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Anxiety in Kids: How to Turn it Around and Protect Them For Life

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Anxiety in Kids: The Skills to Turn it Around and Protect Them For Life

Anxiety is a normal response to something dangerous or stressful. It becomes a problem when it shows up at unexpected times and takes a particularly firm hold. When anxiety is in full swing, it feels awful. Awful enough that anticipation of the feeling is enough in itself to cause anxiety.

We already know that anxiety has nothing to do with strength, courage or character. It picks a target and it switches on.

When that target is a child or teen, it can be particularly distressing, causing problems with sleeping, eating and missed school from unexplained illnesses such as sick tummies or headaches. 

One of the worst things about anxiety is the way it can happen without any identifiable cause. The physical feeling is familiar – that panicked feeling that comes when you miss a stair or as my daughter recently described, ‘that feeling you get when you’re almost asleep and you feel like you’re falling.’ (‘Yes, we’ve dealt with it in our home too. It’s under control now, so I can assure you this works.)

The good news is that anxiety in kids is very treatable and they are particularly responsive. I often think we don’t give them enough credit. They’re so open to possibility, and very quick to make the right connections when they’re given the right information and support. As the adult in their life, you’re the perfect one to give it.

Anxiety in Kids and Teens: Turning it Around 

  1. Don’t talk them out of it.

    As a parent, the temptation is to reassure your child with gentle comments in the way of, ‘There’s nothing to worry about,’ or ‘You’ll be fine’.

    This comes from the purest of intentions but it runs the risk of them feeling as though there’s something wrong with them. The truth is that when anxiety has a hold of them, they can no sooner stop worrying than fly to the moon. As much as they want to believe you, their brains just won’t let them.

    What they need to hear is that you get it. Ask them what it feels like for them. They may or may not be able to articulate – and that’s okay. Then, ask if it’s ‘like that feeling you get when you miss a stair,’ (or ‘that feeling you get when you feel like you’re falling in your sleep’). Often, this in itself is such a relief because ‘someone gets it.’

  2. Normalise.

    Explain that:

    •. Anxiety is normal and everyone experiences anxiety at some time in their life – before an exam, when meeting new people, going for an interview or starting at a new school.

    •  Sometimes it happens for no reason at all. That’s also normal. It happens to lots of adults and lots of kids but there are things you can do to make it go away. 

  3. Explain why anxiety feels like it does.

    Out of everything, this is perhaps the most powerful intervention for anyone with anxiety. Anxiety causes the most problems when it seems to come on without any real trigger. There’s a reason for this, and understanding the reason is key to managing the anxiety.

    Here is a child-friendly explanation. I’ve used it for a variety of ages, but nobody knows your child like you do so adjust it to suit. 

    ‘Anxiety is something that lots of people get but it feels different for everyone. Adults get it too. It happens because there’s a part of your brain that thinks there’s something it needs to protect you from. The part of the brain is called the amygdala. It’s not very big and it’s shaped like an almond.  

    It switches on when it thinks you’re in danger, so really it’s like your own fierce warrior, there to protect you. It’s job is to get you ready to run away from the danger or fight it. People call this ‘fight or flight’.

    If your amygdala thinks there’s trouble, it will immediately give your body what it needs to be strong, fast and powerful. It will flood your body with oxygen, hormones and adrenaline that your body can use as fuel to power your muscles to run away or fight. It does this without even thinking. This happens so quickly and so automatically. The amygdala doesn’t take time to check anything out. It’s a doer not a thinker – all action and not a lot of thought.

    If there is something dangerous – a wild dog you need to run away from, a fall you need to steady yourself from – then the amygdala is brilliant. Sometimes though, the amygdala thinks there’s a threat and fuels you up even though there’s actually nothing dangerous there at all. 

    Have you ever made toast that has got a bit burnt and set off the fire alarm? The fire alarm can’t tell the difference between smoke from a fire and smoke from burnt toast – and it doesn’t care. All it wants to do is let you know so you can get out of there. The amygdala works the same way. It can’t tell the difference between something that might hurt you, like a wild dog, and something that won’t, like being at a new school. Sometimes the amygdala just switches on before you even know what it’s switching on for. It’s always working hard to protect you – even when you don’t need protecting. It’s a doer not a thinker, remember, and this is how it keeps you safe.

    If you don’t need to run away or fight for your life, there’s nothing to burn all that fuel – the oxygen, hormones and adrenalin – that the amygdala has flooded you with. It builds up and that’s the reason you feel like you do when you have anxiety. It’s like if you just keep pouring petrol into a car and never take the car for a drive.

    So when the amygdala senses a threat it floods your body with oxygen, adrenaline and hormones that your body can use to fuel its fight or flight. When this happens:

    ♦   Your breathing changes from normal slow deep breaths to fast little breaths. Your body does this because your brain has told it to stop using up the oxygen for strong breaths and send it to the muscles to they can run or fight.

    When this happens you might feel puffed or a bit breathless. You also might feel the blood rush to your face and your face become warm.

    ♦    If you don’t fight or flee, the oxygen builds up and the carbon dioxide drops.

    This can make you feel dizzy or a bit confused.

    ♦   Your heart beats faster to get the oxygen around the body.

    Your heart can feel like it’s racing and you might feel sick.

    ♦   Fuel gets sent to your arms (in case they need to fight) and your legs (in case they need to flee).

    Your arms and legs might tense up or your muscles might feel tight.

    ♦   Your body cools itself down (by sweating) so it doesn’t overheat if it has to fight or flee

    You might feel a bit sweaty.

    ♦   Your digestive system – the part of the body that gets the nutrients from the food you eat – shuts down so that the fuel it was using to digest your food can be used by your arms and legs in case you have to fight or flee. (Don’t worry though – it won’t stay shut down for long.)

    You might feel like you have butterflies in your tummy. You might also feel sick, as though you’re going to vomit, and your mouth might feel a bit dry. 

    As you can see, there are very real reasons for your body feeling the way it does when you have anxiety. It’s all because your amygdala – that fierce warrior part of your brain – is trying to protect you by getting your body ready to fight or flee. Problem is – there’s nothing to fight or flee. Don’t worry though, there are things we can do about this.’

  4. Explain how common anxiety is in adults and kids.

    About 1 in 8 kids have struggled with anxiety – so let them know that in their class, there’s a good chance that 3 or 4 other kids would know exactly what they’re going through because they’ve been through it before. Maybe they’re going through it right now.

  5. Give it a Name.

    ‘Now that you understand that your anxiety feelings come from the ‘heroic warrior’ part of your brain, let’s give it a name.’ Let your child pick the name and ask them what they think of when they picture it. This will help them to feel as though something else is the problem, not them. It also demystifies their anxiety. Rather than it being a nameless, faceless ‘thing’ that gets in their way, it’s something contained – with a name and a look. 

  6. Now Get Them Into Position.

    ‘The problem with anxiety is that [whatever their ‘heroic warrior’ is called – for the moment, let’s say, ‘Zep’] Zep is calling all the shots but we know that you’re really the boss. Zep actually thinks it’s protecting you, so what you need to do is let it know that you’ve got this and that it can relax. When you get those anxious feelings, that means Zep is taking over and getting ready to keep you safe. It doesn’t think about it at all – it just jumps in and goes for it. What you need to do is to let it know that you’re okay. 

    The most powerful thing you can do to make yourself the boss of your brain again is breathe. It sounds so simple – and it is. Part of the reason you feel as you do is because your breathing has gone from strong and slow and deep to quick and shallow. That type of breathing changes the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body. Once your breathing is under control, Zep will stop thinking he has to protect you and he’ll settle back down. Then, really quickly after that, you’ll stop feeling the way you do.’ 

  7. And breathe.

    Breathe deeply and slowly. Hold your breath just for a second between breathing in and breathing out. Make sure the breath is going right down into your belly – not just into your chest. You can tell because your belly will be moving. Do this about 5 to 10 times.

    Practice before bed every day. Remember that Zep, the warrior part of your brain, has been protecting you for your entire life so it might take a little bit of practice to convince Zep to relax. But keep practicing and you’ll be really good at it in no time. You and that warrior part of your brain will be buddies – but with you in control.

    One way to practice is by putting a soft toy on your child’s belly when they lie down. If the toy is moving up and down, their breathing is perfect. 

  8. Practice mindfulness.

    An abundance of scientific research has demonstrated the profound effects of mindfulness.  MRI studies have shown that practicing mindfulness increases the density of gray matter in the brain, providing relief and protection from stress, anxiety and depression. See here for more information.

    Mindfulness doesn’t have to be complicated. Essentially, it’s being aware of the present moment. My daughter does 10 minutes before bed. 

    Start by explaining that anxiety comes about because of worry about the future and what might happen. Sometimes these thoughts happen in the background – we don’t even know they’re there. Mindfulness helps you to have control over your brain so you can stop it from worrying about things it doesn’t need to. It trains your brain to stay in the here and now. The brain is like a muscle and the more you exercise it the stronger it gets. 

    It sounds easy enough but minds quite like to wander so staying in the moment can take some practice. Here’s the how:

    1. Close your eyes and notice your breathing. How does the air feel as you draw it inside you? Notice the sensation of the air, or your belly rising and falling. Notice your heart beating. If your mind starts to wander, come back to this.
    2. Now, what can you hear? What can you feel outside of you and inside your body? If your mind starts to wander, focus on your breathing again. 

Remember that anxiety in kids is very treatable but it might take time. Explain to your child that his or her very clever and very protective brain might need some convincing that just because it thinks there’s trouble coming, doesn’t mean there is. Keep practising and they’ll get there. 

A Book for Kids About Anxiety …

‘Hey Warrior’ is the book I’ve written for children to help them understand anxiety and to find their ‘brave’. It explains why anxiety feels the way it does, and it will teach them how they can ‘be the boss of their brains’ during anxiety, to feel calm. It’s not always enough to tell kids what to do – they need to understand why it works. Hey Warrior does this, giving explanations in a fun, simple, way that helps things make sense in a, ‘Oh so that’s how that works!’ kind of way, alongside gorgeous illustrations.

 

 


 

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800 Comments

Susan

Thanks for your anxiety in children. I found it very interesting as this is what I’m going through with my 7 year old daughter…
Please send me anything else you have on anxiety I would appreciate it?
Thanks
Mom of 2cute twins

Reply
heysigmund

You’re welcome. It’s hard to watch your kids struggling with something isn’t it. As for more info, if you have a look on the home page under ‘Being Human’, you’ll find an ‘Anxiety’ section with plenty of information. We regularly post articles on anxiety so keep checking back, or if you want to make sure you don’t miss an article, signing up to the newsletter would be the way to go. The signup is on the home page. I really hope this helps. Thanks for making contact.

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Anne Doiron

Thank you so much for this article. My 12 year old daughter has been suffering from anxiety for several months now. I thought I was the only mom who had a child like this. Your article was a breath of fresh air and the techniques are wonderful. You are helping so many kids!!

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome! And thank you for leaving such a generous comment. Your daughter is the same age as mine and the reason I wrote the article was because she was showing signs of anxiety. I saw how effective this was on her. The response to this post has been incredible, which shows the enormous number of kids (and teens and adults) who are struggling with anxiety. I’m so pleased you are able to use the information and I hope your daughter is able to find her way through soon.

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Jennie

I appreciate this and it may work for some kids but my son had severe anxiety and we are on a new meds and therapy. He manifested severe OCD at eight. He knows the coping skills and we are a well versed family in this as I (mom) and his oldest sister have severe and occasionally debilitating issues. He also has ADHD and some lingering speech issues. It has been a five month process of switching him from Zoloft to Luvox. He can’t go to his classes, or to friends houses; we do homeschool and now just doing lessons, he had to breathe through them. He has fear of boredom, sickness, accidents, poison, doing something he perceives as wrong, fear of someone else doing something wrong and it being his fault, car accidents and being away from home. He had had no trauma and we are at a loss. We use the above techniques and more. What can be done for this poor child?

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heysigmund

I’m so sorry to hear that your son is going through such a struggle. I can hear how helpless you feel. If he is working with a therapist and under the care of doctors, it sounds as though he is good hands. Give the new medication time to take effect and in the meantime, just keep loving him and being there for him. You may already be aware of the issues, but just in case, here is a link discussing the issues specific to treating anxiety and ADHD http://psychcentral.com/lib/when-adhd-and-anxiety-occur-together/0009860 .

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Wendy

My teenage son has been struggling with anxiety for almost a year, although we believe there were signs of it much earlier in hindsight. We are finally seeing steady progress after working with a doctor for several months who has started him on a nutritional therapy program based on the work of Dr William Walsh http://www.biobalance.org.au/ This has required numerous blood and urine tests which test for a multitude of issues particularly pyrole and methylation problems. He also sees a wonderful kinesiologist who has worked wonders with him. We aren’t there yet but feel that he is definitely on the improve. Good luck x

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heysigmund

Thank you for sharing this. It’s always good to hear what’s worked. I’m pleased your son is heading in the right direction.

Reply
Pam

Jennie
There’s a test out called Genesight that’s done by a simple cheek swab. It tells the genetic make up of a person and what drugs they need for ADHD, anxiety, pain, etc. it cuts down on havin to try different medications and tells you which ones will be the most successful with your genetics. It’s done through a company called AssureRX. I’m sorry to hear of your child’s suffering!

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Jennifer

We have found an amazing program that puts all of these ideas in kid friendly and easy to understand terms. Our son was pretty severe as well, and it takes a lot of patience and consistency, but it is amazing!! The Dr.’s that came up with the program are incredible and make themselves available through email and I have reached out to them a couple times and received very quick responses. The program is called “Turnaround” turning fear into freedom! Every person can benefit from this, from extreme anxiety and OCD to mild symptoms before a test or something. We did it together as a family, and still listen to the program on road trips and listen to the “Chill Kit” every night!

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Sabrina

My daughter dealt with severe anxiety at about age 9. It was terrifying to watch her suffer. She made it through just fine with lots of coaching, lots of mistakes and frustrations and tears on my part, but also with tools like these. She is a very strong 15 year old now.

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heysigmund

It’s so good to hear that your daughter made it through her anxiety. That we parents make mistakes is all part of the process – it’s impossible to learn without them. Your comment will be a source of hope for people who have kids struggling with anxiety or who are struggling with it themselves. It’s always great to hear when someone beats it because there are so many times when it feels like that will never happen. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

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Tammy

I saw signs of it when my daughter was as young as two. It is heartbreaking to watch them and not be able to fix it. We took her to the doctor for it and she told them she did not want to live like this….and they said she was suicidal….and she absolutely was not. She just wanted help. So they put her in a psych ward at 11 years old for a suicide watch. Be very careful how you word things if you go for medical help. We have actually found that excercise and tylenol help. Excercise lessened the frequency and severity of her anxiety “attacks”….and tylenol taken during an attack lessens it even more. More is not better with Tylenol….just half the dose to the regular dosage for her age is all it takes. Still, the absolute best thing that has helped is excercise…especially swimming. It has allowed her to grow into a wonderful young adult who can now cope with her anxiety.

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heysigmund

Oh that’s an awful thing for your daughter to go through. You did so well to find what worked for her. Exercise makes a lot of sense – it’s the natural end to the fight or flight response. There’s some really interesting research that demonstrated a connection between the part of the brain associated with social rejection (as in a breakup – stay with me you’ll see the relevance soon!) and physical pain were related and that Tylenol eased the emotional pain. Perhaps there is a connection somewhere between a part of the brain that has a hand in anxiety and physical pain, and easing the physical pain also eases the anxiety response. I don’t know – that’s all speculation – but just because the research hasn’t found it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It’s so interesting to me that Tylenol works for your daughter’s anxiety attacks – it hints at a similar process. If it works and it’s not doing any harm, that’s great. Here is the link that talks about the science if you’re interested http://www.heysigmund.com/your-body-during-a-breakup/. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

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kelly

My anxiety sufferers were taught to turn on their thinking brain (the thinking brain and emotional brain can’t work at the same time) by either mentally or literally making a list of, say, every mammal they can name. Or types of fish, or colors they can list. The point is, that while calling up knowledge, the fight or flight response disappears!!

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heysigmund

That’s brilliant. I love it! Thank you so much for sharing this. I love that the comments are becoming a rich source of info!

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Jo

My 12 yr old has been anxious for 2 yrs and this is one of the best articles I have seen, I will be showing her later.

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased this has been able to help you. I hope it is able to provide some relief for your daughter. Thank you for letting me know.

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Taylor

hello, I am 13 years old and I have struggled with anxiety for 3 years now, it’s horrible. I thought i was “the only one” that felt like this, it was horrible and I still have anxiety. When you said your daughter had it, she is my age and I don’t know anyone like me… It’s quite sad actually. I never thought that there were others out there that felt the same as me.

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heysigmund

I’m so sorry to hear that you are going through this. I really want you to know that you are not alone. So many people have left wonderful, honest comments – many of them about people your age who are feeling just like you. The problem is that nobody talks about it because they think they are the only one. How brave you are that you have decided to talk about it. I promise you – there are so many people just like you going through this. You would be so surprised.

My daughter still struggles with it herself but she has learned to manage it. It will still come up if she’s doing something new or if she has an exam or something like that, but she’s able to stop it getting in the way. She knows what to do as soon as she starts to feel anxious and now she can handle it really well. You can do that too. The reason I wrote this article is because the exercises that I wrote about have really helped her. I’m sure they will help you to, but they might take time. It’s important to be patient because your brain has been perfecting doing ‘anxiety’ for at least three years now. That doesn’t mean it will take you three years to change it – not at all – it will just some practice.

One of the most important things is to understand the reason your anxiety happens. That’s really important because at the moment, your brain is getting anxious about being anxious. If you understand why you’re getting anxious you can control that. Now, the second thing is to understand why breathing is so important. When you’re anxious, your body is flooded with stress hormones and chemicals – which are great if you have to run away from something or fight for your life, but not so great if there’s nowhere to run. It’s because of those chemicals and hormones that you feel the awful feelings you’re feeling. Breathing actually helps to reverse that process. It sounds simple enough, but I know how hard it is to remember to breathe properly when you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack, which is why it’s really important to practice them when you’re calm. It’s like anything – the more you do it the better you will be. Try to practice every day a couple of times a day – maybe when you wake up and are lying in bed and when you fall asleep. This has really worked for my daughter. She had to practice for a while, just like I’m suggesting to you, but it’s a habit know and so as soon as she gets that anxious feeling, she’s able to correct her breathing and soon after that, the awful anxiety feelings go away. She’s also been been practicing mindfulness every night for 10 minutes before bed. Now, I won’t lie to you – it wasn’t easy at first and it does take some practice. Your brain is strong and protective of you and it’s been doing it’s fight or flight thing for 3 years, so it’s going to take some convincing that it’s okay to stop. But it can be convinced of that. Absolutely it can. It took my daughter about 3 or 4 weeks before she felt like she could do it. Mindfulness is wonderful because it actually changes the part of your brain that has a hand in your anxiety. It makes it denser, and more able to cope. It’s pretty amazing what it can do.

This sounds like it’s very overwhelming for you and I completely understand that. Anxiety is very overwhelming, but it can be managed very effectively. Do you have an adult or a school counsellor you can talk to? School counsellors are wonderful and really want to help. They know what they’re doing and they talk would be very used to talking people just like you. They would have a lot of really helpful advice.

Finally, I want to tell you how amazing I think you are. It’s not easy to talk about anxiety, which is why so many people don’t. But you have. Other people have left wonderful comments too, so you can see that you aren’t alone. I just know you can get through this.

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Ann Green

Some healthy brainwashing helped me. When one is in this state, all logic goes. So I was told to repeat the mantra: “The feeling won’t last forever: it will pass soon”.
At the same time, would do something to occupy my mind & concentrate very hard on it til the feeling passes.

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kylie

What say you about anxiety in infants? Both her father and I struggle with anxiety since childhood, and our daughter at 8 months old is already showing signs and symptoms!!!??

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heysigmund

It’s accepted that infants can get anxiety and display it through excessive crying, clinging, sleep problems etc.The main thing is that you always respond to her confidently and communicate that belief in her capabilities. You will have a lot of insight that comes with experiencing anxiety that will be really helpful to her. My best wishes for you and your family.

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telina

I have anxiety myself and think my daughter has it also shes a twin and she goes off for no reason what do I do

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heysigmund

Gosh there have been a few comments like this about twins. It’s hard to say without having more details. Her going off might be an anxious response (fight) but it’s hard to say. Explain the process that’s described in the article and ask her what she thinks is going on. You would be surprised with the insight kids have when their given a context to explain it in. Start the conversation and see where it ends up. It would probably really help her to understand why she does what she does.

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Sheryl Page

Wow a powerful awakening for me, I have an 8 year old daughter and she has been complaining of stomach aches almost every morning since she started 3rd grade. Initially I thought it was a medical problem so Dr. Eliminated Gluten from her diet. Still complaining. It never occurred to me that she was having anxiety issues. I have them ad well so makes sense. I am an AEMT and this should have occurred to me. I will be sitting down with her this weekend and talking with her about this!!! Thank you!!!!

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heysigmund

You’re welcome! I so get it – I didn’t pick up straight away in my own daughter that her tummy aches were anxiety (geez!). We get there in the end though don’t we, that’s the main thing. I’m pleased you’re going to go through the information with with her. She’s in good hands!

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Emily Adamson

Hi my comment is for Susan Mom of 2 cute twins, I have 8 year old twin girls & one of them started having extreme anxiety at night at 7 years of age. I was just wondering what you have experienced with your twins & if yours sleep in the same bed together? My one twin has to have everything perfect pillows, blankets, clean room in order for her to fall asleep & she is up at all hours of the night with night terrors. She has such a vivid imagination & gets such bad anxiety at night. Wondering if you have seen similar with your twins.
Thanks,
Emily

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Myra

My daughter also has horrific nightmares, but the link doesn’t seem to be working?

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CC

I also have twin daughters who are now 17 years old. Just in the past 3 years we have discovered that they both have depression, anxiety, OCD and they both have gone through anorexia. I’m sure they have suffered with it for a long time, but we were not aware of what the symptoms were. It is challenging.

I’m so glad to find this site to help me understand and try to help them.

Also, I find it interesting that there are other twin girls with part of the same things going on with them.

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heysigmund

I’m so please you found us here. Your daughters are really going through it aren’t they, which can’t be easy on you. Are they getting support from counsellors? It is interesting, isn’t it, that there are a number of twin girls. There’s a lot we know about anxiety and there’s so much that we don’t. Thank you for making contact.

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debbie

My daughter had OCD when she was in 3rd grade and we made great strides using the book Freeing your child from obsessive compulsive disorder as well as therapy and zoloft. I recommend getting a team of psychiatrist (writes prescriptions) and psychologist who will help with behavioral therapy. Best to get this taken care of while the kid is still on your insurance. She no longer has any fears and did well for over a decade but after three years in college the anxiety did reappear. Things are better this week and are hopeful that she is getting back to normal.

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Maggie Ganther

I have girl/boy twins and my daughter definitely has anxiety and showed signs at around 5-7 yrs. She’s almost 16 and still has it. This comes out as bullying to her twin brother and social anxiety.

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Eileen

If you believe in God, this is a perfect time to lead your child to praise and worship Him. Help her choose a simple song to sing, one that will help her choose to trust God with all her fears. He loves her and wants to give her victory.

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L Werley

Eileen, as we are helping our children in times of anxiety, we too keep our mind on the One who gave us our breath. And why wouldn’t it make sense that the deeper we breath, the calmer we can become, when every perfect gift comes from above.

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Rachele

I too have two cute twins :). My 7 yr. old daughter went through this, so bad she didn’t eat, sleep, threw up, etc. It was AWFUL. We went to a child therapist and I really don’t think it did much. It went away as fast as it came on and we haven’t dealt with it since. But it was a good month of pure hell. Hang it there, this too shall pass..

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heysigmund

It’s great to hear from people who have managed to beat anxiety. When you’re in the thick of it it can be really hard to believe that things could get better, so hearing from people who have been there and come out the other side can be really comforting. Thank you for taking the time to make contact.

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Jen

My daughter is also 7 and has a lot of anxiety. It mostly happens with new situations for her. She also doesn’t like change. For example, she loves her teacher and is so used to her that when her teacher is going to be out for the day, she gets extremely anxious. She is also anxious in new settings when I am not going to be with her such as going to CCD. I have noticed what has helped her is the more she is involved and tries different things, the better she is and over time the anxiety lessens. She now takes piano lessons and it is really building confidence and helping her come out of her shell.

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heysigmund

That’s wonderful! It sounds like even though she’s still struggling with her anxiety, her confidence is slowly building and she’s well on her way to flourishing – beautiful to watch. Thank you for sharing this.

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Julie

My daughter has been experiencing Anxiety. She is 11 years old. With Anxiety can you pass out? She has been passing out. All the tests the dr have done says she is fine. She is anxious about everything anymore. She worries about passing out, having a funny feeling when she eats, doesn’t luked to be touched now..only on her terms. She has dropped out of all her extra curricular activities. She wants to participate but at the end will cancel because she is always worried about passing out or getting sick. I just don’t know what to do? Her personality is startung to change and she is becoming a very different little girl. Feel so bad for her. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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heysigmund

I’m so sorry to hear your daughter is going through it. An anxiety attack can cause people to pass out but this is another clever thing the body does to adapt to changing circumstances. The changes in breathing that happen during an anxiety attack cause the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide to change. This reduces the blood flow to the brain, so the brain prepares you to pass out because the easiest way to get the blood to your brain is when you’re flat on the floor. It’s why getting breathing under control is so important to reverse the physical symptoms. It’s important that you have done what you’ve needed to do to rule out other causes. It sounds as though your daughter is now anxious about her anxiety and the possibility of her passing out. Explain the basis of her physical symptoms and the reason breathing is so important. Have your daughter practice breathing every day when she is not anxious so it’s easier to access when she’s in the midst of an attack. Like anything, it’s a skill and requires practice to become more accessible. If your daughter’s anxiety is becoming so severe that you think it might be difficult for her to pull it back herself, counselling will give her the support to do this. It’s really important though that your daughter understands the physical basis of what’s happening to her to empower her to respond. It stops being ‘just something that happens’ to ‘something that happens that I can control’. Proper breathing sounds simple enough but in the midst of an anxiety attack, it’s not. The more she is able to practice, the better she will become at doing this. I hope this helps. My very best wishes to you and your daughter.

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ulie

Thank you so much for responding. I’m trying to talk to her about what is going on and the breathing, but she hates talking about it. I will continue this and maybe talk to her counselor at school. Thanks so much for writing about this. I had no idea this happens to so many children. I am also learning that you can’t just say ” you will be fine” and it will happen for them. I feel so bad for all these kids living with this.

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heysigmund

You’re welcome. I’ve been really surprised at how many kids are struggling with it. Talking to your daughter’s counsellor is a good idea – sometimes they’re more likely to hear things if they hear them from someone else. It’s great that you’re using the information – your daughter is lucky to have you.

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debbie

Yes my daughter has passed out from the anxiety also she didn’t eat just before and has low blood pressure. Your daughter might not be just experiencing anxiety but also panic attacks. Look into getting a team together for her.

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Julie

She has had all the blood work done and is fine. Next is the Neurologist. We have been thinking of the low blood pressure and making her eat and carrying granola bars or whatever with us all the time. Also, water too. I will research more about panic attacks.

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Reed

My daughter has OCD and anxiety. Last year she had trouble with breathing and would become light headed. We had the gamut of tests like you and there was no physical cause. When she was told that she was physically healthy, she was hugely relieved and the symptom faded. It also helped her to learn that many kids were dealing with this, not just her. She is under the care of a psychiatrist for anxiety meds. We found a therapist on the http://iocdf.org/.
I will also talk to her about the info here.

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Daniela

Thankyou for a great article. My daughter just turned 5 and suffers from anxiety. She is overwhelmed often and sometimes to distressed. We feel lost sometimes. But there were some strategies you mentioned that I might try. Not sure though if she will understand what anxiety is – do u think the approach in this article is suitable for a 5 year old?

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heysigmund

You’re welcome! I know what you mean about feeling lost. It’s awful when you feel like you just can’t do anything to help your kids isn’t it. I’m writing a post about dealing with anxiety in younger children which may be more helpful to you. Hopefully we can find something that will bring some relief to your daughter.

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Arwen

My almost 6 year old seems to also suffer from anxiety. Looking forward to seeing your article for younger kids.

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Alisa Murphy-Smith

Both of my children, 9 and 11, suffer from anxiety. My daughter has OCD which used to make her have horrible, violent, and sexual thoughts when she was 9. She occasionally has those thoughts but has learned strategies to help her. She practices mindfulness before bed and throughs CBT she created a character ( a tuckalush) that she blames those worries on. When she comes to me about her worries I often just have to remind her to get that tuckalush and then she laughs and says “you’re right, mommy” . I highly recommend getting a good psychologist(if affordable) or a social worker that is trained in CBT. My daughter also just finished a program called Worry WArriors and we found it really helped with her self confidence. I highly recommend checking out the website http://www.anxietybc.com/parent/index.php . Also Google CPRI. It’s a facility here in London, Ontario that is rich in resources for kids. Hope this helps.

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Liz

This is brilliant! I am going to read it to my children verbatim…you’ve done a wonderful job explaining the body processes in a kid-friendly way that teaches terminology that will help them long term. It is very much appreciated! 🙂

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome. Thank you for leaving such a generous comment. It always means a lot to me when I hear from people putting the information to such good use!

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Kelly

I agree — can’t wait to share with my daughter who is experiencing awful anxiety

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased you can use the information! I really hope it helps your daughter to find some relief. Thank you so much for making contact with me.

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Maida Roberts

Thank you soo much! This was very because I used to get anxiety attacks not too long ago. I appreciate this

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LU

I’m an adult with anxiety, and this helped ME. Glad to have this in mind, not just for myself, but for my son. He’s only 4, so I’ll have to change up a lot of this, but this is solid advice. If someone had told me this when I was much younger, it would have helped so much. Thank you.

