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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

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.”

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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. Might be worth a look? http://hsperson.com/ The book is really illuminating, and helpful in terms of managing it and beginning to value rather than regret these qualities. All best to you both!

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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 yr old son did not leave the house for 4 months, and I mean he DID NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE FOR ANYTHING! We tried the SSRI’s at the onset of the anxiety, before the full blown panic attacks started. The meds are what precipitated his panic attacks, for which he was then given anti-anxiety meds to help with the multiple panic attacks each day. Then, he became suicidal. We took him off the meds and within a few days he started having less panic attacks. Then we found a PhD Psychologist that does neurofeedback. He came to our house 2days/wk and after 2 weeks of neurofeedback, our son was back at school 4 hours/day and after 8 session, he was back full time and has never looked back. So, in some cases, and even severe cases, meds ARE NOT THE ANSWER!! There are natural remedies to teach the brain how to respond. I hope the best for you and your child.

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Michael

Excellent article, I learnt a lot about about how anxiety occurs. Can you please tell me how this relates to the type of anxiety one experiences when going through a relationship breakdown? Whether it’s through teenage or adult years. Does the same processes apply? As you say “The part of the brain that needs to protect you”. Is it the same process that happens that gives you that awful feeling inside? Does it relate to the same anxiety process as your analogy describes, like running away from a dog? Sorry if the questions seems a bit odd, but It’s very interesting to understand. Thanks

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Hey Sigmund

It’s a really good question. Anxiety is always the same physiological response, whether it’s in kids or adults. If you’re going through a relationship breakdown, there are other physiological things going on. Here is an article that might shed some light: http://www.heysigmund.com/your-body-during-a-breakup/ . Our bodies have amazing ways of processing things and adapting to things and it can really help to understand exactly what’s going on. I hope this helps. (And I love questions – no such thing as an odd one here!)

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Christine

This is a wonderful article! I’ve read so many books on anxiety but you have managed to write about it in a way I can really understand. I suffer (& I mean SUFFER) from anxiety & I’ve been taught all of these techniques but to be able to put it all together visually is brilliant! Do you have a link to a mindfulness script I could try?

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Hey Sigmund

Hi Christine,

I’m so pleased the article helped you. Here are some scripts to try:

http://www.mindful.org/resources

Here is one that is suggested by Harvard Medical School. Down the bottom of the page are links to audio scripts – http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-helps-fight-insomnia-improves-sleep-201502187726

And finally …
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1002/9781119993162.app1/asset/app1.pdf;jsessionid=26D94301EACCC6641F760B3C56D77B39.f01t02?v=1&t=iao07mqy&s=2b4216ba9c6698d37c484901f324824972e60a7b .

Hope you can find something that works for you in these.

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suzi

great article. I’ve recently been doing some anxiety support and one of the BIG things which has actually helped is switching off the reassurance and sympathy and moving on to solutions. working through her worries in a child friendly way, working together on suggestions so that she can build her own resilience as she grows older to solve her own worries and anxieties. its made a huge difference and I just wish that someone had told me it years ago so I could have implemented it earlier on in her life.

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deb

I have a 3 yr old who is totally wild and bouncing off the walls. The pediatrician said it was anxiety. He talks constantly and is a nightmare at school.
He is very bright and has a quirky sense of humor but. Don’t understand how this can be anxiety.

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Hey Sigmund

Anxiety can take on different shapes and can look differently in different kids. It would be completely appropriate to ask your son’s paediatrician to explain to you how the diagnosis of anxiety was reached. Hopefully this will help you to make sense of things and it’s always good to have as much information as possible. If after speaking further with your son’s doctor something still doesn’t feel right, I would trust your intuition and seek another opinion.

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K

Have you considered looking into your child’s diet?
My child was lime this too… It turned out to be ADHD

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Jean

Wild, bouncing off the walls, rushing through everything, talking fast – that is exactly how my daughter experiences anxiety. And she also has ADHD which does not look like her anxiety response so I’d trust that anxiety dx is correct and go from there.

