what I did.

    Reply

Leave a comment

Sign in to comment.