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome! Thank you for making contact. It’s great that you’re already thinking about this in the context of your son. They’re so open to things when they’re little. I’m so pleased this has helped you. Thanks again for letting me know!

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Mary Lu

I too suffer from anxiety and this is the first time anyone has explained it to me. Thank you so much, I now understand and hopefully will be able to fight off the attacks. As an adult, this is very helpful.

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Kate Walsh

I am 77 and still experience all the symptoms of anxiety cited in the article. It was great to read your suggestions, some of which have been successful for me. That said, I still struggle to remember these techniques when I am in the middle of an anxiety attack. I am planning a three week vacation abroad right now and have to give myself a talk every night about my fear of flying and separation from home.

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heysigmund

I’m so please they were able to help you. The techniques are a skill and so the more you practice them, the more easily they’ll be to access when you’re in the middle of an attack. Practice the breathing and mindfulness exercises every day when you aren’t anxious to strengthen your ability to engage them when you are. Here is a link that talks about other things you can try. You may have already read it, but just in case … http://www.heysigmund.com/anxiety-proven-ways-to-take-back-control/ . I really hope this helps. I understand you fear of flying and being away from home. Start practicing the skills now and I’m so sure that by the time your trip comes around, the fear may still be there but you’ll be so well equipped to deal with it, and your trip will be wonderful.

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Jamie

This is wonderful. My son dabbles in anxiety, and at 7 years old, has a hard time understanding his body’s reaction. And I have a hard time understanding it too. This will be so helpful for us all!

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased this can help you! Your son is a good age to start understanding this. It sounds like he’s in good hands! Thanks so much for letting me know.

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Glendon

This is fantastic. I have recently been reading about OCD and anxiety due to my constant worries. Anything to help young kids overcome this is a god send. It’s such an unnecessary terrible thing to experience.

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heysigmund

Information is such a powerful thing isn’t it. You’re right – anxiety is such an awful thing and so common. I hope you’re able to find some relief soon. I really appreciate you taking the time to make contact. Thank you!

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Andrea

Thank you for such a thoughtful description of the anxiety response, I struggled with this as a child, and now my children are experiencing anxiety. I’m grateful have some additional tools to use.

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heysigmund

You’re welcome! I’m so pleased you’re able to use the information. I really hope it helps. Thank you for letting me know.

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Robin Bellamy

I can barely wait to share this with my son, now 14. He has been diagnosed with ODD and ADHD; and possibly PTSD due to witnessing his dad being robbed of a cell phone. He’s been in therapy a year but I feel like nobody is listening when I say THIS CHILD HAS ANXIETY DISORDER! I recognize it because I have it! Grateful for medication, and hoping to break the cycle in my son. I’ve forwarded this to his therapist!

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased this is helpful for you! I really hope your son is able to find some relief soon. There’s enough going on for them at 14 isn’t there. Thank you for making contact – I really appreciate it.

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Lisa

I feel so blessed to have come upon your article! I suffer with anxiety at the age of 45+. It is very difficult to watch young children suffer with this and this article is just so simply put that I am excited to teach this to my students.

Especially putting a name to their feeling and then addressing it and then calling the amygdala a warrior~ they have their own little protector!!! That in itself will help them embrace what God has created in them which actually has a greater purpose than just making them feel sick during a test. Thank you so much!

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Susan

Thanks for this article! My 11yo has anxiety but lives in a world where she denies it as it makes her feel weak. Her therapist is fantastic, but I really enjoyed the “science” behind her physical symptoms.

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome. Your daughter sounds like she’s in very good hands. The science really demystifies it doesn’t it. Thanks so much for your comment.

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Emma

This article really helped me. I’m a 17 year old studying my hsc that often suffers from anxiety to the point where it makes me physically ill. I see it as unfair because I know I suffer a lot more than the majority of people in my year. I have a lot of responsibilities and have to time manage everything where my friends have an easy going personality where they just go with whatever comes. I’ve never truly understood my anxiety, I know it comes from stressed because I am always stressed. But sometimes I would have episodes when I didn’t feel there was anything to be stressed about. So thankyou for sharing this explanation it has truly helped me!

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heysigmund

No wonder you’re so stressed! The HSC year is such a tough one. I can still remember my own and even now all these years later, I don’t think I’ve had a year where I’ve felt more stressed. There are things I wish I could go back and tell my 17 year old self and I know I can’t do that, but I can say them to you … It’s important to work hard but remember that this is just one year of your life – it won’t dictate your life. You are so much more than the results you end up with. This is just the beginning for you in terms of the amazing things you will accomplish. Your wings are still unfolding and nobody can know what those amazing things will be but you are obviously someone who works hard and cares about how you do, so without a doubt you will accomplish them. Life is so full of surprises that you can’t even imagine – none of us can. Be open to them when they come, because they will come, and they’ll come regardless of the results you end up with at the end of the year. I promise. Your path might be as planned or different – it doesn’t matter. There are so many ways to get to where we want to be and most often the best ones are the ones we don’t see coming. It’s been that way for me and almost everybody, if not everybody, that I know, though none of us wouldn’t have believed it at 17. What matters is that you do all that you can and know that you can’t do more than that. My son is also doing his final year and something that helps a lot with the stress is mindfulness. It’s very simple to do and 5-10 minutes a day will make a difference – it actually changes your brain (for the better of course!) and works on the physical side your stress. I would really encourage you to try that – I think it would really help you. If you’re interested, here is the link to an article that explains how to do it and why it’s so good for you http://www.heysigmund.com/mindfulness-what-how-why/. Thank you so much for making contact. It means a lot to me when people leave comments. My very best wishes to you for your HSC.

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Jane

My daughter’s doctor explained to her that her panic attacks happened at seemingly unlikely times because her body was so used to stress that when she wasn’t stressed it didn’t know how to react. Sounded odd, but made sense when we thought about it.

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heysigmund

There are many different explanations of why things happen. It’s great that your doctor was able to explain it in a way that made sense for your daughter. Thank you for sharing this.

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Juliana

Thanks for sharing. This is a great article. My 4 year old daughter suffers from severe anxiety. Would you have any useful tips on how I can help her. She also has a speech problem and is just beginning to communicate more verbally. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome. I’m very grateful to you for letting me know about your daughter. I’m seeing that there’s a big need for the kids who aren’t as verbal. There are certainly effective ways to help them through. I’m going to put something together and post it on the website. Would you leave it with me and I’ll let you know when it’s up? Thanks so much for getting in touch.

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Daniela

Hi, I would be interested in this info – my daughter is 5 years old and has same characteristics.

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Kristen

Juliana – my 5 year old is experiencing the same thing. She has gotten better at identifying the feeling but we are now struggling with how to cope. Her verbal skills have only really gotten better in the last 6 months so she gets a little bewildered when she’s in a stressful situation that she can’t properly explain verbally. I feel like each step is a positive one – but it’s hard to watch her get emotional and not just fix it for her!! Good luck and heysigmund has some great tools.

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heysigmund

It’s awful watching your kids struggle and not being able to help them isn’t it. Not knowing why the feelings are there or where they came from would be so bewildering – it’s bewildering enough for adults. Keep celebrating the moves forward – they all count! Thank you of sharing your story. My very best wishes to you and Juliana.

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Alia Smith

I know from experience what it feels like to have an anxiety attack and not be able to verbalise it. I have a hard enough time as it is verbalising how i feel without the extra pressure on me to get it out. I have learnt though for me the best way for me to communicate my anxieties is to draw my feelings – it doenst usually end up spectacular but usually just a mix of colours i connect to each emotion. I often use purple and gold as happiness and light and it is often speckled with black when im feeling anxious and i draw until there is no black in my pictures. I find this a good way for me to explain how i feel without verbalising and may also help for younger children that cant quite verbalise what they feel. Hope this helps at least one person feel like they can reach out and be heard and understood.

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Lindsay

Hello. I was hoping you could help me understand how to identify anxiety in young children, particularly those that are still learning to communicate. How did you identify it in your young daughter? What types of symptoms should alert a parent to a potential issue beyond a normal cry/tantrum? Thanks!

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heysigmund

There are a few things to watch out for – excessive worrying or wanting to avoid certain things or places, headaches or tummy aches that don’t have a physical explanation or that seem to happen in response to certain situations (such as going to school or kindy), sleep troubles such as not wanting to sleep alone, nightmares, trouble falling asleep. My daughter was getting tummy aches and headaches and was teary a couple of mornings but didn’t know why. They were the big ones that alerted me that something was wrong but then I just went through the physical symptoms and asked if she ever felt them and most of them were familiar for her. I am going to do a separate post about dealing with anxiety in young children – there seems to be a real need – so just keep your eyes open for that too. I hope this helps.

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Amanda

Oh now i feel terrible. I have been thinking my 4 year old may be suffering with anxiety as her whole behaviour and attitude has completely changed. I have spoken with a number of proffesionals about the issue and they all just seemed to brush it off and you have now mentioned unexplained tummy pains and i have also taken her to the doctors recently with this issue and the doctor also brushed it off……….who would be best to talk to about this? Doctor? Child phsychologist? Her father (not living with us) suffers from this she has regular contact with him

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heysigmund

It’s so hard, isn’t it because when they’re that little, they probably wouldn’t even have the words for it themselves, let alone enough to explain it. Your daughter’s dad would have some valuable insight, having been there. A counsellor or child psychologist would definitely be able to help you. Just make sure they work with kids. I hope you’re all okay and able to find comfort soon. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

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Kathy Ritchie

Thank you for this article. My granddaughter who is just turning 16 has anxiety attacks all the time and the medications just don’t do much. I have told her she needs to keep telling herself she is ok instead of causing herself more anxiety.

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. I really hope it’s able to help your granddaughter. Understanding the reasons behind the physical symptoms really helps to relieve the anxiety about the anxiety. She’s lucky to have you watching out for her. Thanks very much for taking the time to comment.

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Alison

Fabulous article. Everyone needs to read this article….for oneself, a friend, your husband, child, your friends kids…..you grandmother’s second cousin once removed, anyone who has ever felt anxious ever. Thank you so much for articulating it all!!!!!

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heysigmund

Thank you so much for your comment. Anxiety is one of those things that seems to touch everyone in some way – either people have it or know someone who does. You never know who you’ll be needing the info for!

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ilanov

More of a question than comment: what about anxiety (stomachs aches etc) when they wake up in the morning. I have trouble getting my (almost) 14 yo out of bed. He’ll say he doesn’t feel well but we know it’s anxiety about going to school. He is not being bullied and is supposedly quite happy one he is at school, but this is an ongoing (2+ yrs) problem. Suggestions?

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heysigmund

There’s a lot going on at this age. There seems to be a point at school, maybe in the last couple of years for your son, where the expectations (or the perceptions of the expectations) seem to increase. Some kids take this on more than others. Provided there’s no medical reason, it makes very good sense that it may be anxiety, triggered by those first thoughts in the morning of what lies ahead. Sometimes using the word ‘anxiety’ can cause kids to shut down to the rest of the conversation so approaching the chat another way is a good idea. Here is the link to an article that might help – ‘Talking to Teens About Mental Health and Depression without Saying ‘Mental’ or ‘Depression’. http://www.heysigmund.com/talking-about-teen-depression/. Don’t worry about the word ‘depression’ in the title – the conversation tips are useful for for everyone but the article just goes on to talk about depression – you can ignore that bit. When you start the conversation with your son, (try it in the car where you aren’t making eye contact – much safer for them that way) explain how when something is really important (like doing well at school, making the team – whatever is important to him), it’s really normal for your brain to put your body in the position where it can give it all you’ve got. It does this by releasing cortisol … and then pick up from the details in this article. One of the most important things is normalising it. Especially at that age, it’s really important to kids that they don’t feel different. Explain that it happens to lots of people – kids, adults, teachers, parents, pilots, sports people – all sorts of people who are intelligent, successful, popular. Some sort of exercise is important too if he isn’t already doing that regularly. Exercise acts on the chemicals in the brain and one of the effects of this is to protect against anxiety – there’s plenty of research on that. There’s also an emerging body of research that’s showing a link between the gut and the brain and the benefit of probiotics. The link to the article is here http://www.heysigmund.com/anxiety-depression-gut-bacteria/. I hope this helps.

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Debbie

My son has been suffering with anxiety for about a year now, it started in 8th grade he could not get himself to school, he is now in high school with the help of medication and changing to a smaller school he is able to get himself out of bed, we are starting off slow, he goes in for a half a day but that is a very big step for him, we are working on a full day but I don’t want to push him, I am very grateful he is ale to do this, last year at this time was a very bad time for him and me because we fully did not understand what was going on, He was on Home Instruction for school he was very depressed so many teenagers go through this and with the right help and support they can fight this.

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heysigmund

It great that your acknowledging the small steps. It’s so important but often overlooked. I’ve been floored with the response to this post – there are so many kids and teens struggling with this! If only they knew how many they wouldn’t feel so alone. Your son will get there and he will have learnt some valuable things along the way, even though it might not feel like it yet. No experience is ever wasted. He sounds like he’s in great hands with you as him mum. Keep doing what you’re doing! Thank you so much for sharing your story with me.

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Bradford

Thank you so much for this article! As an elementary teacher, I’ve encountered more than my fair share of anxious students. This reaffirms that I am doing some things right *i.e. breathing* but now I’ve some more tools to help them, and myself, with dealing with anxiety. Definitely will be sharing this article with my colleagues and admin!

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome! I love hearing that the information will be shared like this. The students at your school are lucky to have you. Thanks so much for letting me know.

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Alison

I am so glad I happened to find this article and your web site. My nine year old daughter suffers from anxiety, yet I never knew quite how to help. I definitely have been guilty of saying, “It’s okay; there’s nothing to worry about.” Recently she had all the symptoms you discussed: lack of appetite, nausea, dizziness, achy limbs, and because her skin felt hot, we actually though she was sick and perhaps coming down with the flu. We were out of town for a sports tournament that she was playing in, and she really thought she would not be able to play. Eventually after tums, gatorade, a banana, and finding a book store where we could just sit down and relax, she decided she felt good enough and did not want to let her team down. As soon as the game started she was fine. It had totally gone away. I will use these strategies with her.

Another issue she has is getting extremely frustrated with herself when she does something wrong. It could be something unintentional or intentional that she is feeling guilty about. If she does something mean to her little brother, for example, and gets in trouble, she says, “I am the worst person in the world; no one likes me.” When she was younger if she disobeyed she would put herself in time out. On rare occassions she has even hit herself or tried to hurt herself in some way and said, “I hate myself.” We have tried different things: We hug her and tell her it is okay. We tell her it was a choice; we all make choices sometimes that we aren’t proud of. We tell her she is not allowed to hurt herself. Do you have any advice for this? I tried to get in to see a child psychologist but we were put on their waiting list.

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased this has been able to help you. As for the other issue, it’s difficult to say without knowing more but it sounds as though you’ve been doing a really good job. Is there any chance the hug and conversation your having with your daughter when she’s hard on herself might be reinforcing her behaviour? Again, it’s hard to know just from what you’ve said but just keep it in the back of your mind. It wouldn’t be a conscious thing on her part – not at all – but there may not be enough reason for her to change the way she’s treating herself if she’s getting a hug and lots of love when she does it. I completely understand why you would do it – it’s a really loving, obvious thing to do, but it might not be giving her enough reason to change, particularly because change for her would be really hard. She obviously has such high standards for herself, she wouldn’t think twice about responding any other way, which is why it might be important to really clearly give her one. If it were me, I’d change tack and rather than discouraging the behaviour you don’t want, ignore it and reward when you see the behaviour you do want, which is when she is being kind to herself. Let her know the behaviour you want to see – something like, ‘I know how important it is to you that you don’t make mistakes but it’s even more important that you’re kind to yourself. It’s important that you’re kind to everyone – and I know you are, you’re so beautiful like that – but the most important person you have to be kind to is yourself. Let me know when you’re ready to be kind to yourself but in the meantime, I feel really said watching the things you’re doing. You’re too wonderful to be treated like that by anybody, including yourself’ … or something like that. I would say this as soon as she starts being mean to herself and then ignore the behaviour until she stops. When she stops, then reward her. Understand that the behaviour will get worse before it gets better – that’s really normal. It will be important moving forward that she is able to show herself compassion so I would try focusing on that and respond to her the moment you see her being kind to herself, rather than responding to her when she’s being mean to herself. I would also have a conversation with her – when she’s calm – about how it’s so important that we don’t say anything to ourselves that we wouldn’t say to anyone else. Also let her know that her little brother would be watching everything she does because she’s so important to him, and it would be really sad if one day he said those things to himself – ‘so let’s show him that it’s okay to make mistakes – actually it’s really important because it’s the only way people learn – and that when we do make mistakes we have to be really kind to ourselves, just like we would be to other people.’ You’ve acted in such a loving way and I wouldn’t have done anything differently, but if it’s not working then it might be time to try the other thing. I hope this makes sense. You’re doing a great job.

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Debi Powell

Wow, my 13 yr old has some of the same issues mentioned and your response was so helpful!

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Annmarie

I’m so glad to have been forwarded this article by a friend. We’re going through this right now with our 12 yr old and it’s so hard not to feel helpless for her. She just started therapy and this is exactly what he has told her so far – the body’s response, the breathing, etc. She is so type A that she’s expecting immediate results from herself and that is adding to her anxiety. 🙁
I will show her this article and she will always know that, although it’s very specific to her, that we will understand and support her every step of this journey back to wellness!

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heysigmund

Thank you so much for letting me know. It sounds like your daughter is in really good hands. I really hope she is able to find some relief soon. Anxiety responds really well to treatment but it can take time. You sound like great parents!

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Grateful

I’m a speech pathologist at an elementary school. My speech kids with anxiety, especially those with a stuttering disorder, will really benefit from this article, thank you! All of my kids who stutter describe some level of anxiety and subsequent increase in stuttering. This is great language for their age and level. Your article will help a lot of people, young and old. Anxiety is everywhere!

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome! You’re so right – anxiety is everywhere. It warms my heart when I hear about people sharing the info on a wider scale like this. Thank you so much for making contact.

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Tara

Very informative and a great translation for my 9 year old who has anxiety. How do you address anxiety in your child that is triggered by a teacher in their school? The odd time you get a teacher that is not in their chosen profession for the right reason and you cannot change them, yelling at kids rather than natural consequences becomes the norm that anxious children have trouble dealing with 🙁

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heysigmund

Thank you! I hope the information is able to help. If there is a teacher problem, without a doubt I would talk to the teacher or the school. I’ve done it myself before. I believe really strongly that sometimes we have to be a strong voice for our kids. There are so many brilliant teachers out there but there are some who may not realise the impact of what they’re doing. You might find that if you give the teacher the benefit of the information, that might be enough to change things. I hope this helps. My best wishes for your family.

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Annabelle

I love the article and I, like Tara, have a child with an anxiety problem brought on by a certain teacher. He was 8 at the time and it started in the 3rd quarter of 2nd grade. He missed 8 days of 3rd Q and 10 days of 4th Q. Now he is in 3rd grade with an awesome teacher who has helped him manage his anxiety and he is almost down to missing no school because of anxiety attacks. He still has anxiety most mornings but I just complimented him yesterday on how he got over it so quickly before leaving for school and he told me “I just kicked it in the nuts!” (not what I expected to hear but whatever works!)

But back to the school issue, the odd teacher that brought this on was a very kind 60ish year old man teaching 2nd grade. It is not a good fit for him (even he will tell you that) and he barked a lot at the kids. All I can figure is that my son felt like he was getting yelled at all the time. In hindsight I should have requested that my son be moved from his classroom to another room but it took me most of the way through the 4th quarter to figure out what happening. I think that if something like this happens again I will request a move immediately and if they don’t comply (or there is no other room to move to) I would withdraw him and homeschool the rest of that year. No one should be forced into going into a room that causes this much anxiety.

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heysigmund

Well said. Teachers play such a key role in a child’s experience at school. Most of them are exceptional but there are a few that, though they may be great humans, aren’t necessarily great with the kids. It can make or break their year. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sure there will be others who are going through a similar thing and it’s always so good to know you’re not alone. Thank you!

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Denise

How do you discipline a child with ANXIETY DISORDER? So it don’t trigger the anxiety. Because as soon as you say anything to correct him he runs and gets upset.

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heysigmund

Would you leave this with me? I’m going to write a post about this. I expect there would be quite a few people with a similar issue. Will have something on the website soon.

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Shannon

I too would love to know this, as my almost 12yr old daughter suffers from anxiety and also depression. Disciplining her is hard as the minute she thinks she has done something wrong she runs crying and then goes into the ‘i hate myself, no one cares about me, it would be easier if i wasn’t here’… 🙁 By being any softer on her than her siblings it is in a way enabling bad behaviour as well as not being fair to the others.

I look forward to reading more about this! Thank you! 🙂

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heysigmund

There if such a need for this. I completely understand why it’s so difficult but there are things you can do to smooth the way. Will certainly have something soon. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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mom23

I would also love to hear your ideas on discipline w/ a child w/ anxiety. My daughter developed horrible anxiety in 4th grade. We brought her to therapy and had her attend “worry groups” as well as doing lots of exercises at home to help her. Thankfully, she got past it and has been doing very well until this year. She’s started high school and while she really likes the school, she has been struggling with horrible anxiety again. She feels like it’s “coming from nowhere” because she doesn’t understand why she feels that way. It’s brought her to tears a lot lately and I am afraid she’s going to lose hope that she’ll feel better. I try to help her but she’s also getting really sassy (as I understand 14 year old kids can do 😉 so I am constantly trying to draw the balance between discipline and supporting her when she’s struggling at the same time. It’s extremely difficult. Your advice was awesome so I’m hoping to hear more of your thoughts. Thank you so much.

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased the article has helped you. A few people have asked about disciplining and anxious child so I will be doing a post on that some time soon. I understand why it can be such a unique challenge. Thank you for making contact – will have something out soon.

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robyn

My daughter is 8. She started having anxiety episodes just after a GA for dental work in Gr 1.

My oldest daughter (21) has anxiety too, but back then there didn’t seem to be as much info on it as there is now. She was also misdiagnosed as oppositional defiance disorder which I was so mad about and just tossed. I didn’t however really understand how to help her. I am so thankful that She has grown into a remarkable competent young woman, still with anxiety, but I think, seeing her sister also going through it has given her some insight. and strategies.

With my little one, the Dr gave me some really good advice (this time!!) which has been a god send. He said she has to walk through the anxiety…so it is “happy sad or mad” but we are doing what ever it is she doesn’t want to. When she gets to the other side she looks back and see her successes. It has made her more confident and proud of her self and has helped her cope during episodes .

He also said that I couldn’t punish her as she would rather take the punishment than do the thing triggering the anxiety. ( which is what I did with my oldest and it was a joke…she would rather be punished than do the trigger event…) The happy sad or mad approach prevents avoidance behaviour and builds her confidence.

It was very hard to do this with her and I really didn’t think I was getting anywhere with this strategy until I added this: I acknowledged and recognized her feelings during the anxiety episode and told her they were ok and to just feel them. Giving her permission to be in the moment with her feelings, I guess letting her take a “breathe” instead of fighting them( they can be so scary)

my apologies for the long post:
I wanted to add some antidotal methods for coping with anxiety and perhaps when you look into this Karen, you could perhaps see why this approach seems to be working and possibility give advice on fine tuning it. We are a work in progress 🙂

I also want to say that anxiety makes family life so stressful and it is incredible to read that there are so many other parents and kids dealing with this. We are not alone. From reading everyones posts I find it remarkable that the age this occurs seems to be around 7 ( for both my daughters as well)

Thanks you so much Karen for this article and for facilitating and participating in this discussion.

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. The advice from your doctor is excellent. I love it. Thank you so much for sharing it. One of the best things about this has been seeing how generous and open people are with the comments.They are so powerful – knowing that other people are struggling too or reading about how other people managed to beat it. It powerful. And now you’ve added to that with some really useful, important information that will definitely help other people so thank you!

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Sherry

This article is such a blessing to my son and I. We are struggling with this right now he is 9 years old plus a Type 1 diabetic. We have been in Therapy since December 2014 for this issue. It has caused us do many issues at school and when you try to explain the issues to teachers and other staff that may have witnessed when he is having an anxiety moment no one understands.please email us any other information you may have.

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased it’s been helpful. Maybe direct the article to your son’s teachers so they can understand. Unless you’ve been through it, it is really difficult to understand what anxiety feels like and why it can be so crippling. The good thing about this is that it’s something parents can do themselves. If you go onto our home page under ‘Being Human’ then ‘Anxiety’, you’ll find all the information put together so far about anxiety. The response to this post has been overwhelming – the number of kids and adults who are struggling with anxiety is enormous. Because of this, I’ll be posting more regularly about anxiety, so if you want to keep checking back or sign up the newsletter to make sure you don’t miss anything. There will be plenty of info to come. Thank you for getting in touch. My best wishes to your family.

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Sherry

Oh my such a perfect time for this article to post. My 9 year old has been suffering from this since October 2014 we are seeing a therapist once a week. It’s just so hard getting others to understand that this is beyond our control right now but we are working on it. The teachers and other staff at his school does not get it at all when I try to explain what’s going it when he is having his momemt. Please send any additional information you may have. I welcome any other suggestions you may have to help us survive this.

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heysigmund

You’re so right. It’s really hard for other people to understand what anxiety feels like if they’ve never been through it. There isn’t enough information out there but we’re working on that! There are so many brilliant teachers and from my experience, once they have the information they do great things with it. If you look under the ‘Being Human’ tab on the home page, then under anxiety, you’ll find much more information. The response to this post has been incredible so I’ll be posting much more regularly on anxiety. The best way to make sure you don’t miss out on anything is by signing up to the newsletter. If you are interested in this, the sign-up is on the home page on the right hand side. Thank you for making contact – I hope this is helpful.

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Nancy Rau

Thank you for this article. I wish I had had it years ago when my now 18 year old son was dealing with severe anxiety in elementary school. Looking forward not back is essential but I might have saved my son and our family lots of heartache with some of these coping techniques. Anxiety is not always easy to recognize as kids try to hide it. My son is okay now and in his first year of college but his high school years were filled with anxiety, way too much pressure from school and friends and depression. He tried to commit suicide between junior and senior year but fortunately was not successful. I did everything I could think of and probably more in trying to help him but ultimately it was the fear and sadness inside him that fueled his impulses. Recognizing the detrimental effects of anxiety is so essential.

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heysigmund

You’re welcome.I’m so sorry to hear what your family has been through. It can be so difficult to recognise anxiety in older kids if they don’t want you to see it. Sometimes I think that as parents we are wired to whip ourselves no matter what. You can’t blame yourself for this. We are parents, not superheroes – there have been things I’ve missed or read wrong in my own kids. I can tell from the way you speak about your family that you are someone who would do anything for them. You can’t respond to what you don’t know about. Even though it would have been an awful time for your son and your family, your son would have learnt some valuable skills from his experience. I never stop being amazed by the stories I hear from people who have their darkest times as the ones that taught them the most and made them into better people. Your son is through it now and a lot of that would be because of you and your family and because you did everything you could. Sometimes there’s just nothing we can do but watch them, love them, be there and hope they find their way through. I think it’s the most heartbreaking thing about being a parent. He’s lucky to have you. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me.

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Sarah

This is a GREAT article. However, I think it’s important to mention that anxiety is a condition that often needs to be treated with counseling. I struggled with anxiety in my childhood but didn’t know how to cope with it until I started going to counseling at 18 years old. These tips are great for parents, but I think that it’s important for parents to know that there are professionals out there trained to help children and adults who struggle with anxiety. The sooner children learn to cope with their fears and anxiety, the better. I wish I would have had the opportunity to go to counseling as a child because anxiety controlled my life up until I found a counselor who helped me cope with everything that anxiety entails. Please, please consider consulting a counselor for your child. You can hold their hand every step of the way.

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heysigmund

Absolutely. There is so much that can be done for anxiety and counselling can certainly make a difference. You’ve made some really good points. Thank you for taking the time to make contact and share your insight. It takes a village and I feel like Hey Sigmund readers are building a pretty amazing one here!

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Lindsay Rutledge

First off I want to say thank you for the article. But I was wondering if you had any articles, suggestions, links etc. on the subject for me that might help with my 7yr old. His anxiety happens mostly at school. For example – he gets afraid of getting something wrong and letting his teacher (who doesn’t help /believe that he has anxiety issues) down as well as my husband and I. He went from absolutely loving school to already hating it. (this scares me) He has the famous tummy ache and not feeling good so he doesn’t have to deal with it. I can keep going with all kinds of things but I am hoping you can help… Thank you

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heysigmund

What does he think about his teacher? And how does the teacher respond when he gets anxious if they doesn’t believe he’s anxious? Is there some truth to his fears? Teachers are generally wonderful humans – I honestly believe that – and sometimes it can be a matter of giving them the benefit of the information that you have about your child. Your child might also be perceiving the teacher to be a certain way, and responding as though the perception is true. See what he things is going to happen and how he feels about his teacher. What would she say if he made a mistake? What does she say when other kids make mistakes? What does he like best about her? Least? It’s really hard to know without knowing more and it could also be that your son is ‘anxious about being anxious’. Have a look on the website under ‘Being Human’ then the ‘Anxiety’ tab and there is more information here. I find mindfulness is great with kids who worry about the future or about something they’ve done because it teaches them to focus on the present. Start with five minutes. It can take a bit of getting used to It’s really . Here is the link http://www.heysigmund.com/mindfulness-what-how-why/. I do it with my daughter and it’s amazing. I will be posting regularly on anxiety – I can see there’s such need for more information so keep checking back or all of the posts get put in the weekly newsletter if want to make sure you don’t miss anything. The subscribe is on the home page on the right.

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Nancy Smyth-Myers

Explained so much about how to control my warrior…and all symptoms. God BLESS YOU.

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Kira

Thank you so much for this article and the brilliant explanations. As someone who has never really dealt with anxiety myself, it was very difficult for me to understand or help my 14 year old daughter. This will definitely help us in our journey together through her anxiety.