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Sarah

I think this is a very good article, my son has suffered for a long time and was only really pointed out to me when he changed school , it’s heart breaking to see your child suffering and leaning to understand there fears , I my self have needed help to understand and now we are in a much better place and talk about it rather than telling him he will be fine and there is nothing to worry about , in a child’s mind it won’t be fine untill they understand ,
I was offered meds for him but wanted to try a placebo affect and I give him fish oil every day and this really helps him we see a difference in his anxiety if he misses a day .

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Hey Sigmund

It’s so difficult to see someone you love having to deal with anxiety isn’t it. You’re absolutely right about talking about it rather than telling them there is nothing to worry about. There is actually some evidence that shows that fish oil is good for anxiety, so it may not as much a placebo as doing something actually beneficial. There’s a lot we’re still learning about the brain but omega 3 is good for brain health and it seems to help with anxiety as well. There is some information and some other ideas here http://www.heysigmund.com/anxiety-without-medication/ .

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Catherine

Thank you for this article. It has given me some new ideas. I teach a three year old girl in a small setting who has severe generalised anxiety and although we make progress, it is very slow. She has very little understanding. I have spoken of it being common, led her through meditations and taught her to ‘breathe in a flower and blow out a candle’. She says ‘I don’t want to breathe, I don’t like soft toys, I don’t know what bananas do, I don’t know if your trees are growing…’ All day. I sometimes teach her particular skills and ask her to share so she is not ‘the powerless’ member of the group. I offer to read a book or play a game after she’s completed one task on her own or with a classmate. I believe my attention is her currency. Any further ideas for the very young would be great. Thanks.

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Hey Sigmund

It sounds as though you are doing a wonderful job. One on one attention is really important, and it’s great that you are able to give this to her. For kids who are anxious, their fight or flight response can be easily triggered in a bigger group, particularly for younger kids who are still learning how to manage their response. You’re encouraging brave behaviour by rewarding her after she does something difficult, which is also really important. Progress can be seem slow, but celebrate the little things – they’re the things that will all add up to the big things. Here are some other things that might help http://www.heysigmund.com/anxiety-in-very-young-kids-11-ways-to-make-a-difference/ . This little one is very lucky to have you.

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Anushka

This article is brilliant. I hope i’ll do a good job of converting it for a 6 year old.

One thing I will say as a person who’s suffered from terrible shortness of breath due to chronic anxiety is that it’s frustrating and anxiety inducing to be told to “just take deep slow breaths” When you absolutely cannot.

I think once you slow down and begin to acknowledge you’re safe and separate yourself from the feeling a bit then the breathing naturally slows. For my with my symptoms (and my son is the same) the breathing can’t be focused on directly in the height of an anxiety attack.

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Hey Sigmund

You’re so right about it being almost impossible (or impossible!) to take deep slow breaths in the thick of an anxiety attack. The reason breathing is important is because it initiates the relaxation response, which is hardwired into us in the same way the fight or flight response is. The relaxation response was discovered by Harvard cardiologist and when it’s triggered (as it is with deep, strong breathing), it surges your body with neurochemicals that reverse the fight or flight response. The problem is that accessing it when you need isn’t that easy. The way to get around this is to practice breathing as much as you can when you’re not anxious. Try a couple of times a day (if you can) being still and breathing in for 3, hold for 1, out for three, hold for 1. Try to get your son to practice it before bed with a toy on his belly, so that he can make sure the breaths are strong and deep and coming from his belly, not his chest (the toy should move up and down when he breathes). It will take some practice, but it will eventually make it easier to access deep, strong breaths and trigger the relaxation response when you’re in the height of an anxiety attack. There is some information about it in this article http://www.heysigmund.com/managing-anxiety/ . Also, just in case you haven’t read it, here is some info about helping younger ones with anxiety http://www.heysigmund.com/anxiety-in-very-young-kids-11-ways-to-make-a-difference/ . Being in the thick of an anxiety attack feels awful, I know, and I hope the information is able to help you and your little man.

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Stephanie

Yes, it in early impossible to try deep breathing in the midst of an attack. Regular practice is so impotant! Keep in mind that physiologically , anxiety raises your heart rate and rapid heart rate fuels anxiety ( perfect in actual danger but a vicious cycle in anxiety) .

The intra thoracic pressure chances in deep slow breathing decreases the heart rate and breaks the cycle.

