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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. 

You might also like …

‘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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795 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.

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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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