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. I’m so pleased this will be able to help you. It’s almost impossible to know what anxiety is like unless you’ve been through it – you’re not alone there. Thank you so much for making contact with me. My very best wishes to you and your family.

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Mommyof1

I am really glad I saw this article come through on my facebook.
My three and a half year old daughter faces more anxiety than any toddler I’ve met.
Her dad breezes through town every four months for two days (under supervised visitation because let’s face it she doesn’t know who he is) and she is confused about him. And it seems to cause her so much anxiety when he is around, but not to the point of an anxiety attack more the finger biting and nervousness type. I’m learning about how to keep her calm with that.
But I’d say her biggest source of anxiety is mascot type costumes. You know the big ones of penguins, reindeer, whatever she is terrified of them and in her gymnastics class if they say flicker is coming in (a big flame mascot) she goes into a full blown panic attack. I am still learning how to calm her down from this. We are learning slow deep breaths and teaching her it’s not going to hurt her and mommy would never let her get hurt. But I have not idea what else to do. She is terrified (and I have no idea why).

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased you found the article. It’s not unusual for kids not to like those mascots. I suppose when you see them they’re larger than life, and a bit of an unknown quantity. Just keep doing what you’re doing. I’m going to do a post about anxiety in smaller kids. I’ve seen a real need there with the responses to this post. Thank you for getting in touch!

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Julia

I have a 10 year old boy with high levels of anxiety. If these don’t help him, I can assure you they will help me!

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Lisa

Our 7 yr old has severe anxiety. She used to pick at her arms and legs and create sores. Then she went to nail biting then a constant cough or clearing her throat and now she is pulling her hair out of her scalp. I am so sad and worried for her. I’m going to use the mindfulness exercise with her tonight.

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heysigmund

The mindfulness exercise is a great idea. I’m so pleased you’re giving it a go. It really is amazing and I know that it works. Here is a link that talks about the way it changes the brain (for the better!) and the physical benefits. http://www.heysigmund.com/mindfulness-what-how-why/ It can take a little bit of getting used to so stay with it. If your daughter is really struggling with anxiety to the point where she’s hurting herself, she might really respond to counselling. It’s really important to do everything you are doing at home – counsellors only have them for an hour a week – but there are some really great therapies that are perfect for this kind of thing. What your describing isn’t unusual with anxiety – it’s not common, but it’s not unheard of either. One of the reason people do this is to self-soothe. The behaviour has a soothing effect on the nervous system. Therapy can help, and so will the mindfulness exercises. Your daughter will get through this. Thank you so much for taking the time to share you story. I know it helps other people so much to see how many people are going through this.

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Debbie

Hi my daughter is 17 now we have had a bad time with this fromm her being 13 but she was sh as well had to.go medical school as she couldn’t go mainstream was on all sorts off meds admitted to adolescents ward a few times was heartbreaking as I know what she is going through its so hard thank you,

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heysigmund

You’re welcome! I’ve been amazed at the number of people who are really going through it. It’s so hard when your kids are struggling like this and it’s so easy to feel powerless. It means so much to me that you and other people are sharing your stories. You’ll never know how many people you’re helping. Thank you so much for making contact.

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Tricia Japp

I have to be honest. I was a little cocky, after going through four years of counselling with my (soon to be) 11 year old and exhausting all of the strategies including CBT thought processing when she was 8, I thought we were at the end of the road for info that could possibly help. Not only did I find this incredibly interesting but it made my daughter feel a little more in control after learning why her anxiety was so active. She is currently weening off of meds and this article gives her a new found confidence, because arming yourself with knowledge is always comforting. Thank you.

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. Information is such a powerful thing isn’t it and kids are so capable of making the connections. It’s such good news that your daughter is coming through the other side of her anxiety. Thank you for taking the time to get in touch.

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J

This is so great. I love your explanation for kids. I have been trying to find a way to explain to my son (10) on why he has anxiety and how it effects his body. This is perfect. Thank you so much.

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Claire

Hi, I have been through this with my 3.5 year old… For these past 3 years it has always been me and my son, but over these last 6 months I met a wonderful person and this has stirred up some emotions in him. He started getting over-protective of me and clingy and I thought it quite normal for a child to react that way in this situation. I made sure to keep giving him the same amount of attention so he doesn’t feel left out. Hugging him before he asks me to and spending more quality time with him even though it meant less time with my partner. As time went by we spent more time at my partner’s house and eventually my son’s behaviour started to change. He became more restless and active even at bedtime and during his sleep. I could feel that he had become anxious and would ask him if there is something bothering him but at this stage he doesn’t really know how to explain his own feelings. Things started to get a bit cranky as even us adults started getting frustrated with the situation, having to talk to him about his behaviour all the time, and we were all so exhausted that I just felt that the right thing was to go back home. As soon as we settled back there, he told me ”Now I am happy mummy because I want to stay here”. I felt the worse mum ever for putting my little one through those emotions and did not see it coming. Now I know that the move was making him more anxious than the fact that a new person came into our life and that I should have taken things slowly with him to give him the time to adjust at his own pace. I enjoyed reading your article as it is very mind-opening but I think it is difficult to explain things to a 3 year old. I don’t think he would really understand the concept of fight or flight even if I would explain it in a simpler way for him… He didn’t seem to understand the fact that we have to move out of my parents’ home one day (which he believes is his home since he’s born).

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Claire

Now I am worried because I know we have to move out eventually. I would appreciate your suggestions on how to talk to such a young child about anxiety and situations like these. Thank you in advance!
Much love and light…

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heysigmund

I’m going to be doing a post about dealing with anxiety in much smaller children as I can see a real need. In any case though, there will be some adjustment and your little man might take a while. He can only ever remember it being you and him, and having another person in your lives and moving to another place is massive. That certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, it just means that it may take a while. One of the things he may be wondering is ‘What next?’, so it may take him until he can trust that the move and a new person will be the end of the shake-ups for a while. You might find it will be better when you’re able to settle in one spot rather than moving between the two houses – when he has his room with his bed and his things and doesn’t have to switch between his home and ‘someone else’s home’. The changing around can cause some kids to feel really unsettled. Some adults too. Please please please don’t give yourself such a hard time about having to switch between houses. It’s impossible to see around corners and even if we could, there are going to be things that cause short term disruption for long term gain. You sound like a wonderful mum. Keep doing what you’re doing!

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Laura parsons

What a wonderful gift you have given so many parents out there with children and themselves suffering from this, so common but not talked about affliction. It was so sad to loose robin Williams this past year. I can’t help but think that if he had something like this article to help him in his younger years he would have been more in control of his anxiety Then maybe the world would not have lost such a wonderful creature as robin. Thank you once again. I will gladly share this on my facebook and hope that parents get the help and sometimes just a little understanding of what’s going on with either own Zeps. Thank you.

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heysigmund

Thank you so much for your beautiful comment. And thank you for sharing the information. It always means a lot to me when people do that. Information is such a powerful thing. Thank you!

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Rene

Oh how I wish I had this about 10 years ago, going to share with my 19 yo daughter in the hopes it might still help her.

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Brenda

Such an awesome article! I wish I had read it several years ago. Thank you for the great insight and explanations! I love it and know it will help with my grandchildren.
While I was reading this, my TV was on a program called Studio 5, in Salt Lake City, UT. They have a marriage and family psychologist (Matt Townsend) who was talking about children with anxiety. Matt Townsend recommended a free e book that he did not write but loves. http://playingwithanxiety.com/

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Erin McLane

I loved reading this article. Not only does my son have anxiety but autism as well. I think we will be able to talk about some of the strategies you mentioned, however we have a few other challenges. Any additional information you have would be welcomed. Thank you.

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome. I’m so pleased you found the article for your son. In terms of more information, there is other information about anxiety under the ‘Being Human’ tab on the home page. Click on ‘Anxiety’. I generally post 4-5 articles a week. They all get pushed through to Facebook as soon as they’re written but the best way to make sure that you don’t miss anything is to sign up to the Newsletter (the sign-up is on the right hand side of the home page. The posts that have been written that week get published on the newsletter which gets sent out every Friday. Thank you so much for making contact.

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mm

My five year old suffers from anxiety at kindergarten. The teacher recocgnizes it but Dosen t know how to handle it. The class is overcrowded and i believe she just thinks of this as another issue she has no time to address. How can i help my child. He know longer wants to go to school.

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heysigmund

It’s so difficult for teachers when they have a crowded class. There’s only so much that even the most brilliant teacher can do – and most of them seem to be pretty brilliant. Some kids are really affected by crowded, noisy classrooms and some seem to cope just fine. (I have a daughter who is one of the ones really affected by it and we ended up changing schools because the class was going to stay the same through to high school). Try the strategies in the article. The idea is to teach the kids how to calm themselves. They can take a little while to master, so encourage your son to stay with it. Just be mindful of the very real environmental factors that might be contributing. I hope your son is able to find some relief soon. Thank you for taking the time to leave your comment.

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Sarah

Beautiful! I used it with my 9 year old last night. You should think about adapting this into a picture book and getting it published. There is definitely a need for anxiety resources written for children.

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Sherri

I liked your article for the most part. I think it’s helpful to both the sufferer and their families to put into terms they can relate to what the person is going through. But speaking as an adult (now 45) that had anxiety as a child and all my life, I feel it only addresses part of the explanation. I think it’s a great start to helping children and adults understand what’s going wrong. But if someone is suffering from anxiety or they’re watching a loved one suffer they need more help. Working on breathing properly is and was hugely important in my getting better but it’s only part of the “cure”. I will always have this issue to one degree or another but for the last 5 1/2 years I have been better than I ever was, even as a child, without prescription drugs. The 7 years prior to that I went from doctor to doctor trying to find help for accute anxiety, insomnia and headaches. Which resulted in many drugs being pushed at me for several years. Sometimes they seemed to help for awhile but they never fixed the problem or got to the root cause. I really feel that understanding it as this article suggests is helpful, but it will never by itself make the problem go away for someone that is deeply in the clutches of full blown anxiety. I tried many ‘alternative’ routes as well as main stream medicine, with small measures of improvement. But when I tried addressing the physical needs that my body and many others with this same issue have, I saw real gains in my health and mental and emotional wellness. I do have one concern with articles such as this, and it is the misunderstanding that some have that you can somehow reason or think your way out of this illness. While it is greatly connected to and with your brain that is not all there is to it. I tell people frequently that trying to talk or reason your way out of anxiety or depression is like trying to talk yourself out of diabetes or high cholesterol! No one would ever dream of doing such a thing but they feel as though it were perfectly acceptable to do so with someone with generalized anxiety. It infuriates me that some in the medical community, and I’m not saying the author of this article is one of them, feel as though since they can’t cure something or explain it then it must be ‘in your head’ so to speak. So in their mind, the sick person must be able to ‘think’ their way out of it. Again no one would ever be so cruel as to insinuate such a thing to someone with a ‘real’ disease.
However, I did and do get real relief from supplements that target the physical weakness that I and apparently many other have. I take very specific vitamins and minerals that help calm and support my nervous system. And while, as I said I’ll never be cured of this illness; in much the same way that someone with diabetes will always need to be aware of and address their illness, so must I. But I am able to sleep all night again on my own without prescription drugs and I can go about my life without the constant dread that comes with generalized anxiety. I hate to see anyone suffer from this horrible disease, especially little children, and if I’m able to help anyone recover from it I think it’s worth my time in talking about it with others.

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heysigmund

Thank you for taking the time to comment, though I am concerned that perhaps you have misunderstood the point of the article. In no way does this article suggest that anxiety is ‘in your head’. In fact, just the opposite, hence the detailed description of the physical basis. I’m very sorry if anyone in the medical or health community has ever suggested to you that it was otherwise – such a suggestion is disrespectful and ill-informed. Perhaps the confusion is around the discussion of anxiety becoming ‘anxiety about getting anxious’. Again, this is in no way suggesting that anxiety is ‘in your head’, but rather that the anticipation of becoming anxious can be enough to trigger a very real and very physical fight or flight response. There is no suggestion that someone can reason or talk themselves out of anxiety, but rather that by understanding the physical nature of the fight or flight response, people can understand that anxiety has a physical basis and they can thereby work on physically reversing the symptoms by such measures as deep breathing or exercise.

I’m so pleased that you have been able to find ways to gain relief. Perhaps your suggestions will help others. I hope this has clarified the intention of this article. Thank you again for taking the time to comment.

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paula baylis

Have a son with School Phobia about to turn 16. Taught separately fighting to get through his exams with double pressure of having to now be in education till 18. His about to walk around the block in the dark for the second night on the trot to challenge himself as discussed with his clinical psychologist, tomorrow we have a careers meeting at 8.30 but the thought of walking to school whilst the other kids are about is a nightmare for him. We are waiting to see a psychiatrist and potentially go on medication to take him through this difficult time. I wish he saw anxiety as common and quite normal rather than feeling exposed. This sums it up really well, thank you for sharing.

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heysigmund

Your welcome. You’re so right about how common anxiety is. One of the reasons I’m so incredibly grateful to everybody who has left a comment on this post is because is speaks to everyone of how common it actually is. There’s so much going on at this age isn’t there. You’re doing all the right things. He will get through this. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

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Alison

Wow…what an absolutely wonderful insight into anxiety. I wish that I had known this 21 years ago. My daughter has suffered since she was about 5 and I did not know how to handle it. She is 26 now and handles it very well. I just wish that I had known how to help her all of those years ago.

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heysigmund

You would have been a huge part of the reason she got through it. Her struggles would have given her so many skills and qualities that have made her into the woman she is. I honestly believe people come through this sort of thing as stronger and better people for the experience. I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. There will be a lot of people who read it who are able to take hope from hearing that people get through – which they do.

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Crystal Sada

Childbirth coping skills…breathing and mindfulness. Excellent article!

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Cristina

Brilliant. I am 39 years old and my little guy is just 3 years old. Since delivering him I have been crippled by crushing and paralyzing anxiety. Adding to my anxieties is the chance that he will one day soon exhibit symptoms as I have read and heard it is genetic? I have been on nearly every medication available and currently am weaning off meds to see if I am better in fact off the medications. Scary times for us. Thank you for being a voice!

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heysigmund

Thank you! There does seem to be a genetic vulnerability but you have to remember that genes aren’t destiny. There are plenty of things that make people vulnerable to anxiety – many, I expect, that we still don’t know about – genetics is just one. And it is just a vulnerability – not a given. Just because it’s in your genes doesn’t mean it will be passed down to your son and even if it is, it doesn’t mean that he will experience anxiety in the same way as you. You have so much insight now about anxiety and you get it because you’ve been there. I really hope you are able to move forward through your anxiety. Don’t let the chance of your little man one day being anxious derail you. There are so many factors at play and even if he does exhibit symptoms they can be managed. Thank you so much for making contact.

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heather oconnell

Thank you so much for writing and sharing this article. It is written so clearly and a wonderful tool for me. Your approach to this is spot on and I will use gems from this article with my sensitive son and breath myself! Thank you

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Heather

Our 11 year old has extreme anxiety in school, a by-product of her developing PANDAS when she was 6. She has been sent home sick from school on days that she is supposed to perform in music class, or be expected to speak in front of the class. She performs poorly on tests as well, even though we don’t punish or even register disappointment with her test scores. I’ve been working with her on similar techniques, but these are fabulous and I will have her read the article. Hoping it will help her learn to relax herself when I’m not around to help.

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heysigmund

Thank you! I’m so pleased this has been able to help you. You get it – the more your daughter is able to learn the techniques, the more easily she’ll be able to access them when she needs them. The techniques might take a bit of time and practice to master because they are the opposite to what she would be used to doing, but it will be worth it. I hope she finds some relief soon. Thank you so much for making contact.

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Holly

My husband and I just realized our 16 yr. old daughter is suffering from anxiety. I believe, looking back, that she’s probably had it for a long time but, I tried to diminish the issue and didn’t fully listen or try to understand. Myself and her grandmother suffer to varying degrees but, not to the point where it affects our everyday lives. With her, it is beginning to and I don’t want her missing out on lives wonderful adventures, as well as, having to deal with stresses, because she doesn’t know how to handle them. I will be showing her this article in the hopes that she will read and try the suggestions you have provided. As a parent, I thank you for helping me to better understand so I can better help her.

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. I hope the information is able to help your daughter. It’s so easy to miss the signs, especially in the beginning so don’t give yourself a hard time. She will make it through this, and it will be because of the things she learns along the way – and she will learn plenty – that she will have qualities and skills that will contribute to her being an amazing young woman. Thank for making contact and sharing your story.

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Cindy

I have had anxiety since I was just a little girl and now my 6 year old little boy is having the same. Thank you so much for this information. It will be great to have a way to explain to my son what he is feeling, Not only does it help my son, but great ideas for myself. Thank you.

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased! You will have so much insight that will be so valuable in helping your little boy get through his own anxiety. It sounds like he’s in very good hands.

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Kathleen

My 11 year old son has seen 3 therapists over the last two years. Your article had helped him more in 48 hours than the two years in therapy. I am going to share this article with my many friends who are also watching their children struggle with anxiety. Thank you!

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome! I’m thrilled to hear how the information has helped your son. Kids are so smart and it never stops amazing me what they can do when they’re given the right information. Thank you for letting me know. It means so much to me that you and other people are sharing the information. You just never know who you’re helping when you do. Thank you!

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Margaret

This is fabulous not only for children but for adults as well. I have had anxiety for many years and I am finally at a point where I feel confident and in control. I have 2 children who also go through periods of anxiety and we have all been practicing mindfulness together and now I can add to our practices with the explanation you have given about the physical process. Thank you.

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heysigmund

You’re welcome! I’m such a fan of mindfulness – it’s great to hear you’re practicing it with your girls. They’ll benefit so much from that. I’m so pleased you’ve shared your story. It’s one thing to hear that anxiety can be beaten – it’s another to hear it from someone who has actually beaten it. Thank you!

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Robyn

i’m a 36 year who has been struggling with anxiety and depression for 15 years. My son was born with many defects, heart, kidneys and thyroid. He’s 3 now and the more his personality develops, the more I can see anxiety on him. Thank you for your article, I will start explaining immediately exactly (in your words) what is happening. Reading your article gave me reassurance as well!

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. I’m so pleased you’ve been able to find reassurance. I’ve seen quite a need for information on dealing with anxiety in much younger kids will be posting on that sometime soon. Thank you so much for making contact with me.

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Jennifer

Thank you so much for this information. My son struggles with every new situation or change and I feel this process will have a profoundly positive impact on his life. 🙂

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome! I’m so pleased that you’ve found the information. The process described in the article is so powerful. I have no doubt it will be great for him. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment.

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Sheila S

This is such a great article. I suffer from anxiety and worry so much about my kids suffering from it. What great information and insight!!!

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heysigmund

Thank you! I’m so pleased the information has helped. I want you to know that just because you have anxiety, it doesn’t mean your kids will and even if they do, it doesn’t mean that they’ll experience it the same way as you. For a start, they have the benefit of your insight from dealing with it yourself. Thank you so much for making contact.

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Angel

Hi! Thank you for your post. I have a 5.5 yr old who I THINK has major anxiety. He has some strange habits and his emotions get very intense over very small things (in my mind). I am having a really hard time dealing with it, so maybe I can try this. He is in pre-k now and I am so worried about how he will handle K in the fall.

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome. I hope the information helps. I always believe parents have remarkable intuition when it comes to their kids. If you’re worried, a counsellor will be able to shine some light on it for you. The techniques in the article will be useful anyway, whether or not he has anxiety – they’re all valuable life skills that you’ll be teaching him. Start now so he is better able to access the techniques on his own by K. The techniques might take some time to master but stay with it – it will definitely be worth it. Remember that there are counsellors who can certainly help you to know what you’re dealing with. I hope you both find some relief soon. My very best wishes to you both.

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Kelly

Thank you so much for this article, I can not wait to read it to my 10 year old son. He gets anxiety from things that have never even happened…it is more of a what if…. What if there is a tornado, what if someone breaks into the house…ect. There have been many nights where he has cried for hours not wanting to be left alone. His doctor suggested melatonin which has helped but being able to give him the knowledge of why his brain is making him feel this way will give him so much relief, and to know that he is not alone. Again, thank you!!

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome! I’m so pleased you found the article. That’s such classic anxiety – worrying about the future. It’s why the mindfulness exercises can also be helpful – it ‘trains’ your mind to stay in the present. He is certainly not alone. The response to this article has been enormous and it’s because there are so many people who are experiencing exactly what your son is experiencing. If only they all knew about each other – they’d never feel alone again! Thank you so much for making contact.

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Corinne

Thank you for this article! My 12 year old suffers from anxiety and we have tried so many things to help her. It amazes me how debilitating it can be to her and I feel so helpless when it hits. She’s a very intelligent girl- I’m hoping we can read your article together and discuss how it might help her. Thanks again!

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. I’m so pleased you’ve found the article for her. It’s awful isn’t it when you would do anything in the world to help them but there’s nothing in the world you can do. Reassure her that she’s not alone. There are so many people struggling with anxiety. I hope she’s able to find some relief. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me.

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Gwen

love this! I have a son that struggles daily with anxiety in all areas of life, and we are constantly looking for ideas. Thanks for the great insight!

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Debi Powell

This article was such a blessing to me. My amazing 13 yr old daughter suffered from anxiety and had severe tummy aches and IBS was mentioned by peds GI specialist and recommended counseling. She had 8 sessions and amazing results and tummy aches stopped (breathing/imagery was taught)…… but now, a year later she started picking the skin around her nails. She has her thumbs with small lacerations from tearing skin. I know this is in response to anxiety but have no idea where its from!? She says she has no idea when she is doing it….. how can you tear your skin, and not even know it. I get a hang nail and about cry! Anyway…… your insight is so very helpful, and obviously appreciated, and needed!! Keep these words of wisdom coming!! :). Bless you!!

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased the information has helped. In relation to your daughter’s skin picking, this isn’t unusual where anxiety is concerned – it’s not necessarily common, but it’s not unusual. One of the reasons people seem do it when they are anxious is to self-soothe. It’s not necessarily a conscious thing, but it seems to soothe the nervous system in some way. If it becomes a problem, therapy can certainly help. Mindfulness will also be useful. I will certainly keep the posts coming. The response to this one has been overwhelming and the comments so incredibly generous and open. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me.

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Judith

Thank you so much for this wonderful post. I have a Highly Sensitive Child who is 4.5 years old and have been struggling with how to help her cope with her anxiety in new situations. Your post has given me some really concrete direction. Thank you.

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome. I’m so please you found the post for her. I’ve seen a real need for something for younger children as well so will be posting something on that sometime soon. Thank you so much for making contact.

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Miriam Barlow

Great article! One other thing that I have found helpful with children also is to explain to them what is going on around them. If a child is being cute and people laugh, they may have a lot of anxiety, but explaining that this is a positive response to their cuteness can help. Also, if there is a confusing situation where they are sensitive to the emotions but not equipped to understand it, just explaining it simply, honestly, and straight forwardly can help.

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heysigmund

Yes! The points you make are excellent. Sometimes it can be hard enough for adults to interpret other peoples’ responses, so for kids it can be really confusing. Thank you so much for your comments. You’re spot on. They will help a lot of people.

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Tanya

Great article, but would love to see a post about anxiety in much younger children. My son is 3 and has ASD. We struggle with anxiety for much of the time. Last night I could hear him grinding his teeth in bed, from downstairs!! I have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks in the past, but it’s heartbreaking when it’s your child and especially difficult when they’re so young as it’s hard for them to understand their feelings.
Any help would be gratefully received.

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heysigmund

It’s so heartbreaking when you’re watching your child struggle and you’d do anything to stop it but there’s nothing you can do. There have been so many people with smaller children with anxiety. I will be doing a post sometime soon so keep your eyes open for that. If you want to make sure you don’t miss a post, signing up to the newsletter might be a good idea. All of the posts are published on that and it gets sent out on a Friday. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I know it will help other people.

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tamee

Thanks for this. I have a four year old and her dad and I got divorced last year. Recently, we have been having MAJOR meltdowns and disciplinary problems. We (her dad and our partners and I) have been chalking it up to being four but I am hoping to follow this article when you post a new article for the parents with kids my daughters age who are having discipline issues as well. She is getting a step mom this week and a little brother in two months so I think it may be anxiety about the changes. I am so glad I came across this and hope to follow when you write a new one. Good work.

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heysigmund

You’re welcome! I’m so pleased you found this for your daughter. There are a lot of changes going on for her at the moment so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if her behaviour was related to that. Sometimes you just have to let them process it in their own way – all with gentle guidance of course. It sounds as though you are all doing a really good job of parenting after divorce. It’s so critical and will make all the difference to the young woman she grows into. Great to have you on board!

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andrea

wow! this article opened my eyes to see what my 6 year old son is dealing with in school/home. I was doing everything wrong! I kept pretending nothing was wrong thinking he would just ignore his feelings he was having. I was worried if i talked to him about it he would be sucked into having anxiety really bad the older he got. thanks again! i’m sharing with everyone i know!

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heysigmund

I think you did the obvious thing to do in that situation so please please don’t give yourself a hard time over it. There wouldn’t be a parent alive who got it all right all of the time. I’ve had some shockers myself! What’s great about you is that as soon as you were given some new information, you straight away grabbed it and made the connections. Your son is lucky to have you. Thank you so much for sharing it around! You just never know how many people you’ll be helping. It means a lot to me. I’m so please the article was helpful for you. Thank you for letting me know.

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Claire

Thank you for writing this article. My 11 year old son suffers from anxiety and now, I know what to do to help him. He’s due to start High School in September and is already getting anxious about it, as he does about everything that is different. I will definitely use this.

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heysigmund

You’re welcome! I’m so pleased it has found its way to you. There are so many changes that happen around this age aren’t there. It sounds like he’s in good hands though. I’m so sure the techniques in the article will be good for him. Thank you for for making contact.

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Clare

I was forwarded this article from a beautiful friend who is a school counsellor. I have a 7yr old with anaphylaxis, who recently had two attacks in one and a half weeks. We have been managing his anxiety response to this for the last month and see some improvement. Your article has given me more info to work with and generated discussion with my child around the physical symptoms he has been feeling. Thank you for a wonderful, child focussed article. Would be grateful for any ideas re: apps to help my child with mindfulness and relaxation..

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. I’m so pleased it’s been able to help you. I’ve seen a great comment about the Smiling Mind App. I know the app and the website is wonderful. Here is the link http://smilingmind.com.au. I’m not sure if it’s been moderated yet but I’m working my way through. It will be up soon. Thank you for taking the time to make contact.

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Julie

Thank you for a wonderful article. Great simple ways to explain and help my beautiful 7 year old grandson. It’s so distressing to watch him miss out on some fantastic opportunities because the anxiety takes over his little life. Good times ahead!!

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heysigmund

Your’re so welcome. I’m so pleased you have found it for him. Definitely good times ahead! Thank you for letting me know.

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Brooke

Just to let you all know there is a great app on iTunes called Smiling mind.
It’s a mindfulness app that has age appropriate lessons on relaxation
Hope this will help some of you.
My son also suffers from it and this app has helped him self soothe and taught him that when he feeling anxious he can do techniques so that he is in control of it.

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Helen Nayler

this is a great way of explaining anxiety to kids. I have not read every reply so forgive me if this is mentioned before. My son really benefited from learning Emotional Freedom Technique. He felt able to cope better as he had something he could do to help himself. On a physiological level it slows the blood flow down to the amygdala, therefore reducing anxiety. It is yet another really helpful tool to deal with anxiety, as well as mindfulness, as you rightly say.

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heysigmund

Thank you for sharing this! I know there are a lot of people reading the comments and it’s wonderful that people like you are sharing so openly. This hasn’t been mentioned yet so thank you!

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Helen Nayler

You’re welcome. Emotional Freedom Technique is easily done, it involves gently tapping on meridian pressure points releasing feelings of being stuck! Really great for letting go of fear and anxiety for my 11year old, who has been using it since he was 8years old when he was experiencing massive levels of anxiety due to being bullied! He even used to see himself tapping when he was not in a situation where he could tap and that helped too! Amazing what a difference it made, and how the shift from scared to
courageous happened! Would love for both mindfulness and EFT to be taught in schools. It would make such a difference to the pressure our kids feel, often too much too soon!

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Lori

Saw this article at the perfect time as my daughter has been increasingly having struggles with anxiety. Thank you so much! She is 15 and an overachiever despite me trying not to put pressure on her. I am going to try some of these great ideas with her, including mindfulness and breathing techniques. It also made me feel better to read all the comments and see that other young kids and teens are dealing with the same issues as it is not something you can see on the outside.

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. I’ve been amazed by the response to this article – it shows how many people are struggling with anxiety. I’ve also been incredibly moved by the generosity of the comments, such as yours, in sharing information about something that as you said ‘is not something you can see on the outside’. It’s so powerful because it’s so easy to feel alone when you deal with something like this. So many kids with anxiety are intelligent and over-achievers. They put so much pressure on themselves! I’m so pleased you’re sharing the information with her. I’m sure the techniques and explanation will make a difference. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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Annette

Great article and so very much needed. Very helpful at any age even the very young with age (with age appropriate language). Helps anyone to know that there is always something they can do about whatever situation they are in, and that they can master their anxieties.

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heysigmund

Thank you! You’re so right. Everyone experiences anxiety to some extent – a job interview, an exam, meeting new people – it’s a sign that we’re right up against the edge of ourselves and about to do something brave. These skills are life skills that everyone can benefit from. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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The Professionally Depressed Professional

Thank you for this great article. My 9 year old son has a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and much of what you have noted is what we have done for our child. I think what is extremely important for readers to know, however, is the importance of having a diagnosis if your child suffers from extreme anxiety on a daily basis. Having a diagnosis will also enable parents to put measures in place for their son or daughter at school via an individual education plan. In doing so, educational staff will be able to further assist your child as they progress through the grades. They will be given the proper tools to help your child succeed. Moreover, your child will be able to have more support services such as access to a child youth worker.