Practice helps in two ways- it prepares you to be able to do it in an attack. It also is a regular reminder that you have a tool to help. This reduces the fear of having an attack, which is so crippling in people with anxiety disorders.

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Maria

I just wanted to add another ‘concept’ if I may…
I have suffered anxiety myself after a trauma in my teenage years. It was overwhelming and although I tried the techniques mentioned which helped me calm down during an episode of anxiety, it didn’t stop them from re-occurring.
At one point, I was having blackouts during the middle of the day for no reason… My GP advised me to seek psychological therapy and take some medication.

I felt deep down that I wanted to control the problem from within not with medication.. Something inside me just knew that medication was only going to mask the problem for me. (I will take a minute to mention that I don’t disregard the power of medication or judge anyone who chooses that path!!)
But for me.. I needed to keep looking.. I came across the book ‘The Brain that Changes Itself’ by Norman Doidge who is an internationally renowned Psychiatrist, and he spoke about Neuroplasticity or the ability of the brain to change and adapt. This made sense to me… If my brain could change to start triggering anxiety following a life event, it should also be able to ‘change back’.

I immediately started my journey of looking for a practitioner of neuroplasticity (sometimes called a neurotherapist) to try and re-train my brain not to have these inappropriate responses. By this stage I had been suffering from anxiety for almost 2 years and it was slowly taking over my life!
Well to my astonishment, I found one in Perth (Australia).. Which is rare! So I went along and within 4 weeks I had not only stopped having anxiety episodes, but I felt amazingly in control of my brain… Something I had not experienced before. I Received treatment for around 12 weeks and I have never had another anxiety attack since… This was 6 years ago! 🙂

I have spoken about this with many people who I have come across with anxiety… Many have tried the same approach.. And for the majority it worked similarly to how it worked for me…

I hope this helps someone else out there because it changed my life!

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Don Hughes

I see a lot of people immediately mentioning meds. A seemingly good rule of thumb in the decision to try meds was told to me by the psychiatrist who diagnosed my son with Asperger’s; he said he tries to stay away from meds unless the condition in question affects the child’s self esteem. He tried to never use the medical option simply to make the child more manageable to teachers or parents. I have stuck with this approach with my son and it has worked well for him.

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Hey Sigmund

I absolutely agree with you! That advice from the psychiatrist is gold. There is a place for medication, but it’s important to remember that anxiety is something that needs to be managed throughout the lifetime, as there’s no ‘cure’ as such. The concern with medication is the risk that it will create a dependancy by undermining the learning of those important skills. Although learning how to manage anxiety can take time, once the skills are learnt, people can be really successful in keeping their anxiety at bay and not letting it intrude on a happy, productive, full life. Thank you for sharing this.

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carolyn

My daughter who is an adult now. Has always had social anxiety an example in HS I found out she was not going to lunch she was going to the restroom and staying in there during lunch. As an adult example she was watching her niece who fell and hit her head. She was freaking out thinking that her sister would be so mad that she would never want to see her again and that her niece was going to have brain damage. She also cant have anything out of place too long. She got a new couch and the kitchen table had to be moved out of the way. With in 5 min she said to me I need to put the table back theres to much out of place and we moved it back and she looked and had to move it a half of inch or so then like another 1/8in. Maybe not those exact measurements but I wanted a good description for you. Also shes pregnant and very first sonogram she wouldnt even look at the screen she looked at me and asked does everything look normal? I want to help her relax just a little it seems stressful to constantly have those feelings. Any tips on how I can help her deal with those feelings?

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Hey Sigmund

It’s difficult watching someone you love go through this isn’t it. Here is some information that might help you: http://www.heysigmund.com/when-someone-you-love-has-anxiety/. Also, if your daughter is open to it, here is some information on mindfulness which helps to strengthen and protect the brain against anxiety:
Mindfulness: Why it Works http://www.heysigmund.com/mindfulness-and-health-this-is-why-it-works/
Mindfulness: The Difference 10 Minutes a Day Can Make: http://www.heysigmund.com/mindfulness-what-how-why/

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Nicole

Do you have any thoughts on school refusal anxiety. We have Been experiencing this for 12 months. We are seeing a therapist for the last 10 months along with medication. Which we have seen some improvement but is still extremely challengingfor our daughter. Have you come across this before?

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Jayme

Thank you for this article! I can’t wait to share some of this with my daughter! She’s struggled with anxiety almost her entire life. What seemed like severe separation anxiety for several years turned into more than that in Kindergarten. She didn’t play on the playground ONCE that year! She said she didn’t want the teachers to see her playing. She has never done any imaginative play in front of me. She only pays like that behind a CLOSED door by herself. She asks me go away so she can play. She’s 8 now. I can hear her through the door, and it’s amazing how creative she is, but makes me sad that I’ve never gotten to witness it. Last year we added a baby to the family and her anxiety went from 1 to 10000! She wouldn’t hold the baby, she started having panic attacks, had an INTENSE fear of germs to the point that she couldn’t leave the house. We put an emergency call into the pediatrician after she begged is to take her to the hospital because she couldn’t take it anymore! It was her cry for help! We put her on zoloft after swearing we wouldn’t go the medication route. She’d already been in counseling. I must also say she complained of headaches almost EVERY DAY. The doctor said she just needed more sleep. Turns out that was a symptom of anxiety! She also has extreme sensitivity to clothing and the way it feels. This seems to be related to the anxiety. Getting her dressed for the past 3 years has been nothing short of a nightmare! We’re trying to wean her off of the meds because about 6 months on the medication and once we were on the psychiatrist desired dosage for her she’s had a big personality change! Very ADHD like behavior. Wild, unable to organize thoughts, rushing through everything, failing tests, etc. Anyone else experienced this? She was the COMPLETE opposite of this before meds! Her past teachers can’t believe what I’m telling them! I’m worried these are permanent changes due to meds. She’s been on Zoloft 10 months. Psychiatrist says it’s the only safe option for kids. We’re at a loss. I’m trying essential oils, diffusing at night in her room. We’ve also bought a program we do with her because she didn’t think counseling was helping. More suggestions or insight is VERY WELCOMED!

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Hey Sigmund

Jayme, it sounds as though your family has been through a tough time. This must be awful for your daughter and really difficult for you to see her struggling like this. If you can help her to understand why she’s feeling the way she’s feeling, it will help to demystify things for her and help her to feel more in control of what’s happening. One of the things that makes anxiety so difficult to deal with is that it doesn’t make sense. Making sense of it for her can really help to empower her. There is a lot of information under ‘Being Human’ in the menu bar, and hit. When you click on it, a menu will drop down. Click on anxiety there and it will take you to a bundle of articles. The ones I think would be important for you are:

>> What to Say to Kids When They are Anxious http://www.heysigmund.com/building-emotional-intelligence-what-to-say-to-children-with-anxiety/
>> Mindfulness for Children http://www.heysigmund.com/mindfulness-for-children-fun-effective-ways-to-strengthen-mind-body-spirit/ (There is a stack of research that has shown how mindfulness can change the neural pathways and strengthen the brain against anxiety)
>> Anxiety – 15 Ways to Feel Better Without Medication http://www.heysigmund.com/anxiety-without-medication/

There are quite a few things to try and its good to have a bit of a toolbox. I hope this is able to help your daughter find some comfort. She sounds pretty wonderful.

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Alison

Jayme, you might also check out the book The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine Aron if you haven’t already ready it. It sounds like your daughter might be highly sensitive. My daughter, now 11, is highly sensitive and highly anxious. Reading THSC has helped me understand her.

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Kris

Jayme, I don’t know if it applies, but the below causes also have anxiety, headaches, sensitivity as some of the symptoms.
It could be worthwhile checking her digestion and elimination. Does she have bloating after eating? Constipation or diarrhea? Those could be indicative of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). Small intestine should be almost sterile but if there’s dysbiosis, some gut bacteria produce fermentation and the gases released are very toxic to the brain (there is gut-brain axis and the brain and nerves DO get affected). While Vit. B5 (pantothenic acid) will not cure it on its own, you may check if it helps (the effect could, sometimes, be felt within less than an hour). Adding sublingual B12 (methylcobalamin) could also help. My severe anxiety of a couple months, for which I used everything I could find (journaling, diet, herbs, mudras, acupressure, sedating Triple Warmer techniques from youtube) kept coming back daily and I found out it was SIBO related.
Also worth checking are food and/or chemical allergies/sensitivities as they can affect the brain and may cause brain inflammation. Then anxiety can be one of the symptoms.
Naturopathic or homeopathic doctor could be bigger help with anxiety than a regular pediatrician.