I think its also important to note the importance of having your child’s psychiatrist recommend weekly or bi-weekly meetings with a social worker/counselor for both the child and the parents together. In doing so, you will not feel alone in your struggles and your child will see the value in sharing his or her struggles more freely (at least we hope!).

My son was diagnosed two years ago. He is doing extremely well and we have actually stopped attending sessions with our counselor. He has his daily struggles (he also has ADHD (inattentive), learning disorders, and a mild form of Tourette’s Syndrome [ticks]), but he has an amazing support system at school, and at home (if I do say so myself!). Having a Generalized Anxiety Disorder is very different than having anxiety. Readers need to know the difference and understand how they can support their children in all areas of life before they become adolescents because, as you already know, if left untreated unhealthy coping mechanisms can develop and lead to the development of other mental disorders . . . I know because I am a living example.

Thank you again for providing readers with some great ideas for supporting their children. I do hope I’ve been able to add to the discussion from the perspective of a school administrator.

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heysigmund

Thank you for sharing this! the points you have made are important ones and I’m grateful to you for making them. I know that people are also finding the comments s valuable source of information and support. I’m so pleased to hear that your son is doing well know. That will be such a source of hope for others. Thank you for taking the time to share your insight and wisdom.

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rose

OMG what a timely post to find. I have just spent 2 hours sitting on my sobbing, shaking, squirming 6 yr sons bed because he doesn’t want to go to school tomorrow. I know I should avoid telling him that everything will be ok, but its really hard to say I know your worried, but you still have to go.
He has turned into a school hater as he says he has “the meanest teacher ever”. Saya she yells at the other kids and was devastated because she ripped a page out of a child’s book because he’d glued a worksheet into the wrong book. Shes been teaching at this school for many years and is a bit of a favourite when you ask around parents from her previous class years…they all claim one of the best in the school that their child has had. I asked around some of the other mums from this year and they all claim their child loves her. The mother of the boy whose page was ripped out asked him, and he was not fussed, just said she ripped it out and asked him to paste it in the right book. BUt my child is petrified of her. The week before last was crying because he was worried he’d get into trouble as he had finished his writing and she had said they would finish it the next day. He was worried if he took it up, she would yell at him for rushing. I convinced him to go and to write some more, even though he was adamant that he had nothing else to say. He did write more however and ended up getting a merit point for the extra work. He has had heaps of good notes and stars etc from her. We counted 14 tonight. Yet today he got what he terms a bad one. Basically its a note to say he needs to remember to be sensible in a certain subject and thanking him for changing his behaviour when asked. He has really taken it to heart. Will not tell me what the behaviour was, even though I reassured him I don’t need to know if he doesn’t want to share as all I need to know is that he changed his behaviour when asked, which he obviously did. He refuses to try breathing or relaxation of any kind when he gets so wound up, which is usually at night. I ened up reading to him for ages to distract him and eventually talking him into thinking of something else and then he will let me leave so he can sleep. He’s also started having night terrors agains, which he hasn’t had since he was 2 or 3.
He’s had episodes of anxiety before. Often about social situations eg wanted to do AFL little kickers and happy to do the skills activities but would not play in the practice matches. More recently someone explained what a parking fine was, and now if I park on a meter he refuses to get out of the car or if I talk him round he does not enjoy the activity we are at but constantly wants to go back to the car.
I am a little at loss as to what to do re the school thing. I don’t want to make him a target if the teacher really is mean but am feeling I cant not say anything for much longer. I am definitely thinking a trip to the GP to look into finding a counsellor is on the cards.
He kind of gets the body symptoms as he had a wonderful teacher last year who went though flight or fight with them last year as part of a protective behaviours program, but he seems really resistant to trying anything to help the feelings i.e. breathing etc
It does feel good to know I am not alone reading all the posts above 🙁

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heysigmund

You are so not alone! Sometimes it’s not necessarily the teacher but the particular teacher-child combination or something the child is reading that may or may not be there (we all do that from time to time). Your little man is obviously scared of her, but that doesn’t mean she’s scary. It means there’s something she’s doing that he’s reading that way. It might be the tone of her voice, the volume, her mannerism – who knows – but there’s something that’s bothering him. Most teachers are wonderfully open to making things better for the kids in their class, especially the good ones, which by all reports she is. I’m a big one for giving teachers the benefit of the information you have and trusting that they’ll do something good with it. Are you able to talk to her and let her know what you know? Let her know that you can see she’s building him up with stars and good notes but that your son seems to be misreading something she’s doing and you would like to work with her to work it out so he can feel better about coming to school. That’s just an idea. A counsellor would certainly be a good option. You sound like you are such a support for your son. Keep doing what you’re doing – you’re doing a great job.

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Kathy

At 15, my daughter, the intense high achiever, started putting all kinds of impossible expectations on herself, was getting down on herself for any little misstep. She was under a lot of stress starting high school and in competitive sports. To “cope”, she started self-harming. Not superficial scratches but deep cuts with razor blades taken from disposable razors, pencil sharpeners, etc. In hindsight, this may have been more anxiety rather than depression but we got her a therapist, a doctor, psychologist etc (psychiatrist was a 6 month wait list!!!!!). She was put on Prozac. Then didn’t get better so dosage was upped. And upped. Became suicidal, depressed, still cutting, having disturbing dreams, threatened suicide, was hospitalized. They added an anti-psychotic med. No better. Suicide attempt – Hospitalized again. Saw psych finally, who added lithium. Hospitalized again. Increased prozac. Another suicide attempt. Increased Prozac. On the last increase, she missed 2 weeks of school because we needed to watch her 24 hours a day to keep her safe. She became OBSESSED with suicide. When she would walk into a room she’d scout the area for potential sharp objects, extension cords, etc. FINALLY we realized she’s one of those people that Prozac makes worse. She took 14 days worth of prozac as a suicide attempt. Side note: the day after this attempt I found out my mom has Stage IV lung cancer. I miss work all the time to haul my daughter to therapy 2x per week, psych 1x per month, days I have to guard her to protect her from herself. Not a good year for my stress level. She’s in the hospital again (behavioral health wards each time), and they are gradually reducing her prozac so she doesn’t have withdrawal issues. Looking back, I think the cutting stemmed from anxiety, not depression and because her brain didn’t NEED an SSRI like prozac, instead of helping it caused all kinds of new and dangerous issues. Not to disparage prozac, I took it in my 20s and it was a miracle for me (yes, depression runs in my family) – was on it a year and that was 20 healthy years ago. I just wanted to share my story because depression is different than anxiety and in a few people, SSRIS to treat depression can cause dangerous personality changes. For some people it’s a wonder drug. If you medicate your kids please watch for worsening symptoms. My daughter has been on SSRIS for 16 months and we’ve almost lost her multiple times. She wasn’t suicidal before she started on meds. We are broke from all the treatments/hospitalizations and are still at square one.

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heysigmund

Oh this breaks my heart! What you say about antidepressants is absolutely correct and is why they should be a last resort and always closely supervised. It’s widely accepted that they can make symptoms worse in some cases. Having said that, they can be really effective for many people but people need to be advised that in some cases they can make symptoms worse, so that all those around the person taking the medication as well as the person him/her self can be on the lookout and respond straight away. There is a lot of research happening at the moment around depression that’s really promising, particularly for opening up new treatment options. I post when I find out about it. I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter’s experience. It should never have happened. I’m pleased to hear that she’s being closely monitored now. It sounds like she’s in good hands. I hope you’re okay. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s so important to have the information out there and nothing beats hearing from people who have been through it. Thank you!

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Daina

My heart goes out to you…thanks for sharing such a personal story. You are obviously a loving and caring mother, take pride in that and hope all will be okay with your daughter.

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Michelle

I did not take the time to read ALL of the comments so sorry if someone else said this already….I always tell my kids that they actually have a CHOICE on how they react to anything or person. It takes practice and self talk but they can learn to let it go…when they realize they have an actual choice it puts them in control of their emotions.

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Leanne Matlow

i work daily with kids helping them developing coping skills for anxiety. I believe that we need to talk more about it and de stigmatize it. Thank you for helping the cause with your wise words.

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Debbie Traynor

Thank you for this excellent and informative article! My 12 year-old grandson is suffering from this disorder, and your article has really helped me to understand what he’s going through. He is in therapy and it has been helping him…slowly but surely. I will forward this to my daughter so she has a chance to read it as well. We sure miss our “happy-go-lucky” grandson…and look towards the day he has his “Zep” under control.

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome! I really hope it is able to bring some relief to your grandson and so that happy-go-lucky little man can find his way back to you. Thank you so much for letting me know.

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Pamela

The article was great, my 8 year old daughter has been dealing with and being treated for high anxiety disorder and ODD as well as she believe she has Aspbergers. I am trying to have her tested, any advise she doesn’t do well with change and she gets so frustrated so quickly and lashes out at anyone in her path. She’s been in therapy since she was 4 and it has helped but is there something else I can be doing to help her. At times I feel like there is nothing I can do help her. My ex husband her father suffers from Aspergers and anxiety and depression, I just don’t want her to go through what he has. Thanks for listening. Pam

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heysigmund

You’re daughter is dealing with some big things there. This is a lot for both of you to be going through. She’s so lucky to have you. I hope you have people to look after you. If you’re getting her tested and she’s in therapy it sounds as though she’s in good hands. Talk to her about the the physical response of anxiety so she can understand it and not become anxious about the anxious feelings. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re doing everything you can. It sounds as though you’re doing an amazing job. Thank you for making contact with me.

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Selena

Thank you from my inner child. This is exactly the information I needed to hear, and delivered in a way that spoke to my core. This helps me in so many ways… thank you thank you thank you!

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Terri Malone

Thank you for this article, my daughter who is 7 has suffered from anxiety for two years now she was diagnosed with severe seperation anxiety and severe anxiety along with OCD and its been a battle. She’s been on meds now for a month because her anxiety started effecting her daily life not only does she suffer from the tummy aches, headaches, whining, among other things she wasn’t able to do normal things that would be done everyday. We do the breathing, have snuggle time at night, one on one play a couple times a week, use 1,2,3 magic because I don’t know about other kids but ours has some behavior issues and her anxiety seems to make it worse. Again Thank You this gave some good advice.

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heysigmund

You’re welcome. I’m so pleased you found the article. You are fighting a battle and if I was fighting one, I’d want you on my side. I have such enormous respect for you and every other parent who has commented about the the battles they are fighting with and for their children. The resourcefulness, wisdom and strength is humbling. You are working so hard to get your daughter through and you are doing everything right. She will come through – I know it probably doesn’t feel like it right now but she will. She’s very lucky to have you. My best wishes for you both.

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Q

Thank you for this article! I have been struggling to understand what my son is going through and how to help him cope. Your explanation of what is physically happening is wonderful and I can’t wait to get home and share it with him. Thank you again for taking the time to write and post this!

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Angie

Wow! This is great to have at hand! The way that you describe it is priceless. I have gone to counseling for years to understand it for myself and now my 14 year old son suffers pretty badly. I’ve tried to make him understand, but this will be perfect for him as he never understands why he always feels sick in new situations.
Thank you so much!

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. Information is such a powerful thing isn’t it and when people have it, they do incredible things with it. I really hope it’s able to bring your son some comfort. Thank you for making contact with me.

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Carol

I have suffered from anxiety since childhood and have had a lifetime of illness. One thing I’ve discovered in my 60s is that I’m gluten sensitive and all people with gluten and wheat allergies have one thing in common. Anxiety, that ends up causing auto-immune diseases. In my case many auto-immune diseases because my DNA shows that both my Mom and Dad had it. I would recommend trying a gluten free diet for your child and see if it doesn’t help their anxiety.

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heysigmund

There seems to be a lot of research at the moment looking at the hand food plays in a variety of disorders. I’m keeping my eye on it all but it’s really good to hear from someone who has been there. I’m loving that people are sharing what’s worked for them. You never know who else it might work for. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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Darlene

Fantastic article. I loved the action steps that really help you as a parent help your child and not just talk to them. I believe this strategy could work with adults too. I may try it myself (when my own anxiety gets the best of me). Thanks so much for sharing this.

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Judy

I am going to share this with my eight year old son who has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. He has been struggling with “big emotions” (that’s what he calls it) and he feels like he is all alone. My son is a perfectionist and since he has set such a high bar for himself, he feels he is constantly failing when he isn’t. He is anxious about everything, school, friends, and sports. Thank you for this article, it has helped me visualize what his mind is going through during an anxiety moment.

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heysigmund

‘Big emotions’. I love that. People with anxiety are often high achievers who expect a lot of themselves, so he’s not alone there. I’m so pleased you’re going to share the article with him. Hopefully it will help him understand and manage his process and find some relief. Thank you so much for letting me know.

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Anniemae

I really enjoyed this article. I have struggled to get some professionals to listen to me regarding the level of anxiety that my son has. Addressing his ADHD with medication appears to be the first line of treatment. I understand it becomes more complicated with the fact that he has ADHD and a learning disability and therefore the anxiety issue seems to take a back seat. I am of the opinion that the anxiety symptoms are front and foremost in his case. It’s a tough one as I know anxiety often is a symptoms associated with the other 2 diagnoses.

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heysigmund

You’re right, it is a tough one. If I’ve learnt one thing over years of practicing psychology, it’s that a mother’s intuition is a very powerful thing. It’s good that you’re treating the ADHD, hopefully once that is brought under control things will become clearer. I’m so pleased you’ve enjoyed the article. Hopefully it will empower you in relation to his anxiety symptoms, in that it’s something you can work on with your son while the medication helps him with his ADHD symptoms. Thank you for making contact with me. My very best wishes for you and your son.

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Deanna Gibbons

Thank you for posting this. My 16 yo daughter struggles with anxiety and depression. We are starting therapy and I hope that helps. She has never had an anxiety attack in front of me. I don’t know how it affects her physically or otherwise and quite frankly, don’t understand it. They only seemed to happen at school. I don’t know how to handle it when she calls me and asks if she can skip out of class because she is having an anxiety attack. I’m not there and have never seen one. I don’t know how bad it affects her and whether to send her to class. I have let her skip a few times, but it’s been happening more and more. So I recently started telling her to go to the school nurse, psychologist or her dean. That way, they can help her and decide if she should go to class. I don’t know if that is helping or hurting. At this point I’m praying that the therapy helps her because I’m pretty lost with it all.

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. You’re doing the right thing with your daughter. If school is making her anxious, the more she avoids it the more anxious she will become. Anxiety can be cruel like that. The school staff know how to deal with this so she’s in good hands. It’s hard isn’t it because all you want to do is hold them but that’s not always the best for them. Keep talking to her about it so she feels like you’re in it with her and that sending her to the school staff is something you hate doing too but it’s just part of what you both have to do to get her better. Anxiety responds really well to therapy. She will learn skills that will help hermitage her anxiety. Let her read the article, although if you want a more grown-up version of the same thing, here is the link http://www.heysigmund.com/dealing-with-anxiety/. The information is really powerful – and empowering. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I hope you are all able to find some comfort soon.

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Daina

Thank you, thank you 🙂 My daughter is 18 and has had severe anxiety for years. It’s hard on her as her father just tells her that she is fine and doesn’t really believe in anxiety. I have anxiety sometimes (not as severe as my daughter) but I understand how hard it is to deal with, especially a teenager. She is now at university studying social work and some of her classes have given her fabulous information that is helping her understand herself. I’m going to forward this to her. I wish more people understood mental health and talked about it. Again thanks!

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. Your daughter’s experience with anxiety will give her some valuable insight that will help to make her a great social worker. I couldn’t agree with you more – there isn’t enough understanding and conversation about mental health. I love – LOVE! – that it’s happening on this website. People are being so open and generous with their comments and that in itself can be such an abundant source of comfort for other people who are struggling – knowing that there are other people struggling too. Thank you so much for sharing your story – and for being part of the much needed conversation about mental health. Your daughter is lucky to have you!

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Case

My daughter, now 12, was diagnosed with anxiety and OCD at age 7, from pressure to do good at school. She’s an A student, so she’s always being pushed and challenged to do more. It was, and still is, bad enough that it caused her to have nervous tics. She is on medication to help with the anxiety. She plays sports and us involved with several other school activities and when something big is fixing to come up, the tics begin, then it takes a couple months for it to settle down and stop…until she gets really nervous again and then it starts all over. It’s heartbreaking to see this happen to her!! I can’t wait to show this to her and talk about! I hope it will help her, and me as well! Thank you for sharing

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heysigmund

You’re welcome! It’s so heartbreaking when you can see you child struggling but there’s nothing you can do to help them. I’m so pleased you’ve found the article for her and I really hope it’s able to help the both of you. Thank you for taking the time to share your story. My very best wishes for you and your daughter.

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Marisa

This is such a helpful article. So glad a friend forwarded it to me. My biggest issue with my son (8) is nighttime anxiety and waking up at all hours of the night with “worry”.

Do you have any further information you could pass along?

Thank you so much.

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome. I’m so pleased the article found it’s way to you. Here is the link to an article about nightmares that might help http://www.heysigmund.com/putting-the-halt-on-nightmares/. The reason your son is waking up with anxiety it because when we sleep, the brain processes all the emotions and experiences that happened while we were awake. Nightmares are the brain’s way of processing information that is distressing or unfinished. There have been a few people ask the same question so I’m going to write a version of the nightmare article like the anxiety one – hopefully soon. If you want to make sure you don’t miss it, all of my new posts are published on the newsletter every Friday. The sign up for that is on the home page on the right. Otherwise just check back and it will be under the ‘Being Human’ tab on the front page, then under ‘Sleep, Dreams and Nightmares. Hopefully this article will help in the meantime. Thank you for getting in touch.

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Natalie

There is a really easy quick to read book called “living with it” by Bev aisbitt.
Everyone should read this. It’s amazing. Cartoon type pictures, easy to read. It helped a lot of people I know. I used to have up to 10 severe panic attacks a day. It’s horrible. I went to an anxiety clinic and did once a week group for 10 weeks and it was amazing.

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robyn

Thanks you so much for this insightful article. I have just come back from the dr. discussing whether my daughter has anxiety or something physical wrong with her. I have just read her some of the parts of your article and she said to me “Yes that is what I feel”. Totally random things that she has identified as happening to her …the breathes…the sweating. She is a little science kid so this will help her tremendously. I will be sharing this with her Dr. Thank you SO much.

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased this information has found its way to you. I hope this is able to make sense of this for your daughter. If she loves her science it will hopefully be just the thing!

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Joni

My son who is 12 has been having issues with anxiety for the past year. He ended up having some major health issues and some major surgeries in the past year. Now he is experiencing anxiety with everything, school, sports, friend’s & the fear of his illness returning. He has been seeing the school physiologist for the past 2 months. It doesn’t seem to be helping. I am going to try some of your suggestions and see if that can put him at ease a little. Thanks

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heysigmund

It sounds like your son is doing it tough at the moment. I really hope the information in the article helps him. Be patient with them though – some of the techniques might take some time but he will get there. My best wishes for you both.

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Rebecca

Does a Dr diagnose your child with anxiety? My eldest is 16 and have many issues that we are struggling to get to the bottom of? I wonder whether this is his issue!

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heysigmund

Yes a doctor can diagnose anxiety. So can a counsellor or a psychologist. The only thing I would keep in mind is that if you go to a doctor, they might be more likely to recommend medication, whereas a counsellor or psychologist will use therapy to teach your son skills to manage is anxiety. It depends on how severe your sons symptoms are as to whether or not medication is warranted but if it is, it should always be done with counselling to teach skills that will be needed when the medication is stopped. I hope this helps.

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Katrina

Great article! My 6 year old daughter displays mild anxiety and this has given me some good pointers to talk about with her to help her better understand it.
I used to suffer from debilitating anxiety attacks and someone once gave me some advice on helping me recover and re-gain self control, when at the time I thought I was a lost cause. They told me to stop trying to fight the attacks. When I feel them coming on, let it happen, remind myself that I recognise these feelings and that it will pass soon enough. It won’t hurt me. I can breathe still, and I won’t have a heart attack, it’s just a feeling – for no particular reason. To my surprise – this worked. I now only very rarely suffer from an anxiety attack and these pointers help me every single time. I also found if the feelings and thoughts were particularly intense, I would distract myself by doing crosswords until it passes. This also works well for me.
Just thought I would share in the hope that someone else might decide to try this and see if it helps them.

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Kerrie

Thank you so very much for a brilliant article! I have been helping my child (now 9) with anxiety for several years. He began showing signs with digestive problems, which still exist today. He progressed to a physical “tick” of the eye for a long time which changed to a verbal tick in the back of his throat. He sort of makes a humming sound repetitively when anxious. Most recently his verbal sound is a high squeeky sound which really bothers him and can throw him into a panic, when he is not able to make the lower humming sound he wants. He has had recent full blown panic attacks and also had a 9 week stretch of night terrors. I realized he needed more then pediatric visits and calming strategies so we has just this week started psychology visits. Luckily for me, I took a lot of time explaining the value of these visits along with sharing that I have had similar appt’s in the past and found them to be quite helpful. His first visit was terrific, he had a lot of eye contact and “took” to the psychologist right away. I can’t wait to share your article with him as he would really take this information in. Thank you again for caring enough to share!

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. You did a really good job preparing him for the therapist, which is really important. I hope that your son is able to find some relief soon. Thank you for making contact with me.

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Tracey Mitchell

My son struggled with anxiety for a few years when he was 12. It was a difficult time for all of us. With medication and counseling he learned how to manage it. I think that reassuring the child that nothing is “wrong with them, and explaining the body’s physiological reactions helps them understand what anxiety is and how it is affecting them. This is a great article, I wish I had access to it back then!

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased you’re son is able to manage his anxiety now. That will be a source of hope to many who are struggling with anxiety. Thank you for taking the time to share your story.

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Nycole

At the age of 4, my son came upstairs during daylight hours to tell us that he wanted an adult near him downstairs and not just his sister. He says, “I’m anxious that I will start to worry about being scared.” So insightful for such a young man. To me, this perfectly describes the irrational side of anxiety – to be afraid of worrying about fear. I have anxiety and know how he feels so it’s easy to share these moments with him. Thank you for such a straight forward article to help others see into his world. I will share this with many family members and friends.

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome. I’m pleased it’s helped you. Your son has articulated it beautifully! That’s exactly what anxiety is – ‘worry about being scared’. Kids have such honest, raw insight don’t they. Thank you for letting me know.

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hanni

Thank you. .. a friend of mine shared this with me on Facebook. My 7 year old daughter (just tested a few weeks ago ) was diagnosed with anxiety disorder, and early signs of a d h d. The higher her anxiety gets the more impulsive she tends to get, and her attention suffers, as well as memory. She tested off the charts as far as i q. But, has an un explained fear of tornadoes. (No idea where that came from…) it keeps her up at night due to worry. Trying to come up with relaxation techniques to help her ‘de escalate’ so to say when she gets into this ‘broken record’ way of thinking. She is very hands on, creative, artistic, etc… maybe somehow can be used to bring herself out of her head?
Unfortunately, she does come of the anxiety disorder (naturally ) i have severe anxiety (mostly test anxiety).

Thank you for this article…

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome. Anxious kids are often smart, high-achieving kids. Did your daughter see something about tornados on tv? Sometimes it only takes a passing mention to start the ‘what if …’ Thank you for sharing your story.

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Tania

I have to try this. My twin daughters (10 years old) have been dealing with this for years and I had no clue what was wrong and I was getting no help from professionals. I have been lost and felt useless and like a horrible mother. The latest pediatrician has suspected anxiety but we haven’t really spoken much more about it. I will for sure use these techniques. Quick question though. It seems like it’s really bad every 3-4 weeks (i call it ‘their time of the month’) for about a 3-10 days. Does this sound like a symptom of anxiety or is it just coincidence it happens in this time line continuously?

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heysigmund

The changes in hormones around the time of a period can certainly worsen symptoms of anxiety. I hope you’re feeling better about things now – it’s such an awful feeling when you just don’t know what to do to help your kids but we’re parents, not perfect. You would have done everything you could and you can’t do more than that. Your girls are lucky t have you. Thank you for making contact.

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Maria

My 5 year old son has anxiety and I am so lost. I don’t know how to handle or deal with it. Especially wheN he gets panic attacks. Any advise or tactics For a younger child? I noticed he so has a nervous belly. When he gets worried he always gets diarrhea. Thanks!
Maria

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heysigmund

I’m going to do a post very soon about dealing with anxiety in younger kids. There’s a real need for it so check back, or if you want to make sure you don’t miss anything everything I write during the week goes gets published on the newsletter on a Friday. The signup is on the home page in the right column if you’re interested. There’s actually a reason for the diarrhoea too. When the fight or flight response is triggered, the body tries to ‘lighten the load’ in case it needs to run. It’s also why people often feel the need to pee when their anxious – it’s all getting rid of anything that can weigh the body down while it’s running for its life. Thank you for making contact and I’ll have something out soon that will hopefully stop you from feeling so lost.

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Marika

As a person who has struggled with anxiety since the age of seven, I can completely appreciate the accuracy in this post. I experienced anxiety in a time where it was not commonplace or Normal. The more this article is shared, the more people can be educated! This is a wonderfully written, simply expressed way to handle anxiety. Which can be a challenge for the child and the parent! Thank you so much for this post, you have made more of a difference than you know.

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heysigmund

Thank you so much. It means everything to me to know that it’s making sense of things for people and I’m grateful beyond measure to every single person who has shared it. I’m deeply humbled. Thank you!

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Coach

Another angle that I’m familiar with is anxiety, and other distressing moods, obsessions, and in my case very severe brain fog, or memory impairment, can show up in those of us with the MTHFR genetic variant. My child was 9 when she had her crisis, although signs were there earlier. For both me and my daughter there were tipping points that started the avalanche of symptoms, like Alison’s daughter, my girl also gets very self hating. A very skilled in this area naturopath got us on the road to recovery. Even today my kid, now 13 started the “I hate everything” speech and verbally attacking me. We call it high histamine moments, and knock it right out with nettle tea or capsules. We did some other protocols for getting well, but when your fight or flight crazed kid suddenly says, thanks mom, I feel better, after a natural remedy switched the freakout off, it totally shifts how we think about mood problems. Now as a therapist im starting to notice moody adults that freak out remind me of the MTHFR, and I’ve sent several in for testing and naturopathic help. Several alcohol bingers stopped craving alcohol too. Looking at multigenerations of problems with moods, and alcohol it is a relief to know I don’t have to just watch us fall apart, but this generation, we get well! See Dr Ben Lynch on the web to learn more. He is the one doing a lot of training of doctors on this new genetics involved approach.

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heysigmund

Yes there’s so much about genes we don’t know. There seems to be quite a bit of research happening in the area at the moment. Thank you for sharing your insights.

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Justine

Great article, practical, hands on and realistic, just the way I like it. I shared it on my meditation page as it is really helpful to the parents who’s children come to my classes. My daughter suffered with anxiety for over a year and I used very similar techniques and also introduced a power animal who was by her side when she needed him, it served as a temporary support, her power animal was a wolf and he reminded her to breathe and acted in the confident way she wished she could act. This mirroring helped my daughter to gradually step out of her anxiety, along with cranial sacral therapy work and flower formula’s. She is now very confident and sure of her self and removing herself from toxic relationships by her own recognition and choice (she is 10 yr old), I’m so proud of her. Anxiety is a journey that does take time. Interesting to see a few twin mums commenting, my daughter is a twin. We have come through a lot but my other twin is now showing subtler signs of anxiety mixed in with puberty! There have been some amazing comments on this thread, so interesting to read everyones experiences. Thank you for keeping it real x

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heysigmund

Well said! The comments have been incredible – so open and generous and wise. Nothing more powerful than people connecting with people and I feel like there’s a phenomenal community here doing just that within these comments. It’s wonderful. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the article and thank you for sharing it on your page. I’m so grateful for the information getting out there and landing where it needs to be. I love the idea of your power animal and it’s great to hear that she’s doing so well. What a remarkable team you all must be!

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Kristen

Thank you! We are feeling so out of our depth right now with a 9 year old who seems to be so anxious all the time, not sleeping well and worried about everything. It’s like this article was written just for him. Everything makes such perfect sense, and I am very hopeful this will help our son to start smiling more and worrying less.

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. I’m so pleased the information has landed in your hands. I know how awful it is as a parent to watch your kids going through something like this. I hope your little man finds some relief soon. My best wishes to you and your family.

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Sarah

I am so grateful for this article. I didn’t even have to find it, a facebook friend posted it today without even knowing how appropriate it is right now. My 9 year old daughter is suffering terribly with anxiety. Bedtime is awful, it took two and a half last night for her to get to sleep and even then she woke up a couple of hours later. She is hating herself right now and everything that comes out of her mouth is so negative. She blames herself for everything that is wrong in her world. We have moved recently and she has started a new school but she has always struggled with her sleep and has suffered night terrors. It is so upsetting to see her like this.

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heysigmund

I’m so sorry to hear that your daughter is struggling like this. She’s going through some big changes at the moment. It’s awful when you feel like you can’t do anything to help them. Hopefully the information will bring her some comfort and stop her giving herself such a hard time. Here is a link that may help you with the night terrors. http://www.heysigmund.com/putting-the-halt-on-nightmares/ It explains what causes them and what you can do about it. I’m going to do a child friendly version but I hope this is able to help you in the meantime. I’m so pleased you found this information for your daughter, and I’m so incredibly grateful to people for sharing it. Thank you so much for making contact with me. My very best wishes for you and your family.

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Natalie

Thank you very much for all your help. I suffer with anxiety and stress and we’re going through a house move at the moment which of course impacts on family life. I’ve noticed my 9 year old is picking up on my anxieties and this has apparently been manifesting itself in school as he is worried about moving to a new area. Thank you for giving me the tools to address it in both him and myself. Bless you.

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. I’m so pleased the information has found its way to you. House moves are so stressful on everybody and I hope you’re both able to find some relief soon. Thank you for making taking the time to share your story. My very best wishes to you both.

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Natalie

hey, so I’d like to drop the perspective of a kid. I’m 16 and have had severe anxiety coupled with OCD my entire live, although it’s been way worse in the last few years. You have no idea how many doctors and therapists and psychologists and helpful adults have announced breathing as the ultimate solution to fix everything. It is wonderful and can prevent panic attacks sometimes. But if my brain has gone into full panic attack mode, I can’t hear anyone and can’t do anything for myself. We have yet to figure out what makes the full panic attacks stop, besides time.

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heysigmund

Your perspective is an important one. I’m so grateful that you’ve shared it. You’re right – there’s so much we don’t know. The good news is that there is new research all the time so rest assured that they’re working on it. The scientific world desperately wants to come up with something so that people like you don’t have to go through what you’re going through. I’m so grateful you took the time to share your insight. Thank you!

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Heidi Talukdar

Thank you — it’s nice to know I am not alone. I just have a question though, what specialist do we go to to help our children cope and help us help them?

I know they need to learn CBT but is this only given through a very expensive psychologist?!?!

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heysigmund

You’re welcome! And you are certainly not alone. Any counsellor should be able to help you. CBT is just one of many therapies that are effective but counsellors would be well aware of how to practice CBT. The most important thing is that your child ‘clicks’ with whoever you choose. If they don’t click, it doesn’t mean the counsellor isn’t a good one, it’s just one of those things about being human that individually we are able to have an immediate rapport with some people more than others. Counsellors who specialise in children would (hopefully!) know how to establish a quick rapport so maybe try for someone who issued to working with kids. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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Tam

Thank you!! I wish I had this article 15 years ago and then again 3 years ago, but I am still going to try your suggestions with my 16 year old. You are doing a wonderful job by sharing such information!

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Toni

Thank you so much for this article. I just got off the phone with my daughter’s school counselor. She has severe anxiety about going to school and it has gotten worse over the past few months. We have found that she is a “dweller”. She dwells on things for far longer then others and it makes her anxious. I hate that she suffers from this but our family suffers also. We also have a 4 year old and an 18 month old. I feel guilty because we have to spend so much time helping my 8 year old that I feel they are neglected. Childhood anxiety is also a stress on the whole family. These strategies sound great and we will put them in place tonight.

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome! Here is a link about rumination (the ‘dwelling’) that might be useful http://www.heysigmund.com/depression-risk-factor/ . You’re absolutely right about childhood anxiety affecting the whole family. The thing about families though, is that the person who needs the most resources will change around. At the moment it’s your daughter and you’re doing a wonderful job of giving her what she needs. It’s her turn at the moment – that’s just the way it is. She will get through this though, and then it will be someone else who will need the family to rally. One day it will be your daughter who will be there for her younger siblings and she will probably be one of the most important people in their lives. That’s what you are investing in – and it’s so worth the investment. I’m so pleased the information has found it’s way to you. I’m sure the strategies will make a difference.

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tina

How wonderful is this technique I have read it to my son who is eleven and has had anxiety for a year we have seen lots of people and no look so far then I read this and its brilliant I am going to use it a lot thank you so much

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lynsey

I found this article to be very helpful. I am dealing with anxiety myself at the moment and often worry that in the future my kids will too (just another thing for me to be anxious about).
I hope that dealing with it myself will prepare me if they do.

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased the article was helpful for you. The fact that you have anxiety doesn’t mean your kids will get it. I can hear how much that plays on you. There are so many factors at play and genes are just one of them. Even if your children do end up with anxiety, they won’t necessarily experience it the same way you do. The environment around them also plays a big part. One thing you can do is to always communicate confidence in them. If you are anxious about the world, they will learn to be anxious about the world. If you encourage them to try new things, be open to new people, be brave and curious (even though sometimes it’s against what we want to be saying – tell me about it!) then they will hear your confidence in them and will be more likely to believe in their own capacity to cope. But of course, even this isn’t a given. We can only do what we can do and we can’t do more than that. Thank you for making contact.

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Carla

I learned more about the anxiety my 10 year old son is going through and tools on how to help him in this article than from all of the therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists we’ve been to, combined. No one is helping me and telling me how to help him. He has suffered from anxiety and OCD since he was very, very young. And at 10, I’m still trying to find the right person to help us. And help from the school. Thank you for this very insightful article.

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome! Having the right information makes a big difference doesn’t it. I hope this is able to help you. I can hear how frustrated you are. It’s such an awful feeling when someone you love is struggling and you don’t know what to do to help them. I hope you find the right person soon. Keep trusting your intuition on this. Your son is lucky to have you fighting for him. I hope you find the right person soon – they’re out there. Thank you for taking the time to share your story.

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izabela

great article! Congratulations! My boyfriend has come up with a great technique, in which the anxiety is like a hedgehog, thus the spikes (the anxious person becomes aggressive). So he says, turn off your spikes, and it works!

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Kat

Thanks for this post … I have recently started treating my anxiety like it is a different person – and talking to it like it is a child.

I always tell it that “I’m here too, and we’ll do this together.” Instantly I’m feeling better, because the anxiety has been heard (my old technique as to push it away) and I don’t feel alone in my struggle. I imagine I’m also being mindful when I do this, and my breathing returns to a more normal flow … whatever it is, it seems to work 😉

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heysigmund

That’s brilliant! Mindfulness, really, is just being completely in the present moment so when you do this yes, you are aware of your breath, and your moment to moment experience so yes, this is a version of mindfulness. Thank you so much for sharing this. I love it!

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Randi

Thank you for the information on anxiety in children. I’m sure that my 7 year old has anxiety attacks over lite things. She freaked out her first day of 1st grade. It’s so hard to watch. I’m wondering what can be done professionally without making her feel like she’s different.

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. It’s awful to know they’re struggling like this isn’ it. Let your daughter know that there are so many kids who are experiencing exactly what she’s experiencing. Also let her know that the things she will be learning with a counsellor, like how to stay calm when you’re about to do brave things, will be things that everyone learns eventually – she’ll just be learning them earlier. I hope your daughter is able to find some relief soon. Thank you for taking the time to make contact.

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Concerned Mom

My 9 year old son is showing signs of anxiety. We have an appointment this week with a therapist to hopefully better understand what’s going on with him and help him get on the right track. He is showing problems in school feeling overwhelmed with his school work. Once he gets started he’s fine but the little part he doesn’t understand he gets frustrated and freezes up. He starts complaining about his stomach hurting and wants to go to the nurse. His teacher is wonderful with him and has shown great concern and help as have other key personnel in the school. If he does something wrong and feels he is going to get in trouble he starts talking about hurting himself and not wanting to live and what a terrible person he is. This article has shed a great deal of light on what he is going through and helps us try and help him.

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased the article found it’s way to you. It sounds as though your son is in such good hands – having a great teacher will make such a difference. He will get through this. You’re doing everything right. Thank you for making contact.

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corin

Great Article, thank you and I will be talking with my daughter using some of these tips.

My daughter is 9 and I am not sure what is going on right now but I am thinking it is a little anxiety. She has always been a great sleeper and about 2 months ago she started complaining about a nervous stomach about going to bed, saying she is afraid that she will not be able to go to sleep. she begged and begged to sleep in our room, so of course we let her and my son camp out on our floor for the night and this lasted bout a month., by then it was really time they go back to their rooms. I prepared her and told her that she had till the end of the week and then she had to move back to her room. it has been an issue every night since…. Now being that it is 3 weeks since she has been back, it has lessened a bit, I was told about Melatonin and we have tried that and it seems to help a little, but she is still thinking about it about an hour prior to going to bed. It is odd because that is the only she struggles with. she is outgoing loves sports, good in school, so that is why I am not sure this falls under anxiety???

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heysigmund

You’re welcome! It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on but it’s not at all unusual for kids to go through stages of having sleep troubles like this. My own daughter went through the same thing about a year ago – worry that she wouldn’t be able to sleep which worried her so much she couldn’t fall asleep(!). The problem is that it starts small but then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and reinforces itself. Now, it’s about breaking the cycle – but in her room. There were a couple of things that worked for me. The first was a heat pack – a soft squishy one that feels lovely – it soothes. Then, lay with her for ten minutes or so – whatever time you think and rub her back or give her a cuddle – but make sure it’s in a way that you can sneak out easily if she falls asleep. Hugging has been proven to reduce cortisol – the stress hormone. Next, put a night light on and tell her you’ll be back in 15 minutes to turn it off and make sure she’s asleep. This ‘takes over’ the worry for her. Instead of her worrying about whether or not she’ll fall asleep, you’re there to do that instead. If ten minutes is too much for her, start with five. When you go back, if she’s asleep, great. If she’s not – quick cuddle and away for another 15. Hope this helps!

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Brandi

I found your article to have really useful and simplistic tips. Thank you. I have b/g twins aged 7. My daughter has had anxiety since they started school at 4. She suffered from night terrors from age 2-5. It was not something that either her father or I had ever experienced or understood and it took us sometime (and patience) to realize that her fears about growing up and the future were more than just a passing phase.

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased this article was useful to you. That’s one of the hard things about anxiety – wondering if it’s a problem or a phase. Thank you of taking the time to make contact.

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Jess

Hi, thanks so much for this post. Couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m a mum of two, and managing my own General Anxiety Disorder. I sometimes can’t believe that I find myself getting anxious about the potential of my own kids having anxiety! But i guess that’s the deal….

Your post was good even for adults who “understand” anxiety. It’s always nice to see it spelled out so simply. I shared this with my husband so he could get a sense of what I experience also.

And now I have exactly what I need up my sleeve if my children start showing signs of anxiety. This is really reassuring – thank you!

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome! There have been so many parents who have talked about their anxiety around their own kids being anxious – you ‘re not alone! The thing to remember is that first, your kids might not get anxiety at all. Second, even if they do, they won’t necessarily experienced anxiety the way you do. They’ll also have the benefit of your wisdom and insight. It’s such a normal fear. Thank you for taking the time to make contact.

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Lisa

I found this article interesting! I am glad my friend posted this to her Facebook page. I have been wondering if my 7 year old daughter has been dealing with anxiety for the past month or so. Every Sunday she seems to fall ill and throws up most of the day into the early morning. I can only wonder if she is anxious about going to school. She has expressed to me that one child in her class has been bugging her and her teacher yells at her sometimes and this upsets her. She does not want to go to school and this is coming from a girl who loves school and cries over holidays when school is closed!

I am taking my daughter to the doctor to see if there might by any health issues that we need to deal with.

I find my daughter bottles some things that she is worried about telling me as she feels I might get mad. I always express to her that we need to be open about everything and to be honest. I find she worries about everything.

Thanks again foe this article and am looking forward to my daughter’s doctors appointment tomorrow.

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heysigmund

You’re welcome. I’m so pleased you found the article. It’s a really good idea that your taking your daughter to the doctor to rule out any other health issues. The clue for me is that it happens every Sunday. Your doctor will also get a clearer picture by talking with you about it and based on that, should also be able to confirm whether or not it’s anxiety. Her classroom sounds a little bit stressful for her at the moment, at least in her eyes, which is what’s important. If she’s someone who bottles things up and isn’t as likely to talk about it, that’s okay – there are other things you can try so that the worry isn’t eating away at her. One is to have her write it down or draw the worry on a piece of paper, then tear the paper up and throw it away. There was a study done with uni students that found this reduced anxiety. Another one is a worry doll, which is actually a South American tradition (I think!). I’ve done this with my daughter and it’s been really effective. Worry dolls are tiny little dolls (the size of half you finger) and you tell each of your worries to a doll, put the dolls under your pillow and when you wake up in the morning, the worry is gone. One little doll would be fine – anything she can externalise the worry on to to get it ‘out’ of her. Would be good to use the information in the article to explain to her what happens in your body when you worry. Will be interesting to see what the doctor says. My very best wishes to you both.

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Sylvia

Thank you so much will be trying this asap.
Oh this has come to me via a friend and at a perfect time as we have just been to see a doctor who is sending us to a child psychologist for help with our 10 year old daughter who has always had the worries since 3 and now more and more things make her anxious. Change of routine if not explained prior can be a disastrous situation.

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heysigmund

You’re welcome! I’m so pleased you’re going to try this. I really think it will help. A child psychologist will be a great support for your daughter. Thank you for taking the time to share your story with me.

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Allison B

Wonderful article! I’m hoping it will help my 7 year old who suffers from selective mutism. So far, we haven’t been able to find a therapist who specializes in SM so I have felt lost as to how to help her. In addition to the SM, her anxiety causes tummy aches, pain in her legs and sometimes crying.

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased this article has found it’s way to you. Research has found that SM seems to be linked to an overactive amygdala. That means that whenever the fight or flight response is activated, for your daughter one of the things it does is to shut down her speech. Tummy aches and sore limbs also happen when the fight or flight is triggered (as explained in the article). I think it’s great that you’re going to share the information with her – I think it could really help. It must be awful for her to have this happen and not understand why. Thank you for taking the time to share this with me. I hope your daughter is able to find some relief soon.

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Melissa S. Quon Huber, Ph.D.

This is one of the very best imagery I’ve ever read to help explain this to others!

As someone who has had panic attacks since about the age of 5, but didn’t know what they were until I got to my abnormal psych class, I really appreciate your advocacy efforts.

I also try to emphasize the positive nature of our systems trying to protect us. I use an asset based approach in my psychology philosophy and appreciate that you have done that here.

If it isn’t already out there, I think this would make a lovely illustrated children’s picture book!!!! Smoke alarms, barking dogs…

I would love to see the children’s book use the latest data to explain the biological nature of panic attacks, that it is not a weakness or primarily a learned behavior that is modeled, and how the neural pathways can “get stuck into a groove” so that with or without triggers it can happen. (though try explaining that to much of our population that has never seen a record. lol.

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heysigmund

Thank you! Have had a few people ask about a book so am working on that one. I agree that it’s helpful to understand the way our body works for us, not against us – it’s much more empowering isn’t it.

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Jeni

I’m so glad I stumbled across this article tonight. My daughter, 13, has suffered from anxiety for years and most recently, full blown panic attacks. It started out with her repeatedly asking me “what if” questions..”what if you’re not there to pick me up? What if I’m supposed to ride the bus?” are just a few examples that she would ask me every single day. It’s progressed into almost daily anxiety attacks that lead to headaches, feeling like she is going to pass out, numb extremities, and once, during a very intense attack, a tongue that was numb and caused her to speak with an impediment. She constantly tells me she cannot breath, is constantly clearing her throat, or making a coughing type noise that I believe is more of a nervous habit. Am I right? Do I ignore it, or make her aware? I’ve done both, and I’m not sure what is the correct response. I’m hoping to try the techniques you gave, but am unsure that she will be able to hear me or think clearly. Usually in the middle of an anxiety attack, she does not want to talk about anything because it “gives her more anxiety to talk about it.” What would you suggest in this case? My thoughts are that maybe I should read this article to her, and talk to her about all the specifics and how she can do these things, at a time when there is very low anxiety. Then, maybe when she is in the middle of a panic attack, I could just gently whisper a word, like “breath” or something that maybe she and I could agree upon to trigger her to start these steps. I don’t know, I’m just at a loss as to how best to help her. Hoping these things will give her some relief. Thank you so much!

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heysigmund

It’s really important to have the conversation with your daughter when she’s not in the midst of an anxiety attack. You can’t learn to swim in a stormy sea, so any of the explanation has to happen when she is calm. It’s also important to practice the skills outside an anxiety attack, so she’s ready and able when the anxiety comes. The mindfulness exercises will really help too, because her anxiety is from worrying about the future – mindfulness trains your brain to come back to the present. It may take but stick with it and it will make a difference. If you feel like her anxiety is really severe and getting in the way of her day to day life, counselling might also be an option. Thank you for making contact. I hope the information is able to help your daughter – I’m sure it will make a difference.

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Nadea

I know anxiety very well and have a 10year old daughter who has been struggling with anxiety since I can remember. I run daily and it is amazing what it does for anxiety. She has started to run / walk a bit as well and will now tell me when she feels the anxiety that she needs to go for a walk or run to feel better. During last year we also had a yoga teacher come to the house once a week to do half an hour of yoga with her teaching breathing etc. It has made a huge difference! Thank you for a wonderful article.

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heysigmund

It’s great that you’re doing this! Exercise is so important for mental health and the research on this just keeps coming. It makes a difference for anxiety because it’s the natural end to to the fight or flight response. The whole purpose of the fight or flight response is to get you ready to move (fight or flight) and when your daughter walks or runs, it’s physically reversing that response. I know for myself, if I don’t do something at least a few times a week, I really start to feel it. I know the physical benefits are wonderful but honestly, the main thing that gets me exercising (because honestly, it’s never my first option for something to do!) is because of what it does for my mood and my mental health. And yoga for deep breathing – perfect! I’m so pleased you enjoyed the article. Thank you for taking the time to share the information.

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janine

Thank you so much for this. I wish I had this a month ago. My five year old woke up one night with severe anxiety about foes. He could not stop shaking and was even shaking in his sleep when I went to lie down with him. It took us two weeks to convince him there wasn’t going to be a fire in our home. We showed him the fire alarm, set them off, lit candles which he insisted we turn off, explained how for men worked. We have finally gotten over the fires and now we are on to the 101 questions about earthquakes, which btw is my severe anxiety topic! I’ll definitely be using these tricks.

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. Oh your little man! He really things about thinks doesn’t he. Your response was perfect – whatever you can do to reassure him. I’m so pleased you found the information – I really think it will make a difference for him. Thank you for making contact.

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Krista

Thank you for explaining anxiety so easily for a child to understand. I read it directly to my 9 year old daughter who has been recently diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, and she seemed to finally understand some of the physical stress she has been feeling. I am baffled about her case though because it seems so different than the anxiety I keep reading and hearing about from most people. Her attacks happen without any warning and her entire body from the neck down starts twitching and jerking all over the place. She doesn’t have any control over it and the duration and frequency of the attacks happen without a common thread… at school, home, church, in the car. So far all of the tests done on her show she is physically well so doctors assume it is anxiety. She’s always been a self motivated, high achiever and wants to please everyone and just have everyone be happy. She loves going places, socializing, friends, laughing, being active, and having fun, but she has never showed obvious signs of increasing anxiety until October when her heart started pounding at random times. (I didn’t even imagine it was anxiety then. I thought she was having heart problems.) Then one day 4 weeks ago, BAM, she is having severe pain everywhere and her body is jerking and twitching . We have seen a psychiatrist and a psychologist a few times now and neither of them have given her any mental tools to help her through the attacks so far. We have been told that she just needs to sit with a good book and get through it on her own. Don’t give the attacks any attention. That’s a bit difficult when she can’t even hold the book!!!! Anyway, I could go on and on, but we are so confused and are reaching out to any and everyone about any thoughts or ideas. She tried working through her attack today with exercise to burn off “the fuel”. She said she liked it much better than just sitting and waiting it out. It’s just a bit tricky when she is at school and is doing anything she can to work up a sweat in a small room. My heart aches sending her to school to do this on her own. We are still constantly searching for new ways, ideas, doctors to help her. Thanks so much for you insight and all of the comments!

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heysigmund

I’m so sorry to hear that your daughter is going through this. It’s great that you’ve ruled out anything physical – that’s important. So – if doctors have confirmed to be anxiety and not anything else, let’s go with that, because it does sound like an anxious response. The thing about anxiety is that you don’t have any control over the duration or the timing – it just happens and that can be one of he most distressing things about it. A lot of people who have anxiety are high achievers and care about what other people are thinking and feeling – hey really care about putting the best of themselves forward. Physical activity is the natural end to the fight or flight response, so sitting down (if that can be avoided) isn’t the best way to go. It just means that the adrenaline and cortisol build up and have nowhere to go. The problem is that exercising isn’t always an option. There is where the breathing comes in. Deep breathing reverses the physical changes that happen in response to the fight or flight response being triggered – there’s a physical basis to why it works. It takes practice to be able to do this when you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack. Because of this, it’s important to practice during calm times, so it’s there when your daughter needs it. It’s like any skill – it takes time and practice to master. If psychologists, psychiatrists and doctors have ruled out any other physical cause for the jerking and twitching and are suggesting it’s anxiety, it may be that the surge of cortisol through her body is an intense one. If your daughter can do some sort of regular exercise, that would be great. There’s so much research that confirms the benefit of exercise for anxiety (and mental health generally). Also, practice the breathing so she can use that at school to reverse the fight or flight response. I’m so pleased you explained the physical basis to her. I hope this helps and that your daughter is able to find some relief soon. You’re doing all the right things.

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Karen Sass

An absolute great tool for managing anxiety is by tapping on a few accupressure points, as illustrated here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1efrIBI9BY.

Another video clip on tapping shows that we are programmed to self-soothe when stressed, so with tapping we stimulate those self-soothing points (‘magic buttons’) on purpose for relief: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ml54upTRz74.

Kids learn this valuable life skill easily. When used as a therapeutic tool, certain words and reframes are used. However, by just tapping (or rubbing) on the pressure points around the face, body and/or hands while taking deep breaths, anxiety is quickly relieved – and this empowers the child to be in control and take responsibility for managing their own stress. Highly recommended.

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Claire

Great article. My 10 year old son suffers from anxiety and has done for about 18 months.
He is getting a lot better now after some CBT and when that wasn’t helping that much, a couple of sessions of hypnotherapy, which is doing the trick. Even he says ‘I don’t feel so anxious anymore’, and it’s really obvious to me. I am also trying to be much gentler with him re discipline (I see you are going to post an article soon on this). Not let him get away with stuff, just explain why I want him to do x, y or z or (not) and we usually come to a compromise (or I give him a 5 minute warning to come off screen).

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heysigmund

You’re doing a great job. I will be posting an article soon on disciplining an anxious child so stay tuned! I’m so pleased to hear that your son is a lot better now. Thank you for taking the time to share your story.

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Kirsty

This is a breath of fresh air! To finally read an article written by someone who knows what they’re talking about is wonderful! I suffered with severe anxiety from the age of 11/12 after starting high school. It was that bad that I was unable to attend school and therefore never recieved a proper education or any GCSE’s. I used to see a psychologist and an educational welfare officer who were all great but I felt no one ever really understood. At the start the school nurse was put in charge of me and I can still remember her physically dragging me to school! Which obviously only made the anxiety worse! The psychologist etc named it school phobia. I can remember trying to explain to people that I had ‘school phobia’ when asked why I wasn’t at school, and always used to get the reply ‘you mean it skiving!’. I used to find this so frustrating! I felt like saying to them ‘I haven’t chose to be this way! As if I would choose to have no education and no friends!’ They had no idea how awful the anxiety attacks felt! If they did they would never say such things. But then I guess that’s not they’re fault as it is hard to understand, which is why I’m so glad that people are becoming more aware of it. I am 27 now with a job and 2 beautiful children. I have been able to achieve my hairdressing qualifications and have recently been working towards an English and maths qualification, something I was told I would never achieve when I was at high school! I’d like to say the anxiety attacks are a distant memory now but they do sometimes still rear their ugly head but I have learnt to control them over the years and sometimes they are a reminder of how far I’ve actually come regardless of them! So I’d like to say thankyou for understanding and for offering some excellent advice to others who may be experiencing the same thing! Xxx

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heysigmund

How awful the way you were treated! Thankfully we’ve come a bit of a way since then but we still have a bit of a way to go with making sure anxiety is always treated as it is. You’ve done so well and you have so much insight into anxiety. Your story will give hope to so many people that you can come out through the other side of anxiety and flourish, as you have. Thank you for sharing your story.

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Cindy

Thank you for the article. My 16 year old has ADD and suffers from anxiety often. It is sometimes hard to explain or discuss with her because so many times as a parent, your first instinct is to tell them, its not that serious you will be fine.
Thank for your insight and helpful hints, I will be trying this approach starting today. Hopefully it will work as you say and help her feel more normal about her feeling.s

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heysigmund

You’re welcome! Absolutely – I know what you mean about that first instinct. The thing is, there would be situations (that don’t involve anxiety) where saying ‘you’ll be fine’ would be the right thing to say. That’s the thing about being a parent – it’s never black and white! I’m so pleased you’re trying it with your daughter. I hope she is able to find some comfort. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

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Alan

My son suffers from anxiety and this article will really help. I think its also important to recognise if there is a cause such as the way we parent, arguing in front of our children, and other factors like divorce and bullying at school.

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heysigmund

Absolutely. Well said. Sometimes the fight or flight response is responding to something real and things need to be done to minimise the effect of those things on our kids. Some things are unavoidable, like divorce, but even within those things, steps can be taken to minimise the impact. Thank you for sharing this. I hope your son is able to find some relief.

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Linda

Great article, we’re just on the other side of dealing with separation anxiety with my 10 year old, been going on over a year but thankfully soo much better. Always mindful that it can start again and great to read over the tips.

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heysigmund

Separation anxiety can be so awful for kids. It’s great to hear that you’re through it. Thank you for sharing that – it will help a lot of people to hear from someone who’s been there and got through.

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Beckie

Thank you for sharing this. :o)

We are now on the other side of a 3 year struggle with our little girl who showed serious signs of anxiety at the age of 4 until last summer when she turned 7. We practiced a lot of the techniques you list here.

We also found a book, which was an amazing resource for our whole family, that I highly recommend to anyone who needs it called “What to do when you worry too much” it’s a kids workbook that you can go though as a family, I believe amazon stocks it.

We had counselling and all kinds of intervention through the school but at the end of the day, it was hard work on our part as a family that finally gave us all the confidence we needed to understand and work through. I’m sure that we’ll need to practice these methods in the future, but for now, we have a confident happy girl (and mummy) who can tell the signs of anxiety and know how to calm them. :O)

I hope this article helps many others who need it.

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heysigmund

Thank you for sharing this! It’s great that people – like you – are also sharing other things that have worked. There’s no one size fits all with anxiety and the more information we can have about things that have helped, the more things people can try with their own kids. Great to hear your through the struggle yourself.

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Dona

Having dealt with anxiety since childhood myself, I deeply appreciate your insight in this article. As a professional I’ve worked with children, families and teachers to help them support the development of coping strategies (such as “square breathing” ; – > ). My concern is the number of children I feel are misdiagnosed as ADD/ADHD and medicated with stimulants. What are your thoughts on this?

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heysigmund

Oh I couldn’t agree more! ADHD is one of the most over diagnosed disorders because the symptoms can look like other disorders but there hasn’t been any definitive way to diagnose ADHD. There is some new research that has found ADHD can be diagnosed with eye tracking. It’s a foolproof way to diagnose because it uses physical markers, not subjective ones. This would completely put an end to misdiagnosis. Would be fascinating to see how the rates of ADHD drop. I’ll publish the article this week. It’s a promising one.

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Nibbles

I don’t understand why you would tell your child that what is happening to them is normal when it is occuring because of an abnormal brain response. I’ts always been much more helpful for me to KNOW that it is not normal and that it WILL pass, and I will feel better in a little while. I don’t think its helpful to ignore that something is medically wrong/abnormal about that brain response. Sure everyone gets anxious from one time to another, but normally with some kind of explaination; and not normally to the debilitating extent a person with a ligitimate diagnosed anziety disorder might be experianing. It have a hard time believing that pretending there is no problem would help anyone.

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heysigmund

The fight or flight response is a very normal response. In the same way that some people are more sensitive to bruising, some people are more sensitive to the fight or flight response being activated. But that doesn’t mean that the bruising is an abnormal response to being knocked by something. What happens with anxiety is that you become ‘anxious about being anxious’, which means the fight or flight is triggered by the anticipation of being anxious. The anticipation of anxiety is real and the way the brain responds to that is normal. That’s the explanation. Nobody is suggesting anyone is pretending there is no problem. Ask anyone with anxiety and they’ll tell you what a problem it is. Same with anyone who loves someone with anxiety. Understanding why the brain reacts as it does is very empowering and can help with the anxiety about being anxious. If it helps you to think of it as something that’s not normal, then I wouldn’t discourage that for you at all. Whatever works for you. I hope this helps you understand a bit better. I’m grateful to you for taking the time to comment. If you’re wondering this, other people might be wondering the same thing. Anything that gets us talking about it is a good thing.

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Heather

Hello! Great article. I have daughters who all have levels of anxiety. My 9 year old, however, has some severe eating anxieties and all the tools I have learned from my other daughters are not working. Do you have any articles on how to deal with eating anxieties? Its getting to a point where her nutrition is affecting her health. Thanks!

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heysigmund

I don’t have any articles just about eating anxieties. Is it more like a phobia? An aversion to food? Or a fear of swallowing? Without knowing all the details, it sounds like something that might respond really well to counselling. A counsellor would be able to identify what’s behind your daughter’s anxiety around food and respond to that. It sounds like it’s irrational but in her mind, there’s a really good reason. It’s just that we don’t understand what that reason is. Your daughter might not either – and that’s okay. They can still work with it. A counsellor will work to replace her bad feelings around food with good ones. They’ll do it slowly and systematically. It’s a process called systematic desensitisation and it’s incredibly effective. I hope this helps.

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Meaghan

Thank you so much for this article – I have 4 daughters – the eldest 2 are at school and although they have very different personalities they both have experienced anxiety for different reasons. This was a fabulous explanation that suited both of them.

But…more importantly I recognised the symptoms in me. I never would have suggested that I was an anxious person but clearly I have areas that I can benefit from the breathing too.

Knowledge is power and our family is that little more powerful now…..thank you again for sharing such wonderful knowledge x x

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Michelle

Thank you so much for the article. Any specific tips or strategies if the anxiety is the fear of a wild dog or any dog!? My 9 yr old daughter is terrified of dogs without having any bad experiences with dogs. She ran across a busy road on Halloween due to a panic attack after seeing a dog off a lead. She has also started getting anxiety about the thought of going to friends or relatives places that she knows have a dog. Would love any suggestions as feel she is missing out in her life due to her anxiety.

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heysigmund

Oh no! I’ve had a few people ask specifically about phobias. There are quite a few things you can do and phobias do respond really well. I’m going to write a post in the next couple of weeks about it. Can you leave it with me? Teach her the fight or flight information because it’s being triggered with full force when your daughter sees a dog. Your daughter is now associating dogs with that panic feeling and it’s happening automatically. She sees a dog and immediately anticipates the awful physical feelings that come with anxiety. Explain the process that’s in the article so she can separate. It’s not the dogs that causes those feelings it’s the fight or flight response, but it’s ‘tricking’ (that’s probably not the right word but I’m at a loss for another one at the moment but do you get the idea) her into thinking it’s about dogs. Pull it apart for her – I think that will help and hang tight for the post. That will have more things you can do. Hope that helps.

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Michelle

Thanks so much. Makes total sense and will try that. Really looking forward to that next post!

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Raquel

My 3 year old toddler has had a rough year or so. He went from being a happy 1 year old who would leave our church pew to go up through the aisle stopping to hug the ladies at each pew to a 2/3 year old who started thumb sucking, who doesn’t like to be looked at or spoken to if not in the right mood, called the wrong adjective (cute instead of awesome), screams all the time at small stuff and, worst of all, has a terrible time falling asleep and staying asleep unless he is snuggling with another human. He is petrified of sleeping alone. If he wakes up due to bathroom urges, he screams bloody murder and will run all the way down the stairs to get to me while trying not to pee his pants. Because he is a toddler, it is hard to know how much of his behavior is toddler behavior that needs discipline vs anxiety that needs understanding like you wrote about. I’m sure that it dIwant help to I had baby sis when he was only 18 mo old ( though he was happy and fine til perhaps 2 1/2) and the fact that his 8 year old brother has some kind of Intermittent Explosive Disorder and I have been under lots of stress because of it. I would love to read your article specifically for little ones. I have not taken him to therapy yet, but am strongly considering it, even though it is all out of pocket for us. Thanks for your insights and for a place for others to comment and share experiences.

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heysigmund

Your little man sounds like he is having a hard time of it. It’s so hard when you know they’re struggling with something isn’t it. I’m certainly working on the post for dealing with anxiety in very young people and I’m also working on one about sleep and nightmares and pulling together some things to do backed with really interesting research. Should have them in the next couple of weeks or so. I love that other people are commenting and sharing their experiences. It’s been unexpected and wonderful and important. Thanks for sharing you story. I really hope I can come up with something that will help you.

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Zoey

I’m twenty years old and have been dealing with anxiety (night terrors, panic attacks) since I was five years old. This article, though for kids, has really helped me in reading it. My niece is starting to tell me things that sound terrifyingly familiar. I will share this with her, and maybe she won’t feel the way I have for so long. Thank you for posting in such an easy to understand way.

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome. There have been a huge number of adults who have used this article to understand their own anxiety – which is wonderful. Anxiety is such a complex thing, but it doesn’t have to be explained in a complex way. When people have the right information, they do amazing things with it. It’s wonderful that you want to share this with your niece. You will have great insight that will help her because of your own experience with anxiety. She’s lucky to have you.

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Victoria

Hi, thank you for so many fantastic tips. My son is 6 and ever since I discovered and started following the career path in Psychology, focusing on emotional intelligence in particular, I have been applying my knowledge in practice. I strongly believe that EI should be taught at schools to prepare children for an adequate interpretation of the rapidly developing multitasking and technology driven contemporary society. There can’t be a successful managing of any stimulus without sound understanding of its origins. By teaching and encouraging children to recognise, understand and manage their basic emotions we help to develop and strengthen their inner stamina and resilience for understanding, adequate interpretation and application of more complex emotional states.

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heysigmund

You’re welcome! I so agree with you. Very insightful. Emotional intelligence is key to everything. The more we are able to understand why we do what we do, the more we are able to manage the response. I think the schools are starting to jump on board and some have implemented programs to this end. Anything they can do to teach emotional intelligence is great news for our kids. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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Amy Aubertine

By far, the best article I have read on Childhood Anxiety. My 9 year old struggles daily with anxiety (precipitated by the tragic deaths of her grandparents in a fire three years ago). Our family struggles with how to react. It’s exhausting. It’s heartbreaking. It’s numbing. It’s overwhelming. But we are learning. Together. Some days are great. Others are terrible. We lose our cool. We get caught up in the heat of the moment. But we ultimately LOVE. We rejoice in the nights where we all sleep without incident. We rejoice in her personal victories. We are thankful for support from a wonderful therapist and our families. This article reinforced those points and more. I love the language used. My daughter is extremely bright and wants to know WHY she is like this. WHY her body reacts “like crazy”. HOW she can get better. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. This is such a beautiful articulation of what it’s like when someone you love has anxiety. Thank you for taking the time to share this. Your daughter is in such good hands and she will get through this. I’m so pleased you found the information for her.

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Kari

Thank you for such a clear explanation of anxiety for parents to use with their children. My son, who I later realized had been suffering with anxiety for years, began having panic attacks as a teen. He had anxiety and mild OCD. We tried methods such as these, then cognitive behavioral therapy with a psychiatrist, and finally a low dose of meds. After getting restabilized, he is now off meds and doing great away at college. It’s a scary thing for a parent to watch, and I know how helpless I felt at times, but just being there for your child and continuing to look for solutions (one size never fits all) does work.

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heysigmund

It’s great that your son has found his way through. Sounds like it was tough for a while. It’s awful isn’t it when you’re watching them go through it and feeling like there’s nothing you can do to help them. Your story will give hope to people who are in the midst of the struggle. You’re right – all you can do is keep being their greatest fan, be open to anything that might work and love them – and the kids that have been talked about in these comments are SO loved – that comes through loud and clear!

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Amy Cohn

Fantastic ideas.
My now 9 1/2 year old has been sleeping in our bedroom for about 2 years.
She has anxiety and has lots if trouble falling asleep.
Can you recommend ideas for getting kids to sleep in their own beds and on time?

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heysigmund

Yes! A few people have asked about sleeping issues and I’m writing a post on that one. Stay tuned. (Or, if you want to make sure you don’t miss a post, the newsletter is the way to go – if you haven’t already. The sign-up is on the home page.) Let’s see if we can help you out with this.

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heysigmund

You may need to simplify it a little but give it a go. Otherwise, I’m writing a post for dealing with anxiety in much younger kids which I hope to have up soon. Let’s see what we can do.

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CanadianMom

I wish this had been around when I was a kid. I had huge struggles with anxiety and even now as an adult it is a battle, but at least I understand it now. I see my 5 year old struggle with anxiety and it is helpful not only to draw from my own experiences but to see it laid out so neatly. Thank you for taking the time to write this and share, especially about how to put it into language our kids can understand. So helpful!

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased this information found its way to you – for you and your daughter. The insight you have from dealing with anxiety yourself will be an enormous help for your her!

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Kathy

Reading through the comments, almost all of them regard young women and girls. Are girls more prone to overactive warrior brains or just more apt to express and demonstrate anxiety?

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heysigmund

That’s a very good question. Anxiety is certainly more common in girls than boys, so in that sense, girls are more prone to overactive warrior brains. I would also say that anxiety is such a primitive response and so good at its job of flight or fight that a brain in fight or flight makes sure its expressed no matter what. Hope that helps.

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Heather

Thank you for this easy-to-relay information. My daughter always feels better when she understands the how and why of something. Learning the science behind her anxiety will help her feel more in control of it and better able to manage it.

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Heather

This article is a beautiful gift! It is giving me so much insight and hope in a time when I feel so helpless. My heart is breaking for my son. He is 14 and has been diagnosed with Anxiety, Depression, and OCD. He is self harming to deal with his anxiety. He has been on home bound schooling for the last 5 months. School is one of his triggers due to bullying. He has been doing weekly counseling for the last 6 months and is on medication.
I want to mention genetic testing we did. It is called Gene Sight Testing. It was done at his pediatrician ‘ s office. They swabbed his cheek, sent it to Mayo Clinic and in 4 days we received the results. It was covered by our insurance company. The results tell us what medications he can or cannot take according to his genes so there was no guess work in picking the medication best for him. It turns out his body does not metabolize SSRI’S, so he is taking an SSNI. While the medication has helped him, there are no magic beans (unfortunately) and he is learning to use “tools” he has learned in counseling. This has been challenging for him since he has to remember to use the tools right in the thick of his inevitable panic attack. I cannot wait to share this information with him. I was wondering if you had any information or articles on OCD. We are discovering that the OCD is the driving force with everything he has going on. While I know much about depression and anxiety because I also live with both, I know nothing about OCD except what I see in my son and what I’ve read about.
Reading the comments has been so helpful. Thank you to all of you brave, warrior parents who are fighting and advocating for your children. You are an inspiration and I will think of you all when I feel like I’m not doing a good job in helping him or when I feel helpless.
Thank you again for this article and for the very helpful links you have posted in the comments.

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heysigmund

Great info. Thank you for sharing this! I’m so sorry that your son is going through what he’s going through. My heart goes out to you both. You sound like wonderful support for him. Here is a link to some information about OCD http://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety/types-of-anxiety/ocd . It’s from Beyond Blue, a great organisation who know what they’re talking about. There’s a downloadable fact sheet there too. Your message to other ‘warrior parents’ (love that!) is so beautifully articulated. Thank you for sharing your story – I know it will help many.

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ABee

Thank you so much for putting this out there! I struggled with anxiety my whole life, and now I see my eight-year-old daughter starting to show signs of it. I’ve already taught her the techniques that my parents and my therapist taught me: like avoiding triggers (medical shows, scary movies) and getting my mind off it by being productive, reading, just tuning my mind to other things. I’ll definitely start using these. I also want to share something my therapist said one time that’s helped me a lot. He told me to remember that some anxiety and worry is good. He started asking me about my life and times when I was maybe more responsible and careful than other people. Wow, that statement really spoke to me! I was the only teenager I knew who always made sure my friends wore seatbelts. I was a teacher when I graduated from college, and I had a few experiences where I caught a child falling off playground equipment outside, but no one else had seen it. I always send emails, make phone calls, check up on everyone. It can be a blessing if you don’t let it get out of control.

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heysigmund

Wow this is great wisdom! Your therapist was absolutely right. Thank you so much for sharing this. I expect it will also speak to other people. The insight you’ve gained from your own experience of anxiety will be so helpful for your daughter and anyone whose life you touch.

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Meg

This article is very helpful. My six-year-old son has dyslexia and ADHD. He wants very much to excel but is incredibly anxious about not keeping up with his peers and has very low self esteem. His ADHD is largely characterized by a lack of impulse control: specifically, he responds to his perceived threats by strongly exhibiting the “fight” response. He goes from quiet to full emotional meltdown/lashing out in what feels like an instance. We have ways of helping him cope at home, but we have a harder time helping him outside of home… He can’t stand breathing techniques (which his therapist has tried to employ in CBT), but I do think that speaking to him about what is going on his brain (amygdala) might help. He is an analytical thinker and he might respond to this. But what to do with a kid who does not respond to relaxation/breathing techniques?

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heysigmund

Breathing is so important in reversing the symptoms, but doing it properly does take practice because it’s not easy. It’s why it’s so important that we give kids the opportunity to understand why its important. Understandably, if they don’t understand why it’s important, it’s difficult to see the point of it. Can you try it with him before bed when he’s on his way to relaxing? If nothing else, it’s nice time with you so that might also be a hook. That way, he’s already relaxed and it will be easier. It may be harder than you realise for him to do, particularly during the day when he’s already ‘on’. If he’s an analytical thinker, I think the explanation would really help and would be really important. Tell him about the science and why he needs to help his body get itself back on track. I hope he’s able to find some relief.

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Rebecca Adams

My 6 year old suffers from terrible anxiety. He is incredibly articulate and imaginative, and we think, autistic (he is going through the assessment process). I have been looking for ways to deal wolith his anxiety but none so far have been right for him.
This method though may work as he is a facts person, and likes to know how things work. So I’m going to give it a try when he has his next episode.
Thank you do much for posting this. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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AGraham

Thank you for posting. My son had severe anxiety starting just at the end of 4th grade. So bad that he dissociated twice. It was a terrible two years. But he came through it with the help of an awesome therapist ( finding one was a feat in and if itself), fantastic home education program ( he’s back in school) and gigantic enormous amounts of patience and love from family and his loyal circle of friends.Anxiety runs in our family on one side. I have it and so was able to understand the difference between feeling a little anxious/stressed and full blown panic. I want to commend normalizing anxiety but if it’s severe it’s not what everyone experiences. It brings grown men to their knees. It is beyond fear. I think it’s important to acknowledge that in some way as well and hold it in your mind and heart when your child is afraid/panicked. That fighting it doesn’t work it actually makes it worse. Anyway thank you again for posting. I know that going through this with a child can be isolating and bewildering. I’m glad that at least people can comment and share. Sending out a huge virtual hug to every parent ( and child) going through this.

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heysigmund

Thank you for taking the time to share your insight. I know this will help many people who read your message. The way people (like you!) have been sharing their wisdom and experience of anxiety has been completely unexpected. People are incredible. Going through something like this can feel so lonely. Your words of support are so important. Thank you!

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Danielle, mummy of four

Hi I am worried about my 10 year old daughter. She has lots on her mind at the moment. She starts to cry when she worries about it all. I try and calm her by saying it’s ok, try not to think so much into it all but it doesn’t really work. We end up just sitting down and cuddling for a good 30 to 40 mins. She has a lot going on. She is really scared of doing solo ballet routines, changing school, taking her 11+ exam in September, losing her current friends etc!!

What can I do to help her??
Thank you xx

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heysigmund

Oh no! Your daughter has so much going on at the moment. Talk to your daughter about the information in the article so she can understand what’s happening when she has an anxiety attack. Try the techniques – they really work. Anxiety responds very well to counselling, so that’s always an option.If you feel like You’re a great support for your daughter and anything you can do to minimise the demands on your daughter will be good for her. If you have a look under the ‘Being Human’ tab, then under ‘Anxiety,’ you might find further information to help you. My best wishes for you and your daughter – it’s not easy for either of you at the moment.

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Cat Gaweda

Found this article very helpful. My daughter is nine and has anxiety/panic attacks. Her dad died suddenly from a bowed in his brain two years ago. She has attachment and anger issues probably or linked with her bereavement. I could tick all the symptoms off from your list but I just wondered is anger ever part of normal anxiety as well or is this more linked with her grief and need for control. Thanks for your help.

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heysigmund

Part of the anxiety response is fight (as in fight or flight) so it’s not really surprising that research has found an association between generalised anxiety disorder, worry and anger. It also found that hostility and internalised anger contributes to the severity of symptoms. Having said all of that, anger is a secondary emotion, which means it never exists as pure anger – there is always another emotion underneath it. Some common ones are grief, fear, insecurity – but the truth is that it could be covering anything. Your daughter has been through a major trauma in losing her dad, so it would not be at all surprising if her anger was something she uses to push down her grief to control it and keep it from ‘consuming’ her. If she lost her dad suddenly, it’s very real that she may also be scared of suddenly losing you too. It’s difficult to know without talking to her. If this has been something that has been ongoing since the death of her dad, counselling might be a consideration – they’ll be able find out what’s going on. This isn’t an easy time for you but it sounds like you are doing everything you need to be doing. My best wishes for you and your daughter.

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Dawn

Great article. However, if anyone’s child (or themselves) have big problems with these effects of anxiety and cannot turn them off easily, look into overactive autonomic nervous system. Some people do not have the ability to turn off the “fight or flight” symptoms easily. There are supplements (such as True Calm, magnesium, and zinc) as well as foods (eggs, almonds, and more) that help a lot in controlling it. My husband had this even as a child, but no one knew what those symptoms meant. It took our being married for nearly 12 years before I stumbled scross it. It was a life-changer for him. I see symptoms in my 13-year-old already. I like that this article says to not dismiss it….it is a very real physical issue for some people.

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Dawn

The description of the physical things going on is awesome….one of the best I have ever seen. Our starting to understand how stress affects my husband’s body has helped a lot. His symptoms are very much like what you described. I am so glad you put this out there, b/c I think diminishing how people feel makes this worse….I did it for years before I understood. 🙁

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased this has been able to help you! You’re so right when you say that diminishing people makes things worse. Great to hear that you’re kinder to yourself now – it’s what you deserve!

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heysigmund

Thank you! And thank you for sharing your experiences of what’s worked. It’s good to be open to anything that might work.

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Aimee R

Thanks for sharing these words of wisdom! I will definitely be trying some of these strategies with my daughter who is 11 and has been struggling with anxiety since she was about 7. It has affected her academics in school, her daily activities and her general happiness! It’s comforting to get any useful information. I especially worry about her going into puberty and all the hormonal and other body changes she will face. I will be checking out your website for more articles and will also be sharing this with her teacher and my teacher colleagues for students with anxiety. Thanks again!

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heysigmund

You’re welcome! I’m so pleased the information has ended up in your hands. I hope it is able to bring comfort to your daughter. It can be a trying age for them but she has you and you sound like a wonderful support for her. Thank you for sharing the information. Teachers can make such an huge difference.

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Whitney

Thank you for this article. As an early teen up to my early 20s (I’m mid 20s now). I suffered from anxiety and still occasionally do, but not often. Anxiety is scary, esp when you don’t know why or how to make it go away. What helped me was my mom telling me she had the same kind of attacks I did, and she had to go to the Dr b/c she didn’t know what it was and it hurt to breathe. She was told it was anxiety. So when I had the same attacks she told me it wad anxiety and that is eventually out grow them. I did. And unless im under great stress I’m good.

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heysigmund

You’re welcome. You’re so right – anxiety can be terrifying when you don’t know where it’s coming from. Your mum is a very wise woman! She obviously has invaluable insight from her own experience with anxiety. You will also have that same wonderful insight and because of that you will enormous capacity to help people who are going through what you went through as a teen. I’m so pleased you have come through your anxiety. Thank you for sharing your story.

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sam

my 11yrs old son always have this problem. he mostly complaining stomach pain, nausea.
can u suggest something for him

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heysigmund

Provided doctors have ruled out any other possible physical causes, I would suggest the techniques and the explanation provided in the article. It will help ease his anxiety about getting anxious and the physical symptoms that come from that. Otherwise, a counsellor may be able to help your son find the relief he needs.

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Paul

Tens of thousands of articles shared by my friends have appeared on my FB wall over the years and remain resolutely unclicked, but something about the headline of this one made me reach for the button. And I’m so glad I did – being the Dad of two little worriers I now feel I have a resource bookmarked that can point me in the right direction if and when I need it. Thankyou for the insight and wisdom of these pages.

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Mandy

Got sent this link from a friend as my 16 year old daughter has suffered for a year and is on antidepressants. It’s horrible for her, but also me. Not sure what I’m doing and if I’m saying the right thing? Your article makes good sense and tomorrow when I get home, I will get my daughter to read it. Also my elder daughter, it may help her to understand a little more!
Thank you, and we all continue the fight for our little ( and not so little!) ones!!!

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heysigmund

You’re welcome. We’ll never stop fighting for them will we – and your daughter is lucky to have you fighting for her. Here is a link to an article, ‘What to Say (And Not To Say) To Someone Who’s Depressed’. http://www.heysigmund.com/what-to-say-and-not-to-say-to-someone-whos-depressed/ – It’s so hard to know what to say to someone who’s struggling – I so get that! – and this might give you a few ideas. I’m so please your friend shared this with you, and I’m so pleased your sharing it with your daughter. I think it will really help her make sense of things. Thank you for taking the time to let me know.

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Jenny

hi,
My son is 10 he has been complaining of stomach problems for the last 2 years- as I am in the medical field I ruled out all the physical things and I have had both my psychologist and his tell me is anxiety but I’m worried about getting it wrong- what about all the naturopathy thoughts re diet and gluten and dairy! When he gets pain it’s so real- he curls up in a ball crying – he is obsessed with the need to do a poo and sometimes he does have very loose stools! What if I miss something and he has problems in the future!
An anxious parent!!!

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heysigmund

You are doing a wonderful job. It’s important that physical causes are ruled out and it’s great that you’ve done that. You have mentioned possible dietary influences – have you spoken to a doctor about the possibility of this? If two psychologists have said it is anxiety then his symptoms can certainly be understood in the context of anxiety. People poo when they get anxious because it’s the body’s way of ‘lightening the load’. If the body is preparing itself for fight or flight, it wants to get rid what it doesn’t need so it’s better equipped for physical action. Poo or wee is just added weight that the body doesn’t need.

As for missing something – you can’t possibly know everything. Nobody can. Goodness I’ve missed so many things with my own kids – some of them bigger than others, but kids are more resilient and capable than we often give them credit for. I’m sure there are things I’ve missed that I don’t even know about yet. Actually I know there will be. One of the best things we can give to our kids is confidence in their capacity to cope. Having them hear from us ‘I know you’ll be fine’ (even if inside we’re sick with worry!) will strengthen them so much more than ‘what if’. You’re doing a great job! Can you try something? Can you try spending a day acting as though you really believe this (I really believe you are, by the way!) and see what happens? I’d love to hear what happens when you do.

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Cat Gaweda

Have found this article very helpful so that my nine year old can understand why her body does what it does when she is anxious.
She has had many anxiety and panic attack meltdowns since the sudden loss of her dad two years ago.
I would be really interested to know if anger and need to control the situation are also often seen with anxiety or if these are more likely due to her bereavement process. Thanks for your help.

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heysigmund

Hi Cat, Not sure if you got my earlier response but here it is just in case … ‘Part of the anxiety response is fight (as in fight or flight) so it’s not really surprising that research has found an association between generalised anxiety disorder, worry and anger. It also found that hostility and internalised anger contributes to the severity of symptoms. Having said all of that, anger is a secondary emotion, which means it never exists as pure anger – there is always another emotion underneath it. Some common ones are grief, fear, insecurity – but the truth is that it could be covering anything. Your daughter has been through a major trauma in losing her dad, so it would not be at all surprising if her anger was something she uses to push down her grief to control it and keep it from ‘consuming’ her. If she lost her dad suddenly, it’s very real that she may also be scared of suddenly losing you too. It’s difficult to know without talking to her. If this has been something that has been ongoing since the death of her dad, counselling might be a consideration – they’ll be able find out what’s going on. This isn’t an easy time for you but it sounds like you are doing everything you need to be doing.’ … But I do want to add something else …

Anger is certainly one of the stages of the grief cycle and that cycle is certainly not a neat, linear one. People’s experiences of different stages will be different, their timing will be different and they’ll move back and forth through different stages. When someone you love dies, it can feel like nothing makes sense. There’s a nothingness and a hollowness and a powerlessness there that feels endless. It can feel like a complete disconnection from everything. Anger is a way of anchoring the turmoil you feel inside in such a way as to make it make sense. With anger, there is someone to be angry at – it doesn’t even need to make sense – she can be angry at you for asking her to clean her room, the world because it doesn’t understand, other kids because they still have their dads, a teacher who asks her to do homework. It lets her define what she’s feeling and gives it a context: ‘I’m angry because …’ The emotions that are underneath anger can be scary – terrifying – because they feel limitless – sadness about her dad dying, the missing of him. It can feel like there will be no way to put a lid on these emotions once they start. How do people deal with that when it feels so big? They find something else that isn’t. People get to the other emotions eventually. The human mind has all sorts of ways of holding you safe until it’s ready to deal with something. Anger is one way. It’s easier for your daughter to be angrier at you because you asked her to clean her room, say, than it is to deal with the sadness and loss she feels around losing her dad. She will get there eventually but if she’s stuck in this part of the cycle, a counsellor can help with that and I would highly recommend it. It would also be playing its part, I expect, in her anxiety. All that emotion pushes for expression and it has to come out somehow. I hope this makes sense. My best wishes for you and your daughter.

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Johnna

thank you so much for this article. My daughter suffers from this an it was so great for her to read this article. I can’t thank you enough for giving this a name for her and letting her know she isn’t the only one.

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heysigmund

You’re welcome! Your daughter certainly isn’t the only one. I’ve been amazed at the response to this article which just goes to show how many people are struggling with anxiety. I’m so pleased it has helped your daughter. Thank you for letting me know.

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Dacid

Graat artical.
I suffered from anxiety for years & was astonished when I discovered it was linked to my diet.
I visited a nutritionist 12 years ago who pointed out changes in my diet and I haven’t had a bit of anxiety since.
Since then I track my own daughters moods and behaviour and how they are linked to her diet and have been amazed at how what we eat impacts on how we feel, act and think.

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heysigmund

Thank you for sharing this. I think it’s really important to be open to anything that might work. Thank you for taking the time to respond – I’m sure it will help other people.

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Gillian

My 8 year old son has a major fear of balloons and loud bangs,the older he gets he’s fear is getting worse that much so that I’ve had to leave family occasions with him if there is other kids bursting balloons,he goes hysterical,how can I help him cope with this fear,thanks

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heysigmund

You’re son wouldn’t be alone there. So many kids are scared of loud noises and most kids ‘grow out of’ their phobias in time. I will be doing a post on dealing with phobias in children, so stay tuned for that. It’s possible that the sudden loud noise is triggering his fight or flight response and initiating that awful feeling that comes during an anxiety attack. Explain to him what’s happening in his body when there is a loud noise and how he can reverse this feeling quite quickly by breathing. You will have to practice the breathing when he’s not in the middle of a fight or flight response though so he can access it easier when he needs it. Try it every night before bed. There is a process called systematic desensitisation that is very effective for phobias. It involves being exposed to the scary things little bit by little bit and slowly working up to the actual feared object. A counsellor can help with that. I hope your son is able to find some relief soon.

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Nicole Wilkinson

Thank you for this article! I grew up with severe anxiety and now I see my daughter struggling with some of the same issues and don’t have a clue how to help her. Your advice is going to help us both!

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heysigmund

You’re welcome. You feel so helpless don’t you when someone you love is struggling through anxiety. I’m so pleased the information is going to help you both. Thank you for letting me know.

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Amy Lynn

I have read tons of articles, researching every possible solution and I have never read anything so clear! This really makes sense! I grew up as the oldest daughter of three. As long as I can remember, both of my sisters have had generalized anxiety. It was always a huge struggle as a child to understand why our plans always had to change or why they came first. I always said I am never going to have a child with anxiety (I guess I thought I could control that! Ha!) well, out of me and my sisters…you guessed it…I am the one that had a child with anxiety. The first time it appeared and I mean with a bang was when she entered first grade. It was horrible. It started with her chasing me back to the car, then refusing to eat/drink anything before checking the date…even bottled water, to making up crazy scenarios in her head like swallowing flies and them living in her belly! It has been a crazy roller coaster but now that she has reached puberty at thirteen, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. I can honestly say that I have not seen one bit of anxiety in over a year with no meds. Even though she has gotten much better, I never really understood how to break it down and explain what was happening to her! This article is amazing and a huge eye opener! I wish I could have read it 6 years ago! I could have saved a lot of money from going to psychiatrists and therapists! Thank you so much for sharing! Now I know exactly how to approach this if it ever shows it’s face again!!!!

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heysigmund

You’re welcome. Life’s funny like that isn’t it – you can put in your order but it doesn’t always listen! What wonderful insight you would have had about anxiety, growing up with it in your family. You would have been an enormous support for your daughter and a big part of the reason she’s now through – which is great news by the way. Thank you for taking the time to share your story.

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Rachel

Any time a child has a sudden change in behavior including a sudden onset of anxiety, the child should be promptly evaluated medically to rule out the presence of strep infection and other communicable infections that cause mood and behavioral changes. Be aware that stomach ache and headache are also less common symptoms of streptococcal infection. My child (and our whole family) suffered in an extreme way for months with this infection because most medical care providers do not know how to look for this. Simple ASO titer blood testing can pick up strep hiding in the body. After our experience, I am confident in saying that many children are not being properly evaluated to rule out infectious causes of psychiatric illnesses, and this is unconscionable. Providers must get educated about this! http://pandasnetwork.org/understandingpandaspans/about-pandaspans/whatispandas/ this is the most recent science published on PANDAS/PANS from January 2015: http://online.liebertpub.com/toc/cap/25/1

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Patty Stefanski

What a great article! My “child” is 21 and suffers anxiety. I am happy to say that he has stopped pulling out his hair ( which he did from infancy through 17) but still has episodes of anxiety. He was able to go away to college, although it was and still is difficult for him. Next year he graduates and i worry about how the anxiety will effect his career.

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heysigmund

I expect that by now your son has learnt plenty of really effective coping skills that work well for him. There’s absolutely no reason he can’t have a career that is every bit as successful as someone without anxiety. You would be surprised how many people are walking around with anxiety! Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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Shelley

My daughter (now 12) has been a cautious and shy worrier since she was very little. I’ve always thought her brain was just wired this way, the same way other kids might be outgoing or daredevils. When she was in 4th grade, her anxiety about storms intensified dramatically after a tornado drill at school. She had trouble even concentrating if there were dark clouds in the sky. We found this book, What To Do When You Worry Too Much, that was a huge help – the techniques are very similar to yours. She was able to conquer her excess anxiety with some practice. She steadily improved every year until last fall, when her anxiety rather suddenly ramped up to a pretty severe level – possibly related to the onset of puberty? I felt completely helpless and she felt completely out of control. We both felt like she needed help and her teachers concurred. I wasn’t sure about counseling because her anxiety felt almost biological to me. It wasn’t about a specific thing; it, as you said, was happening before she was even aware of it. I was reluctant to pursue meds as well. I heard about a program called Neurocore from a friend whose son had great results with it. This program was founded by Tim Royer, who had been the head of pediatric psychology at our children’s hospital. Neurocore uses neurofeedback to “retrain” the brainwaves to stay in balance. She had 30 sessions where she just watched a movie (any movie) while her brainwaves were monitored. The movie would pause any time the waves were unbalanced, thereby “teaching” the brain to stay in balance. Neurocore is also a big believer in breathing properly and she would have a breathing monitor strapped around her belly during sessions. She practiced breathing every night before bed as well. You could see her respiratory rate and heart rate on the monitor coordinate almost exactly when she was breathing slow and deep. My daughter had tremendous success with this program – it was life changing for her. She says she now feels in control, she can fall asleep easily at night, and she knows to concentrate on her breathing if she gets anxious. There are multiple locations for Neurocore in MI, I don’t know if there are similar programs elsewhere. I know this is long, but wanted to share what worked for us.

http://www.amazon.com/What-When-You-Worry-Much/dp/1591473144/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426424940&sr=1-1&keywords=when+kids+worry+too+much

https://www.theneurocore.com/

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Robin

These techniques have helped us so much! My 10 YO son has been having panic attacks when he has writing assignments or tests in school. Perfectionism has made it worse.

We talked about your article and read through it together. He decided to call his “warrior” Pete. He even drew a picture of his demon in a control room with all sorts of controls and dials, etc. My son is getting better at recognizing “Pete” and yesterday, I caught him muttering “shut up Pete!” under his breath. I have been teaching him Yoga for the last two months and the “belly breathing” and conscious relaxation techniques had already become fairly normal. Before we got to the end of your article, he had already figured out that controlling his breathing would help! He had a writing assignment due yesterday, and it went so much better than usual. Progress! Again, thank you!!!

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heysigmund

‘Pete’ – I love that! How great that he’s taken in the information so quickly. And teaching him yoga is a wonderful idea. What a team you and your little man are. Thanks so much for for letting me know.

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Super Hero Warrior Brain | Stiletto Momma

[…] The fear and anxiety that go hand in hand with the excitement and adventure of a move like this is the part I need a little help with. So this morning, I went  to the greatest resource I know. The blogosphere with all its truth and wisdom will surely help a momma with her own fears and anxieties, and that is where I found this very basic approach to addressing Anxiety in Kids. […]

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Corinna

My son has anxiety attacks at night due to his feelings about school and his teacher in particular. I have tried the above but he says it’s not him that needs fixing. The anxiety would all stop if he didn’t have to go to school. He seems to fight the help offered and suggestions I make (as above). He doesn’t want to sleep as the next day will come and he will have to face his teacher again (a fair man but with an imposing character) so he refuses to try breathing exercises or anything else that will help. It has become an anger directed entirely at the teacher. We are at our wits end, as is he.

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heysigmund

Oh no – it sounds like this is a real fear for your son. It sounds as though your son is reading something the teacher is doing the wrong way. It could be anything – the tone of his voice, the volume, the way he stands. The teacher might remind your son of someone who he has felt intimidated before. See if you can get to the bottom of exactly what it is that feels scary. Does he remember the first time he felt funny about the teacher? Ask him what the other kids think, what he thinks someone new would think or what he thinks you would think if you had to sit in the class for the day – sometimes it’s safer for them to project what they’re feeling onto a third party so you can get clues that way. I’m a big one for giving teachers the benefit of the information we have about our kids that might be affecting them in the classroom. Can you have a conversation with the teacher? Reassure him that you are sure it’s nothing he’s doing, but that something is happening by the time the message gets to your son that is causing him to be a little bit scared of the teacher. Most teachers are wonderful and will do great things with the information, as long as you do it without blame and make it clear that you’re just trying to work towards a good outcome. It’s true that kids will have to learn to deal with all sorts of people, but it’s a great lesson that sometimes just because we think people are bad or scary, doesn’t mean that they actually are. I know how difficult it can be when school is such an issue. I hope this helps a little.

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Shirley

It was so great to read this and being an anxiety sufferer myself, I found it to be very simple but accurate. Now to convince my son who passes it off to my 11 year old grandson as”it’s nothing”. I have told my grandson about the breathing though but I don’t live particularly close to them so not sure he practices it.

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Suzi

Thanks for this fantastic article on childhood anxiety, which my son has suffered from on and off for the past four or so years.
I really like the idea of explaining the part of the brain that’s causing the fear, and giving it a name. And rather than making it a scary character, calling it a ‘protector’ is a great way of putting it in perspective.
We’ve gone through the deep breathing exercises and explaining the fight or flight response etc, but probably haven’t been consistent enough with these explanations, so thank you for reminding me to normalise his feelings, empathise with him and break it down for him to understand. Excellent advice. 🙂

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome. It’s so important to understand what we do (even those things that trip us up!) as a strength and adaption, rather than as a dysfunction. You sound like wonderful support for your son.

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Julie

Thankyou I will give this a try with my 10 year old son. He has a hard time getting to sleep and after reading you article I’m thinking it is probably his anxiety keeping him awake.

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Sarah

I am 25 years old and used to suffer badly from serious panic attacks with some dissacociation. I had PTSD and have been well taken care of for the last two years by some amazing therapists at a trauma center. I still get some panic attacks.

Thinking about all the comments about teens, as corny as this sounds, when I was younger I found complex music to be really helpful. Bands like Muse, Within Temptation, Trans Siberia Orchestra etc have a really big sound with a fairly strong beat. When you’re sitting in the middle of the attack trying to force yourself to relax, having the distraction of the complex sounds and the beat to encourage you to breathe helps. (Also, I like to sing, which is really hard when you’re not breathing).

For kids that have trouble sleeping due to anxiety, I had a set of CD’s (I think they’re available digitally now) that were water based called Tranquility (I had Forever Rain and Zen Garden). These again are sensory rich: tell your kids to think of the setting the these sounds are coming from. The imagination (what does it look like, smell like) is something I still do when I “feel sick, dizzy, like I’m falling”. People talk about their “happy place” as a joke, but the forest and the garden that I imagine when I listen to those two helps.

Loved the article and as a biology/nursing major, this was helpful. I learned my techniques before I could have understood what was happening, hopefully it helps with younger kids that might not get it.

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heysigmund

It’s great to hear what’s worked for other people because you just never know who else it could help. I don’t think listening to music sounds corny at all. I think it’s a great idea and it makes complete sense to me. You’ve learned some really clever ways of coping. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and insight.

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Sierra Roussos

Have you heard of the MindUP program? We use it in our PreK room with children ages 3 to 5, but it’s designed for children 3 to 13. It starts by teaching children about how their brains work focusing on the amygdala, PFC, and hippocampus’s roles, then goes on to teach breathing and a whole host of other strategies that help children both understand and support what’s going on in their bodies in times of stress. So much of what you talk about in this article mirrors what we use, I had to ask.
It’s just amazing to see how learning these tools is so incredible empowering to children. Thanks for writing this article! It’s wonderful!

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heysigmund

No – I’ve never heard of it. How wonderful that this is being taught to kids at such a young age. Having the right information is so powerful isn’t it! Thank you for taking the time to let me know about it.

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Bree

Thanks for this. I’m yet to read it fully to see if I can help my 4 year old. It’s usually bed time but it can happen any time. The breathing has made me think that perhaps yoga may help her too, thank you

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heysigmund

You’re welcome. Breathing is such an important part of reversing the fight or flight response. It makes good sense that yoga would help. I will be doing a post about dealing with anxiety in younger children, so stay tuned for that. Thanks for taking the time to make contact.

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Stacy

My 10 yr old has all of the symptoms of anxiety. She starts to complain about her tummy hurting and crying as soon as I mention anything different is going to happen. ie: A friend is going to spend the night, we are having people for dinner, or if I want to move anything around in the house. Is OCD linked to anxiety? She also has to have her pillows and blankets exactly the same every night. She goes nuts if you leave her bedroom door open, because the smells of the house get in her room, and once we have done something as a family, she wants us to do it exactly the same way net time… Are these two different issues or are they all related?

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heysigmund

Oh this sounds like classic anxiety. There are different types of anxiety and OCD is one of them. OCD is where people behave in such a way (compulsions – e.g. having her pillows and blankets exactly the same every night) to alleviate a distressing thought (obsession – e.g. something bad might happen if I don’t have my pillows exactly right.) Here is a link to some information about OCD. It’s from Beyond Blue – a great resource and certainly one you can trust … https://www.bspg.com.au/dam/bsg/product?client=BEYONDBLUE&prodid=BL/0507&type=file. I hope this helps to sense of things for you and I hope your daughter is able to find some comfort soon.

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Lynn

This is fabulous. My husband and 7 yr old son struggle with anxiety. I read it to my husband and he was able to make some sense of what he has been dealing with most of his life. It also helped me to understand and normalize what is actually happening rather than dismissing it as irrational. It will definitely help us both as we guide our son through this. Bless you for writing such a helpful article illustrating anxiety.

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Golda

This is very timely because my 92 year old father had a panic attack last night. Reading your article has helped calm me down, and I will be able to understand and help him better now. Thank you

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heysigmund

You’re welcome. I’m very pleased the information found its way to you. It’s hard watching people you love go through something like that isn’t it. I hope he is doing okay.

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Ali

I’ve been suffering from anxiety since I was about 6. I’m 20 now, halfway through a degree, and gradually learning to put myself out there and fight the fear that’s been filling my brain for so long. Recently my doctor prescribed me propanolol (beta blockers) to help with the more physical symptoms. I also use mindfulness meditation and self taught CBT techniques, and I’m currently looking for a CBT therapist.
Reading this article was a revelation – I’m lucky to have very supportive parents but of course it was impossible for them to know what was going on in my head. This helped me to see their position more clearly, and to be honest with myself and that little 6-year-old inside about how I’m feeling. Thank you. And to all those parents – it does get easier, and you are making a difference!

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asta

Article is great but it glosses over main issue, why kids have anxiety. In my 6 yr old case it was sensitivity to artificial food additives and solicilies. We tried fainghold diet with great sceptisism for 6 weeks. The results amazed doctor and therapist. He hasn’t had aymptoms in 6 months. No therapy. Just diet exclusively from whole foods and low solicilies. It is greatly researched and used in australia and is reccomend by some dietitians in US. Before anything I would recommend diet change. It changed out family life and helped my son to the point where he has no symptoms which eliminates the whole coping part.

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Anonymous

I am a 13 years old and one of my family members recommended I read this article. I’ve had anxiety for years and at times, it’s taken over my life. I could really relate to this! When you daughter said she feels like she’s falling in her sleep, It happens to me when I’m light sleeping regularly aswell. I’ve seen many different counsellors but I never really felt like it’s changed. While reading this I thought that it was helping me a lot more by putting everything infrint of my eyes. Thank you sincerely.

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Kate

Thank you for taking the time to respond to all of the responses to your blog. It is rare and thoughtful.

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elizabeth in richmond, virginia

This article brings such clarity and comfort to me, as I have suffered from anxiety and panic for 35 years. Now, my daughter (age 8) is having panic attacks, and I was fortunate enough to identify them right away. But identifying panic and knowing what to do for someone who is panicking are entirely different! No one ever helped me with my anxiety as a child, so I am exploring unknown territory as I seek ways to help her.

I’m commenting, however, to tell “HeySigmund” THANK YOU for responding so sensitively and intelligently to all of our posts. Anxious people feel so much better knowing they are not alone and they are important, and you have done exactly that by responding so thoughtfully to your readers. On behalf of us anxious folks (and parents of anxious little folks) around the world: BIG GRATITUDE. Huge gratitude. Thank you.

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. And thank you! I feel like this is such an awesome community we’re building here. People are being so open and honest with their comments and I know it’s helping other people. I hope everyone who takes the time to write feels important. They’re certainly important to me.

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Tracie

My daughter was diagnosed 2 years ago when she started secondary School with severe anxiety. It was the most scary & horrible time for both her & me & my husband. Her school & their school councilors were fantastic & slowly re introduced her back into school life. 2 years down the line & now dealing with hormones/periods etc we still have bouts of anxiety, but now she can recognise the signs & although sometimes feels as if she cannot cope she manages to get through them. She recently has started to have panic attacks which are very scary to her but we do lots of talking & she knows there are many triggers that can bring these on and we are still trying to figure out the best way to deal with those. I am so very proud of her because she has had some awful times because of anxiety but it seems the older she is getting the more she is starting to understand herself & what works best for her.

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heysigmund

It’s so awful to watch them struggling like this isn’t it. It sounds as though your daughter has great insight and has developed some pretty amazing ways to cope. I love hearing how proud you are of her – it must mean a lot to her when she hears it too!

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Anne Nash

I loved your article and shared it straight away on my business page.
I teach mums to massage their babies and older children weekly, throughout their childhood. It has transformed my relationship with my children.

In my courses I go in to so much detail about the stress response and basically explain what you explained so well.
The primary benefit of massage is relaxation ie not a stress response, so not only are you helping your child physically, but emotionally, as you are there with them during the massage time.
I found that it is always when I was massaging them, that’s when I found out their worries and concerns and pre-empted their anxieties before they could take hold.
My passion would be to see every mum massaging their child once a week, to help stop anxiety and to allow that regular special one to one time with their child.
Thank you .

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Claire

Thank you so much!!. I couldn’t read all the comments but saw some with similar experiences so if our experience helps just one family then I’m glad I shared…

Our 11yo son suffers from anxiety. The peak of his symptoms became apparent at 9 when he began plucking his eye lashes. The worst it got to was no eye lashes, no eye brows and a bald patch at the front of his head. Not something he could hide at school! The anguish & anxiety we felt as parents at that point made it hard for us to focus on the right ways to deal with it.

The things that worked in the end were:
. Seeing a therapist who specialised in anxiety in kids and spoke the right language. I’ve discovered that you have to find the right one for your child… They are not made out of a cookie cutter 😉
. Using very similar talking about exactly what anxiety is as mentioned in your article
. Using relaxation techniques at bedtime and other random times eg yoga nidra, meditation, yoga, smiling mind, breathing exercises
.talking, talking and talking… But not forced just presenting plenty of opportunities to discuss stuff
. Exercise… Doing it with him… Which provides those extra random talking times
.he will always have a tendency towards anxiety so if we can arm him with the right tools imagine what he can achieve as an adult!!

A large part of this journey has involved guilt on my behalf. I plucked hair at 17, I tried to take my life at 18 (in a very half arsed way), I had post natal depression and many more other anxiety related happenings.

It wasn’t until last year when I suffered from severe anxiety including panick attacks and vertigo that I really felt like I was the boss of it. One thing my therapist told me about the breathing part that might help some readers is that she said imagine it’s like a tap you need to turn on. It will only come on if you breathe right to your belly.
Another thing that ‘fixed’ my severe anxiety was meditation.

I noticed a couple of you mentioned moving. We moved six months ago from Australia to Hong kong. It caused a bit of regression in our son but the young lad we have under our roof right now is VERY happy has a confidence we didn’t expect so quickly. The move (as we hoped) has opened his world in a very good way. The process involved a lot of his involvement in appropriate decisions and respect from us to give him the space to process. Plus pushing him slightly out of his comfort zone at points – these are the things that have most helped his confidence.

I wish you all the best and feel blessed to know this is such a caring community…because some people just don’t get it.

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heysigmund

Thank you so much for sharing your story! It’s so great to hear other people’s experiences because as you say, you just don’t know what’s going to work. You’re right – we do seem to have a wonderful community taking shape here. Thank you for being a part of it!

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Vicki

As a bereavement services counsellor of children I often work with children who suffer with anxiety problems as a result of their loss. I loved your article and the toast analogy is great. I always explain what the amygdala is doing as understanding why they feel the way they do is really helpful. Sometimes we have imagined reaching round to the back of the head and then holding it in the palm of the hand, while imagining it is a trembling little mouse. Gently stroking this imaginary creature has proved a helpful visualisation , and on occasions we have even painted a small stone to look like a mouse, so they can reach for it at bedtime if they start to feel panicky, and then stroke it to calm it down. That in itself seems to slow the breathing, without having to think about it too much.

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Lucy

I wanted to thank you for this great post. I had read it last week and ended up using the strategies almost exactly as you described with my 9 year old daughter last night. What initially was a lot of stress/fear/nervousness/run away from an opportunity, became an education in how normal feelings of anxiety are, the fight or flight mechanism, and giving funny names to her amygdala and the more cerebral parts of her brain. She finally said, “ok I understand it but I can’t focus long enough to make the right decision”! Then it was time to implement the deep breathing and mindfulness. After a few minutes, she was able to make a decision based on how she really analyzed a situation instead of being scared and wanting to avoid the whole thing. I am so proud of her because she gained self esteem knowing she can overcome her fear when she needs to. It was a small life experience but I truly believe it will help her in the future. Thanks again being a great resource!

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. This is wonderful! I’m so pleased the information found its way into your hands, and that you shared it with your daughter. Kids can do such amazing things when they’re given the right information. What a great team you both are.

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Joanne

Thank you for the wonderful advice. My daughter was just diagnosed with anxiety and we are in the process of trying to get her help. As frustrating it is, waiting 2 weeks to try and get her an appointment, this article is giving me the tools to help her and understand what she is going through.

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. I’m so pleased this is able to help your daughter. The wait can be so frustrating can’t it. I’m sure it will be worth it though. Thank you for taking the time to let me know. All the best with your appointment.

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Lara Isa Osrin

This article has helped me. I have recently been diagnosed with anxiety disorder. It really upsets me. Now I wish there was more information for people who are surrounded by people with anxiety who are not children how they can help the person with anxiety.

Because I find it very frustrating and upsetting when people around me do not know how I am feeling and they tell me I am just being stupid and silly and must grow up because I am acting like a baby.

So hopefully people can learn now how and what to do with people when they having an anxiety attack.

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heysigmund

I’m pleased the article has been able to help you. It’s very hard to understand what anxiety is like unless you’ve actually been there isn’t it. It’s so important that we keep the conversation about anxiety keeps going. There are just so many people struggling with it and it deserves the understanding and respect. Thank you for taking the time to add your voice.

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Jennifer State

Thank you for putting this in writing. I’ve used most of these techniques with my daughter, but you have explained them much better than I could!

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Selina

Very interesting. My 8 year old has recently started to have some tics which I believe are down to anxiety as she is a ´worrier´ by character and there are a lot of changes coming up in the future. Do you think your methods can work for tics. At the moment she has a head flick and sniff … she had similar tics when she was 3 and they went away after a year. We have talked through all her worries and once we started to talk it was apparent she is bottling up a lot of anxiety. She has also started to wake a lot in the night when she has always been a good sleeper and wants to sleep in a room with her little sisters despite having her own more grown up room. Do you think your methods can help with anxiety tics?

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heysigmund

The techniques are useful for any anxiety. It’s important to make sure that there’s nothing else going on, so I would recommend talking to a doctor just to rule anything else out. If it’s anxiety, the methods will certainly help but if your daughter’s anxiety starts to feel like it’s worsening a counsellor might be able to help her with other strategies to manage her anxiety. It’s great that you’re talking to her about her worries. It’s so important. We can all be prone to bottling things up and when we do that, things seem worse. They can also come out as physical symptoms. The more she can talk to you the better but of course, you don’t want to push too hard. Just be there – sometimes she’ll take you up on having a chat and sometimes she might not. You’re so important to her in this and you can make such a bit difference. Don’t underestimate that. Just let her talk, validate her, explain what’s happening with her body when she has an anxiety attack, try the techniques and talk through the things she’s worrying about. Things tend to grow when we keep them inside. I hope your daughter is able to find some relief soon.

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Weekend Links {12}

[…] Anxiety in Kids, by Hey Sigmund. After a week talking two kids AND myself down from the proverbial ledge, this was both timely and helpful. Anxiety is such a bear! […]

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Danielle

Hi there, this is a brilliant article and it has really helped me with my son who is 6. Have you considered putting this information into an illustrated children’s book format? I have been looking for books for my son about panic attacks, and all I have found are books that touch briefly on all feelings, books about fears, and books about nervousness. None of those help when he has anxiety for seemingly no reason at all. This would be an amazing children’s book and I know many parents who would purchase it.

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased this has helped with your son. A few people have asked for a book version so I’m working on that. Thank you for your encouragement.

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Ellen

Thank you so much for this article. My son almost 15 is in the process now being diagnosed with anxiety. It has been very difficult watching him having these attacks, but we are all doing everything we can now to help him, both at home, in school and meeting up with a therapist as well. We were thinking medication but last night we had a great talk, were I used logical explenations like you are posting in your article and I really got through it made me think that maybe we can do this without medications. So many thanks for putting it out there so simple and logical it will be very helpful in the process of taking back control 😉

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. Kids can do amazing things with the right information. I’m so pleased this information found its way to you. It’s wonderful that you have a relationship where you can talk and your son will listen. Keep talking – it sounds as though you are making an enormous difference.

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Cheryl

Thank you!
As a school nurse, I see kids struggling with anxiety every day, some diagnosed but most not. For some it is debilitating. I refer them to specialists, but (as another person mentioned) the wait is practically unbearable for the student and parents. I try to give them hope and explain what is happening, but now I have a new way to explain it! Thank you so much for giving me the words! I will refer to your site often and will share it with as many people as possible!

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Dr Nic Andela

Do you see or do much around anxiety during or after pregnancy or in babys? We have a large African community and feature pregnancy and their babys.

Many thanks
dr Nic

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heysigmund

Anxiety can certainly take hold during or after pregnancy and in babies, though I haven’t personally worked with babies. It sounds like important work that you’re doing.

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Kathy

Thank you for posting this article. My 20 year challenged son is having some extreme difficulties with anxiety that manifests itself in extreme motor tic behavior to expend the excess energy. This article taught me a lot! I am going to sit down with him & explain some of the ways he could take back control. It is affecting his whole life at the moment. Thank you!

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. I’m sorry to hear that your son is struggling like this and I’m so pleased that you’re going to share the information with him. I hope it is able to offer him some comfort. If the anxiety is really taking hold, a doctor may be able to offer some relief. You sound like a great support for him.

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Karly

Fantastically put. My son suffers from severe anxiety with OCD tendencies and SPD. We have used all of these techniques and they work wonderfully. His anxiety is called “Tricky-Sticky” and everyday he works very hard at being the boss!

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heysigmund

I love the name your son has given to his anxiety! I’m so pleased the techniques have worked – kids can be pretty amazing with the right information can’t they! You sound like a great team.

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Freddy

This article is very helpful! I don’t have any kids but I suffer from anxiety due to a move that I have made to another state away from family and friends to be with my partner. I like how it is broken down and explains what is going on in the brain. After reading this I am feeling very comfortable and happy. Thank you!

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heysigmund

You’re very welcome. I’m so pleased the information was able to make sense of things for you. Information can be a powerful thing can’t it. Thank you for letting me know.

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JMK

Thank you! Very helpful information to assist students deal with anxiety in my middle school classroom!

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Ellie Budden

How do you know if your child is suffering with anxiety? I’ve had it myself recently it’s a horrible feeling.

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Ellie Budden

Hi thanks for that it’s good to know what to look out for. My eldest boy is 9 and he tends to wake up really early like 4am sometimes and says he can’t sleep, he also gets very teary about things. He’s a very smart boy doing very well academically and is very sporty and popular and seems happy most of the time so it probably isn’t this. I just don’t joke why he can’t sleep properly. Thanks again.

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Dandi

Ellie, I was all the things you’re describing, and very anxious as a child! All that success is very stressful to maintain!!!

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Hanna

Hi Elle, I have
Very similar issues with my little boy. He is extremely clever, very sporty and uber competitive. He has been getting up very early, is easily tearfull, has started day dreaming a lot and has resently been complaining of stomachache when at school. Some American doctors have done some research resently to say competitive natured children are more prone to anxiety. I have enrolled my boy in to mindfulness childrens yoga class which I can attend with him and it is making a world of difference. X x

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Ellie

Hi ya thanks I’ll have to look into it. Sounds just like my boy he’s a bit of a perfectionist and gets annoyed when he does things wrong in school and at home bless him. I hope all goes well for your son and it helps him.

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shaunamom

I really appreciated a lot of what you’ve discussed in this article. Loved the way you described the amygdala.

But from a personal perspective, I have to say, it is disheartening to see the symptoms for anxiety that you list, mentioned in the way you list them. Because sadly, all those symptoms? They are all symptoms of physical ailments that children can have, many of which can also cause anxiety (nutritional deficiencies, celiac disease, and food allergies, as a few examples)

But when parents, and their doctors (unfortunately), focus on ‘anxiety causes physical symptoms,’ they often seem to lose sight of the fact that ‘physical problems can cause anxiety AND other physical symptoms.’ IMO, whenever a doctor claims that a child’s anxiety is causing physical symptoms, they really need to be confirming some of this with some physical tests.

This has personally affected our family. Anxiety caused by celiac disease was ignored in children in the family, even when they had physical symptoms (like stomach aches, headaches, clinginess). Some doctors refused to test children in the family for the disease because the children had anxiety, so their stomach pain MUST be caused by the anxiety and couldn’t possibly have a physical cause.

When we finally were able to get tested, we ended up with every person but one, in three generations, who had the disease, many of whom had been ignored because they had either anxiety or depression, so any physical symptom they had was obviously ’caused’ by the mental issue, as far as doctors were concerned.

I’m not denying that mental difficulties can cause physical symptoms. I just think it’s important for us parents to understand that anxiety existing in conjunction with physical symptoms is a correlation, NOT a causation. Our childrens’ doctors need prove causation, or at least make a very good case for it, before they dismiss any possible physical causes.

Because I am meeting more and more parents with children who have chronic pain and their doctors – quite often doing not a single test and only talking with the child – are diagnosing the cause as school anxiety. And these kids suffer for years before they finally get a true diagnosis for what was causing the pain.

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heysigmund

I’m sorry you’ve have the struggle you’ve had to find an appropriate diagnosis for the children in your family. This article is about anxiety and what anxiety does to your body. The symptoms outlined are all symptoms of anxiety. Anxiety CAUSES these physical symptoms – causation, not correlation – and this understanding is very important in being able to manage the symptoms. Anxiety triggers the fight or flight response without real cause and this initiates a physiological response. Managing the anxiety (and the fight or flight response) eases the physiological symptoms.

That’s not to say that anxiety is the only cause of these symptoms. This article is a discussion of ‘this is why you feel the way you do during an anxiety attack, and ways to manage that’ and was never intended to be a discussion of everything these symptoms can indicate. In trying to get to the bottom of the meaning of any symptoms, parents and doctors have to start somewhere and generally the best start is the one that’s the least invasive, which makes very good sense. A parent’s intuition is incredibly powerful and if something doesn’t feel right in relation to a diagnosis, it’s important to seek further advice. It’s really unfortunate that the doctors your family sought help from refused to test the children. I can hear your frustration and disappointment and I would certainly feel the same. Your feelings are very valid. There are of course many great doctors who would be more responsive to the concerns of parents than that and who would place a lot of stock in the wisdom of parents in relation to their own children. I’m pleased you were able to get to the bottom of what was causing the problems in your family.

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Maria Tisdall

hi
After reading and sharing your article on FB I had an epiphany. The root of so many of today’s problems are rooted in responses to anxiety and anxious feelings. I would like to develop a program that can be offered to students, parents and teachers through the PTA and school assemblies on the elementary school level that teaches what anxiety is and how to deal with it through simple yoga movements and meditation.
Would the author of this article be interested in discussing this with me? I think it is the root of bullying and it could make a huge difference in our and our kids lives

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Hanna

hi Maria,
I am chairman of the PTA at my child’s school and if you do set something up we would love to use your program

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Nina

Maria, I don’t yet have kids of my own, but I am a high-achieving adult who only a few years ago recognized the anxiety I’ve been coping with for the majority of my life. I also have a good friend who still struggles with anxiety and depression. She had a breakdown in college that ended up in hospitalization. I would love to be part of a bigger awareness campaign about anxiety in kids and teens, because that’s where it needs to be addressed. “The Chemistry of Calm” is a book that helped me immensely, as well as Eckart Tolle’s “The Power of Now.” Please let me know how I can help.

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Michael

I just wanted to stop in and say thank you! I am a primary grade teacher; I see this frequently. When I first read this article a few weeks ago, I knew it was GOLD! Today, I handled a panic-attack situation that has taken me hours in the past. Using your words, and the advice from your article, everything was over in 30 minutes! The child made a full recovery and was curious about his amygdala. THANK YOU!

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. This is awesome! You’ve taught him something that will hold him so well moving forward. I love hearing about people, like you, who use this information and make such a difference. You’re school is lucky to have you. Thank you so much for letting me know!

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summaya hassim

Thanks so much for all this enlightening information. I also find by telling the child that we all have a baby inside us n by lookin in the mirror into our eyes and saying baby sue go away n explain to the child that as adults we too have to do this as adults and that they not alone.hope it helps

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Hannah Masters

I have recently put my teenage daughter who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks on a natural liquid vitamin that has folate, iron as well as vitamin B…the supplements are sourced from natural sources and because it is liquid it is easily assimilated. I have seen an amazing difference in a matter of weeks.

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Ramona Jackson

can you please tell me the name of this liquid vitamin and where to get it?

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Trish

This is great info, reinforcing what I do with my 7yo daughter.. However I was particularly interested in the comment about competitiveness & anxiety. She always has to be first, perfect.. It is hard as I do want her to finish her work on time, win her race (who wouldn’t?!) but I would like to see enjoyment too!!
Will look into the ‘need to be first’ and anxiety link.

Thanks

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heysigmund

That competitive streak is such a tough one in relation to anxiety. They put so much pressure on themselves! There’s a lot of very highly regarded research that’s recognising the importance of praising effort over achievement. What this does is take the focus off the outcome and puts it more onto the work that’s been done to get there. It’s called a ‘growth mindset’ and nurturing a growth mindset changes the way people (not just kids) approach challenge, exams and many aspects of life. Many schools are now adopting a growth mindset culture. I’m a huge fan. I do it with my own kids and I can see the difference it makes. Here is a link to an article that talks more about it http://www.heysigmund.com/mindset-improve-academic-performance-2/ . Hope this helps.

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Sharon Moran

I had panic attacks for 2 yrs until I discovered for myself that my anxiety was ME. Once I understood how my body was reacting to stress then I learnt how to stop it in it’s tracts ( exactly as you have written). At the time it was all dreadful. I had to work, be a mother and a wife but somehow got through it without drugs..the biggest tip was to learn the art of breathing a longer breath out. In breath for 3 , out breath for 6 counts. As I did this my pulse slowed and muscles relaxed. It is a learned skill and needs practice and trust. Today I appreciate what anxiety taught me and now I help many children in my day to day work …anxiety in children , teens & adults is on the increase because we are not learning the skill to let go and to regulate what we see, do, ingest and not enough down time…life’s too precious and anxiety is our brain saying ‘ hello, I need a holiday from all this pressure….xxxxx

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Akeela

Thanks a ton! This indeed seems so acceptable from a teens point of view. Just wish I had used this a year ago with my son when he was going through this anxiety leading to
school refusal

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Natalie

I thank you for this. Over the last couple of years I have been struggling with anxiety. I have come to realise it has been simmering away all of my life, exploding at times and leaving me confused and at times embarrassed, even ashamed. I fell and hurt my back at work when 19 weeks pregnant with our third child, our daughter, nearly four years ago (my goodness, has it really been that long now?) when severe and frequent panic attacks began. I didn’t realise what was going on, and this in its self is hard enough, but I misread my own body’s responses and took it as anger. I changed from the calm and inspirational, endlessly patient early childhood educator, to a panic stricken mother that couldn’t handle any situation and shamefully yelled at her beloved children. When I realised what was happening to me I started the current journey I am on. One of self understanding and self repair. I have begun to read, that and listen, to others and their stories of anxiety. Some are just interesting stories, others resonate and I have a lightening bolt moment. This is the brightest that bolt has been yet. This story has me not only understanding myself so much better, but gives me the tools to repair the damage I feel I have inflicted on my three amazing children (6, 4 & 3) with by inability to teach them about their emotional responses, to recognise them and understand them.

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased this information has found its way into your hands. You sound like you are gaining a lot of wisdom and insight. I also want to say that when I read your comment, I thought to myself what a wonderful mum you sound like – so invested in making things better for your kids and you speak about them with such love. Parents are going to get things wrong – it’s in our job description. It also lets our kids know that it’s okay for them to make mistakes too which is such an important lesson. Keep doing what you’re doing. The insight you are gathering for yourself and for your kids will hold all of you in such a strong, loving place moving forward.

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Helen Newbould

This is a brilliant article. My son is 9 and has huge anxiety issues. He is autistic but high functioning which causes anxiety but he also suffers with anxiety on top of that. He is only just back at school after having not attended for around 3 months because of anxiety, he has regular panic attacks and will be physically sick when he is worried. Before he started junior school he was being sick every single day during the 6 week holiday period leading up to the start of term. The problem we have is that it seems so ingrained in him for his body to react this way, sometimes there is no build up and he can have a full on panic attack and be sick over the smallest of things. Although we have tried some of the techniques you have used before I’ve never read anything that sets it all out so clearly and that I know my son will be able to understand and appreciate. I will definitely be reading this through with him. Thank you.

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heysigmund

You’re so welcome. I’m so pleased this information has been a help to you and that you’re able to share it with your son. It sounds as though he’s had a tough time of it lately and that you’re doing an amazing job of supporting him through it. I hope this helps to bring him some comfort. Thanks for taking the time to make contact.

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Katrina

Great article thank you. We are expats and fly fairly frequently but our children have become terrified (so have I) of flying with the recent plane accidents etc. do you have any tips for flying anxiety and reassuring them that we are safe?
Many thanks

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heysigmund

If your kids are being scared by the recent crashes, that’s completely understandable. It’s very normal to overlay real life incidents onto your own personal experience. One way to counter this The key is to point out the differences (because they’re looking at the similarities) – different airline, different pilot, different route etc.

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Marija

Great article. Additionally, sometimes that butterfly feeling could be interpreted as excitement – like the feeling you have descending while riding a roller coaster or the feeling you have before your friends arrive at your birthday party. Changing the meaning of that feeling and reframing it can be powerful enough to overcome it.

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heysigmund

Absolutely. There’s a lot of research happening that’s finding how reframing stress and anxiety can change the experience of it. Well said!

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jennifer anderson

My daughter is 10. Beautiful, smart, popular and very well behaved in school. She is an emotional child and her worse anxiety attacks r the weather. We have tried 2 find what’s trigured this. Physically gets sick. Afraid she may give herself a heart attack she gets so worked up. She is currently on meds and therapy. Do u reccommend any at home things I could do at home?!? She also fears 2 challenge herself and gives up when things get hard.

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heysigmund

I’m sorry to hear that your daughter is struggling like this. Keep doing doing the strategies mentioned in the article. Explaining the physical basis is really important. The methods need to be practiced – if your daughter’s anxiety response is this strong, it’s not going to ease up overnight. They need to be practiced so they become automatic during an attack. As for how she responds to challenge, it sounds as though she has a fixed mindset. Whatever you can do to nurture a growth mindset will make a big difference. The research is very well respected. Here are a couple of articles that will talk you through how to do this, with links to resources that will also help. Again, it’s something that needs to be consistently talked about – the little chats you have on the way to school, while you’re tucking her in to bed, grabbing afternoon tea together. Here are the articles: http://www.heysigmund.com/the-proven-way-to-build-resilience/ and http://www.heysigmund.com/mindset-improve-academic-performance-2/ . Hope this helps.

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Ann

Hi. I have a soon to be 17 year old son in his final year of high school. From being the dux of his year last year he is now struggling to find his way…. not doing set school work then missing school/exams when he realises he hasn’t done the required work. He also has anger management issues when all this “hits home” at the last minute. I have tried the school counsellor which he sometimes says has been helpful & she advise that he has opened up alot. I have also tried an external counsellor but he has only been twice (when I take him) & missed other apts when he had to get himself there. From what I gather he hasn’t been honest with this counsellor. My sister has been a great help & he has opened up to her alot about being so confused & not knowing what to do & how to fix it. She has suggested that he may have to go on medication. To be honest, I have always thought this to be the absolute last resort & have never been keen on the idea of medication. What would they prescribe & would it be a short term solution to get him through the next few months? We have had a bit of a tough time in our lives…..divorce, moving interstate, financial worries etc but I have always been able to pull myself together & maybe expected my sons to be the same. Hope you can give some advice. Thank you.

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Hey Sigmund

This is such a huge year for your son. I have a son in his final year too so I understand. The best person to speak to about medication would be a doctor. There are a lot of different options. I agree it should be a last resort, but if he’s really struggling it might be an option. What does your son think? Does he think he needs medication? Or does he see this as a passing thing? It sounds as though your son has stress on stress at the moment and is feeling really overwhelmed. I expect he’s feeling like he’s made some decisions that he can’t fix, like missing exams – particularly if he’s coming from dux. Can the school help out with this by way of special consideration at all? It’s great that he’s talking to your sister. Talk to him about what he needs, let him know that nothing that’s happened matters and perhaps talk to a doctor about medication options, if you and he feel that’s an option. I know it feels overwhelming, probably for all of you at the moment, but your son will get through this. Anxiety is very treatable and in the context of his life at the moment, what he’s feeling is pretty understandable.

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KarenB

After having similar experiences, I wanted to tell you a couple of things I have learned that may help. First, the HS councilor can best help you if you take your son to the right professional who can give you a diagnosis. Then what your HS councilor can do (and quite well) is be the advocate for your son with his teachers. I spoke to councilors and teachers about the stress my daughter experienced from Jr. HS to HS and nothing changed. Once I had a diagnosis (OCD with anxiety) and spoke to the councilor, everything finally changed. The councilor spoke to the relevant teachers and they responded with incredible kindness. They extended deadlines, and in the cases of unwritten papers, they changed the format and let her do a test in school instead. I wanted you to know that this is how it works so you and he could get some help.

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Kaye

My daughter is 12 years old. Her problems begin somewhat last year with anxiety over of getting her homework finished before dance. She would cry, scream and kick.I had never seen her act like this. This year the anxiety is still in getting the homework done and with getting an A. She is a naturally talented dancer but has sabotaged herself with anxiety episodes before, during and after her solo dances. She has danced competitively for 5 years but this year is packed with stress and anxiety. Any suggestions on what can be done. I plan to take her to a therapist. .Happy to see an article about this.

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Hey Sigmund

She’s putting so much pressure on herself, isn’t she! It’s hard to watch as a parent – I really get it. I think a therapist is a good idea – they’ll be able to work through this with her and help her to look at things a different way so she puts less pressure on herself. In the meantime, there’s been quite a bit of research around how reframing anxiety into excitement can help with performance anxiety. The idea is that by calling it ‘anxiety’, there is a focus on things that can go wrong, but by saying ‘I’m excited’ (even if you don’t really believe it at first) you look at the opportunities. Here is an article that talks about it http://www.heysigmund.com/an-unexpected-way-to-deal-with-performance-anxiety/ I’ve been getting my daughter to do mindfulness every night and it’s made such a big difference. Anxiety is worrying about the future but with mindfulness, the focus is on bringing thoughts back to the present. Harvard has done some research into it so it has some credibility behind it. Here is a link talks about it http://www.heysigmund.com/mindfulness-what-how-why/ . The mind is just like any muscle to it might take a bit of practice but it will be worth it and it will be a skill that will be good for her moving forward as show grows. I hope this helps, and that your daughter is able to find some comfort soon.

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monko

Utterly brilliant post. I especially like the scientific explanation of why they are feeling anxiety. I have explained fight or flight to our son and how breathing helps to rebalance the chemicals.

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Susi Inglis

I would like to say thank you for this article. I am a staff nurse working with children under the age of 16 who struggle with mental health and learning disabilities and anxiety is seen on a daily basis.

The training we get for being able to help children manage these feeling is huge, however, articles like this always help to share strategies and give ideas!

I really am truly grateful to the author of this article and am going to show this to the rest of my team to see if we could draw treatment plans around some of these ideas.

I particularly felt that giving the feeling a name would massively help children who are too young to understand what anxiety is.

I would be really interested to discuss any further ideas people have as I feel this could benefit my professional skills.

Kind Regards,

Susi

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Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome. It’s such important work you’re doing. Let’s put it out there and see what other ideas people have …

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Amanda

I have been told by 5 different doctors that I have panic attacks anxiety however do not have any of the afore mentioned symptoms please let me know if these are also symptoms, hyperventilating due to a tightness of my chest and my ribs hurting for days on end after going through an attack. My doctors put me in 3 different medications to take daily also when I feel the tightness of chest my back starts hurting inexplicably also the other way around, just a little curious if it really may be anxiety or if I keep getting doctors and hospitals that just want me to leave them alone.

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Hey Sigmund

It’s really hard to say. Anxiety can take many different shapes and doesn’t always look the same in everyone. What I would say though is that if something doesn’t feel right, keep going until you find a doctor you feel comfortable with. There’s a lot to be said about your own intuition.

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Ava J

Excellent article. I have been practicing mindfulness with my kids some time now. It has its own challenges. Children have a hard time visualizing the process. Books help. Our favorite one is “The Loving Kindness Tree”. It acknowledges the frustration and the worries (clouds passing by) and it brought a sense of gratefulness. But it is a journey. You learn as you go..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlyA80iWMGw

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Tim

Good article -But I feel like you need to discuss meds. Its great to say that Anxiety is a real issue for kids and caused by the body and chemicals and reaction. But we seem to have many people that think meds should not be used for kids period and sometimes -It is needed.
My daughter suffered from Anxiety for years – to the point where leaving the house was a major challenge. Attacks could last hours. The stuff you discuss is 100% right on -EXCEPT in serious cases, like my daughter – we couldnt get to any of that.
When she was in the middle of attack it is too overwhelming to really do any of the stuff discussed. The only way to do that is to practice when you are not having a attack, the issue however is when she wasn’t having a attack, she was scared to discuss and practice because simply thinking about it would trigger a attack.
Years of trying and talk therapy and her moms refusal to even consider meds under the false belief that kids should never need meds lead to pain full years. FINALLY – a low dose of meds were given and it gave enough “control” for her to then learn to do the other techniques and practice with out the fear of triggering the event.
My point is Anxiety has lots of causes -Some of those causes ARE medical / Physical. In those cases -meds are sometimes needed to give some sort of control before any other technique can work.

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Hey Sigmund

Yes, when nothing else seems to be working there is a case for medication. It’s a big decision to make. These are strategies to try before making the decision to medicate or in conjunction with medication to develop the necessary skills for when medication is no longer needed.

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Alison

What if you can’t figure out the source of the anxiety? My 6 year old daughter has had diarrhea and complains of a stomachache everyday for at least a month. I can not figure out what the trigger is. It is not medical. I am sure it is anxiety and worry but she can’t verbalize the worry.

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Hey Sigmund

It’s common not to be able to verbalise the source of the worry. Part of the reason anxiety feels so bad is because it’s often not attached to anything in particular – it just comes on, like the faulty smoke alarm. It’s important to check with a doctor to rule out anything physical, and if you’ve already done this anxiety might also be an explanation. Does your daughter have any of the other symptoms that come with anxiety? Tight or shaky muscles, sweaty, shaky, restless, rapid breathing or short of breath, pins and needles or numbness, headaches, sleep problems, clingy, school resistance, withdrawal? Did it coincide with any changes? Even positive changes can cause stress. School? Teacher? Class? Moving house? Changing rooms? A new sibling? If she could change one thing about her day, what would it be? Does it happen on weekends as well? Don’t worry if there’s nothing you can identify – there might not be. The thing about anxiety is the fight or flight response can be triggered even when there is nothing to worry about. The techniques in the article will still help – there doesn’t need to be an identifiable cause. Teach her breathing skills and mindfulness. These are learned skills and the effect is long term, but worth it. If your daughter is still struggling, it might be worth thinking about counselling. Hope this helps.

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Linda

I work with kids and do medication management. Kids often have stomach problems when they are anxious. If possible, it would be good to have her see someone as the sooner therapy of any sort is started (even medication therapy) the quicker recovery comes about. Kids have a lot of pressure in society. School, many outside activities, and peer, not to mention they are quite sensitive to family changes. A good therapist can help work this out, and if it is a very young child, often play therapy is the best bet. Bottom line: early intervention = the most positive outcomes.

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L L

Just a side note: my daughter also had digestive issues, which is dismissed as school avoidance flu. After a while, though, we discovered she was suffering from food allergies, specifically milk, and eliminating these foods helped with the digestive issues. And because the histimine levels lowered, it also helped reduce other anxieties!

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Tracy

Speaking from personal experience, I suggest checking out food sensitivities and/or allergies. Common problems are dairy, wheat, gluten… for example

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Sue

My sympathies go out to your daughter… please also explore the possibility of allergies, i.e. to Wheat or Dairy, or both, or any other food related allergens,- as it can cause this problem.. Probiotics might also be worth a try ? With very best wishes, do hope you find the cure….

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Chantell

When I was younger I used to get stomach aches every single day. At school, after dinner, playing outside. Always and really bad stomach aches. Mom suggested that I try and stop having dairy and ever since ive only had stomach aches once in a blue moon when I accidently have something with dairy. Yogurt doesn’t bother me. Well sometimes greek yogurt does. But that definitely was what it was. Hope her stomach aches goes away.

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Shannon B

My daughter has seen GI since she was born. At age 9 we finally figured out why she had the runs. But too, kids change so much during these years. 1st it was corn then she out grew that, 2nd high fructose corn syrup and she grew out of that, now its dairy but its not consistant. So now anytime she chooses to try dairy she takes her enzymes n it really helps. She would get awful cramping. Sometimes if she has all if the above in one day it will trigger several days of the runs. But she is old enough now to choose if she wants to deal with the not so fun stuff later for the now satisfaction. My son who is a twin of my daughter has high anxiety, OCD and some mild Autistic behaviors. I can’t wait to try these methods. He n i have a great track record of communication and talking things thru. Took me 30 mins of talking n reassuring him to get him to play bowling. Noise was also a factor. Now he loves bowling! The more effort n time we give our little ones the stronger the bond n trust and the better they will function as an adult!?

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Christine

Chantell,
I can relate – my son hs had school avoidance anxiety and to a lesser extent, general anxiety. He is ten years old and just this fall was diagnosed as ADHD Inattentive. Crazy thing is, in the process of getting him diagnosed, *I* was also diagnosed with exactly the same thing! I have struggled my whole life with low level, constant anxiety. I now see that the ADHD is probably to blame in both of our cases. It makes so much sense – when you are constantly disorganized and behind the ball, letting people down and not fulfilling your potential, that creates anxiety! I feel so bad that it took me my ten years to recognize what my little man has been struggling with. (Not to mention my whole life of unfulfilled potential). I just want to shout out to the world – if your child has these vague symptoms and medical issues have been ruled out, please consider ADHD! You don’t have to be bouncing off the walls or super hyper to have it, so it can look like so many other things.
Now I move on to figuring out how to handle the ADHD in both of us. There’s always something, isn’t there? 🙂

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Elle

This was my son as well. He suffers from ADD, I suffer from Panic and Anxiery disorder. At first we thought he was suffering like I had as a child. It was hard for me to watch as I didn’t want my children to ever go through what I had. Eventually we started noticing behavioural changes and school getting worse. Most days I could barely get him to go. We took him to our family Dr and it was determined after several tests that it was innitentive ADD. He’s such a good boy and now that we have the tools including a low dose medication, his anxiety has gone down and he’s drastically turning around in school. I agree, parents make sure on all accounts what is going on. Take care!

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Tina

My daughter also has suffered with anxiety And now they also say she has add. We tried the breathing and other things the recommended but made it worse for her. I think medicine now is going to be the way to go I would love to know what medicines low dose that you started that I’ve helped and what side effects they have. I hope this is the the way to go . She is so sweet and I hate to see he struggle in school with this.

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Hey Sigmund

Tina, the dosage and side effects will be different for everyone and it might take a little bit of tweaking to get the right amount and the right medication for your daughter. Of course it’s always best to have the lowest effective dose but your doctor will work with your daughter on that. Some of the symptoms can look similar and it can be difficult to know which one is driving particular symptoms. When you get one under control, you might find the symptoms of the other start to ease, but your doctor will hopefully be able to guide you on this. Whatever you choose to do, if you can keep practicing the other non-medication techniques with your daughter that will help to strengthen her capacity to deal with her anxiety without medication. It’s so hard to see them struggling isn’t it. I hope she is able to find relief soon.

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Edith

Allison,How’s your daughter doing now? My 6yr old son having same symptoms and your daughter was. Doctors says he is fine.

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Alison

Hi
She is actually doing really well. Very few complaints of stomach aches. Recently I think her anxiety has been up a bit because she has been complaining of headaches now. I think a lot of it then was driven by the fact that I had just had a baby. He was 4 weeks early and she wasn’t exactly prepared. I went to the doctor and ended up going right to the hospital and he was born the next day. We obviously had been talking about it for months, but the suddenness of it surprised her. Also, I am a teacher at her school so our daily routine obviously changed since I stayed home with the baby. I think both of us were stressed and anxious!! She is doing much better. Thanks for all the comments and thoughts. Hope all works out with your son.

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Jeff

My 7 year old has been displaying the signs of anxiety. One day, after being home from school for a couple of days, my mother in law was watching him. She asked him to draw a few things. ( which he loves…not bragging but he is awesome. Lol) Drawing what was on his mind and then asking him what I meant. An afternoon later we learned that he was worried about the “what if’s.” what if I get to school and I feel sick? What if the school bus breaks down on the way to school? Etc, etc. This was a huge break through for my ex and I. A Starting point to have the conversation with him. They want to let us know, but they have to have the outlet. This worked for us. It’s worth a try. At the least the child spends time having fun and chatting with someone they love.

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Karen

I feel so pleased to have read your article, but also feel guilty that we haven’t looked further a field and found someone like you before. Your article made so much sense and was explained so well. Our 10 yr old son is an anxious soul. He worries on a Friday night coming out of school because he knows Saturday morning is swimming lesson time. He worries when we are at home and he can’t find me, when i am just at the washing line or putting bins out. He would never stay home with his older sister (12 yrs old) for even 5 mins, he has to come with me. He worries about playing team sports and having someone tackle him or getting laughed at when he gets it wrong. He is so self conscious. He gets angry with us and his friends easily. He finds it hard to make friends and gets teased and gets called dumb or weird. But he is a beautiful, caring, thoughtful, gentle, intelligent boy. Our paediatrician convinced us that a low dose Ritalin might help, along side counselling, telling us that if indeed he is ADHD the Ritalin would have an instant affect. We have not noticed any difference in him but his teachers really have and his concentration is so much better and therefore his work is. I think he is more anxious if anything. It doesn’t sit right with us to have him on medication. What you have said makes me feel that it may be something we as his parents can help him with and not have to take him to doctors which just make him feel as if there is something wrong with him and that he is ‘different’.

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Hey Sigmund

It sounds as though your beautiful little man is experiencing what so many other children experience in terms of anxiety. If only they knew they weren’t alone and how many other people – adults and kids – are struggling with it too. You can make such a difference for him though – don’t underestimate that. Kids can do amazing things when they’re given the right information and guidance and you have so much capacity to empower him in that way. I love how open you are to doing that. There will come a point where he emerges with wisdom and insight that will hold him so well in his life, though I understand how difficult it is for him and for you in the meantime. Start building him up with the skills and knowledge in the article, and let him know that there are so many other kids that are struggling the way he is. There are other articles that might help too under ‘Being Human’ in the menu and click on ‘Anxiety’. I completely understand your un-ease with having him on medication, and though a doctor will still need to supervise medication or any changes made to that, if you want support to strengthen your son with the skills he needs to fly, a counsellor will be able to help with that. Don’t underestimate the huge difference you can make though. I hope your son is able to find comfort and strength moving forward – he’s very lucky to have you on his team.

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Karen

Please know that you are starting on your journey of helping your child earlier than a lot of us. The important thing is that you have started. My comments are in addition to the excellent and helpful information here.
Please find a licensed psychiatrist or nurse practitioner who specializes in anxiety disorders. They can diagnose and prescribe the right medication to help your son. A Pediatrician is limited in that regard.
They can be helpful in finding a therapist too who will not only help him but help you help him.
With the help my daughter has gotten she can be who she really is and find out about what she is capable of doing. Though there were times early on when I couldn’t see it happening, we took my daughter to college for her first year, last week. I can’t tell you how incredible it was when we hugged and I looked at her and saw that she had tears in her eyes too and I said, “We have been through so much these last few years”, and she looked me in the eye and said “Thank you mom.”

Reply
Karen

Thank you for taking the time to reply. It helps so much to know that many other families are going through similar experiences and so interesting to hear their stories and what has worked for them. We all just want the best for our children, it breaks my heart to see our little man struggle with what most people take for granted. But your articles have been so uplifting. It brought a tear to my eye thinking of you dropping off your daughter at college, how wonderful. Thank you so much again. K

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Karen

Thank you so much for replying so quickly. I can’t tell you how much this helps and how encouraging it is to know its ‘normal’ (what ever normal is) and so common. I have no doubt that the world holds great things for our little man. We just want to encourage him and give him the tools to deal with this and understand why he feels the way he does and what he can do about it. This is the first time it has been explained so beautifully and logically, which he will love because he is a very logical boy, so if he understands it, it won’t seem so scary and bad and he won’t feel different. I look forward to reading and learning more, heart felt thanks, K

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Paige

Hi Karen, I wonder if you’re familiar with the concept of ‘Highly Sensitive Persons’ as theorised by Dr Elaine Aron? I discovered this recently and whilst still in development stages it seems to explain so much of the high sensitivity and consequent anxiety I’ve experienced much of my life. My daughter sounds very similar to your son, and I’m looking into this in terms of how I support her.

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Ramona Jackson

This is so true. That’s why the meds are out there. My son had GAD and runs in the family so I totally understand this. It’s a shame that abusers have ruined it for the people that really need it cause now my sons Dr is always hesitant to give it to him or change it to a kind that would help better.

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C. Reed

I totally agree on what you added here. I also think that some of the details about the body and how everything works is too much information for a child at any age and can in some cases cause anxiety just thinking about all the processes that can go haywire. I also know that the basis of anxiety is fear. The human emotion of fear comes into play and triggers the anxiety. Discussions on emotions are crucial.

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Hey Sigmund

Depending on the age of your child, the information in the article can be modified to suit their level of understanding, but it’s critical never to underestimate the capacity of children to use and understand the information we give them. They can do amazing things with the right information. In my own experience, children from about 8 can start to understand this concept and use the information. It also isn’t a conversation that has to happen all at once.

The whole point of the article is the normalisation of the response. Things AREN’T going haywire. It feels like that, which is why anxiety can feel so frightening, but what is actually happening is a normal physiological response to threat and fear. There is absolutely no suggestion that emotions shouldn’t be talked about. In fact, the article is explaining how emotions work in order to empower children to respond effectively to situations, rather than feeling as though the emotion can come at any time and there’s nothing they can do about it.

The response from the amygdala is a response to fear – again, that’s the whole point. The thing about anxiety is that the body responds as though there’s a threat, even when there’s nothing threatening there. Fear is an emotional response and a physiological response – which is why anxiety feels physical – racing heart, butterflies, sick, headache etc. By understanding the underlying physical processes to the fight or flight response (which is the body’s response to threat or fear), children can have more power over their response. One of the awful things about anxiety is that it can be unpredictable and the physical feeling can be really frightening – for adults as well as for children. Eventually, this can lead to anxiety about the anxiety, so it becomes a fear of the physical response that comes with a fight or flight response being triggered. Explaining the symptoms as a normal physiological response, and not as something gone ‘haywire’, can normalise this and work to turn around the ‘anxiety about the anxiety’. The problem is that trigger in the brain that initiates the fight or flight response is super sensitive to threat. It’s not broken and it hasn’t gone haywire. Understanding this, as well as how it works can be really powerful in managing the response more effectively. Having said this, you know your child better than anyone and it’s for you to decide what will or won’t work for them. I hope this clarifies things for you.

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K

I understand what you are saying but i feel my childs anxieties are a little hard for me to deal with because she is going thru puberty and she is having random sexual thoughts that disturb and distress her. Worried that they are and eill become real. They certainly arent real. She mentally undresses people when she has hormonal surges and has what she calls grosse thought. Is scared she will accidently bang into someone or vice versa. Can’t bear to be near men.
She has lived thru dome horrific traumas and serious illnessess.
She has never been abused in anyway but has been very ill with multiple operations.what can I do?

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Hey Sigmund

It sounds like your daughter has been through a tough time, and would really benefit from counselling to help strengthen her to deal with the things she has been through. And yes, puberty does have a way of heightening anxiety. At the moment, your daughter might be feeling quite alone with her experience, which will make everything feel worse. There are so many people who struggle with this – if only she knew.

One of the reasons her thoughts are sexual is likely to be because of the big changes in the brain that happen during adolescence. Her brain is changing now like never before and there will be things that happen for her that feel really weird, and then they’ll settle. In relation to her thoughts, the more she tries to not think about things, the more she will be likely to think them. It’s like telling yourself all day not to think about pink elephants – the more you tell yourself not to think about them, the more you’ll think about them. A counsellor would help her to settle her thoughts. Part of this involves accepting them and letting them be, so they can go.

If counselling is difficult to access, try encouraging her to talk about her to journal about her thoughts. Let her know that there’s nothing wrong with what she’s thinking, even though it feels like that for her because it’s so unusual for her. Let her know her thoughts won’t always be there, it’s just that her brain is going through a massive growth spurt, as is her hormonal system. It happens to everyone during adolescence, but it plays out differently for different people. This is how it’s playing out for her.

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K

She has been referred to Child Mental Heath services for counselling. Shes kept away from young kids as they jump all over her and invade her space yet her hormones continue to dusturb her.
She named the warrior and with that and her worry dolls she has been relatively calm. She just went out biking out front with a friend 2 years younger but was apprehensive. I said just do grown up things. No horseplay, and stay outside out front. She cant hide in the house with me all day.
Funny, all her past is coming up. Innocent childhood things. Yes i agree she needs help to let go. I tell her its history, in the past, and she knows that but when a hormonal surge happens all best laid plans fall away. I can hear her laughing outside. Nice. This will help me too. I take flight in a fight.
Support services just sent her a card saying ” Change is a part if life
Everything goes Away
Especially the things you dont like
And… just a little card to show we are thinking of you and we love you…”
It bought tears to my eyes as did your reply…. to know there is someone listening and ready to help.
THANKS :+)

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MRW

My 12 yr old son initially started showing signs of OCD with a strong fear of getting sick/vomiting. The psychologist suggested we take him to the psychiatrist for meds as his case was severe. They started him on the lowest dose of a SSRI with Xanax as needed. He had his first full blown panic attack WITH the meds!! This then started the spiral into more panic attacks which led to fear of leaving the house for fear of friends seeing him. He lost 10# in a matter of a month off his already thin body. Then, during the second week of the meds, my son came into my room crying and pleaded for me to get a gun and shoot him because he didn’t know what was going on with his brain/body and he couldn’t take it. This is a child that has a huge group of friends, is very athletic and smart. Where was all of this coming from??? After discussing with the psychiatrist, we were told “yes, there are some side effects, but we have to keep on to get the meds into his system”. REALLY?? Asking me to kill him is not an OK side effect!!! Found another MD who put him on another SSRI and he was 1000% worse!!! I fired both psychiatrist. We stopped the meds after trying for 2 months. We started NEUROFEEDBACK. It was nothing short of amazing!! My son had been homebound for 4 months – stopped going to school, no sports, no association with friends, nothing!!!! After 5 sessions, of neurofeedback, he was back at school 3 classes/day and by the 8th session, he was back to school full time. He completed the school year, got caught up with all the missed work, played in the last game of the season with his basketball team. I was told by both psychiatrist and 2 psychologists that neurofeedback was just an expensive form of playing brain games. Well, it is expensive and maybe it is just playing brain games, but I have my son back. I could have continued to give him meds day after day and do God knows what to his brain with the chemicals and who knows if he would have even been here today based on how he actually worsened while on the meds.

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Hey Sigmund

Thank you so much for sharing this! Seeing the changes in your son from the medication must have been frightening for you and I’m sorry you didn’t receive more support for your concerns, which sound as though they were very valid. There is so much we don’t know in psychology and things that aren’t properly understood will too often be met with scepticism and discounted in favor of more researched, though not neccessarily more effective approaches. It’s about whatever works and honestly, I have so much faith in a parent’s intuition. So much credit to you for listening to yours.

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Hey Sigmund

Absolutely! Exercise – it’s the natural end to the fight or flight so there’s a really good reason that what you do works. It’s great that you’ve found something that works!

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RW

Tim,
You are correct that in times of severe anxiety/panic it seems as if nothing will work. As a parent of a child with severe anxiety, I completely understand. My 12 y