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Jen

My daughter is 7 years old. Everyday she tells me she doesn’t feel good. She has convinced herself that she will get sick and is terrified of vomiting. She had a friend over and got sick and is now in fear that she will get sick anywhere she goes. She has difficulty sleeping and seems like a child that is uncomfortable in her own skin Right now. We have been seeing a counselor but are moving forward with a psychologist. Are we doing the right thing?

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Hey Sigmund

Jen you are definitely doing the right thing. Do what you can at home too though. Sometimes kids with anxiety find it hard to open up to strangers, so you might need to be patient before you see change. She is probably terrified of vomiting because that’s how she feels when she gets anxious. It would be scary for her if she doesn’t understand why it’s happening. Talk to her about her fierce little worrier. She will trust you more than anybody, which means you have more power than anyone to make a real difference. It’s really important that your daughter understands as much as she is able about why she feels the way she does. Practice breathing with her at home and explain why this is important and why it will make the sick feeling go away. Also encourage her towards a regular mindfulness practice (see here http://www.heysigmund.com/mindfulness-for-children-fun-effective-ways-to-strengthen-mind-body-spirit/) as well as exercise. She might already be getting plenty of exercise but if she’s not, maybe try going for a 20 minute walk with her or anything that gets her moving – kicking a ball, dancing in the kitchen – anything. Mindfulness and exercise have been shown to strengthen the brain against anxiety. Let her know that it’s making her brain stronger. There is also some more information here that might help you http://www.heysigmund.com/building-emotional-intelligence-what-to-say-to-children-with-anxiety/. Don’t underestimate the difference you can make by giving her the right information.

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Jen

Thank you! Now I have some other ways to try and help her and some positive things to say to her.

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Jen

How can I help her when she can’t settle down and really isn’t willing to do anything I suggest? It seems like she’s stuck in the thought of getting sick and there’s nothing I can say or do to help her.

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Hey Sigmund

This will take time to turn around, because it has been a fixed way of responding for a while. When she’s in the thick of her anxiety, she won’t be able to settle down or hear you. All of her energy will be focussed on her fight or flight response. This is why it’s important to practice the strategies and have the conversations when she is calm.

Acknowledge her feelings and validate where she is at, ‘I really understand that you feel like you’re going to get sick no matter what. That must be a really scary thing for you to feel. I get that. Let’s just try something new. I’m going to do it too because it will strengthen our brains. If you want to try it when you’re feeling like you’re going to be sick, that’s up to you, but you don’t have to.’ Give her all of the control she needs. She needs to know that you get it, so let her know that you understand how scared she is of getting sick. Acknowledge it, without trying to change it. Explain why breathing strong deep breaths is important for all of us, but that it’s completely up to her whether she uses it or not when she is anxious. Be patient though and don’t be disheartened if she doesn’t grab on straight away. It will take time.

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Jen

What can I do when she appears to be angry and can’t get the thought out of her head? She paces and is mad and it almost seems like she is having a temper tantrum. She also excessively takes her temperature thinking it will help. She cries and nothing seems to console her. She is mean. What is happening during this time. Is it a panic attack?

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Hey Sigmund

When this happens, she needs to know that you can see what she’s going through and that you understand. Don’t try to talk her out of what she’s feeling. The emotions are too intense and it just won’t work. Try some of the strategies in the article. You won’t be able to change anything when she is in the thick of an anxiety attack, which is why the breathing, mindfulness, explanations etc. have to happen when she is calm and able to hear you.

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RW

Jen,
My now 13 yr old son, started out like your daughter with fear of vomiting. If anyone at school had the stomach bug, he would have excessive worry that he would get sick too. Because of the intensity and frequency of worry that interfered with school/sports, we took him to a counselor that then led to psychiatrist that led to medication that led to thoughts of suicide (even with med changes). We eventually found a PhD psychologist that did neurofeedback. By the time we had started with this guy, my son had not been to school for 4 months due to fear of getting sick, panic attacks, anxiety. After 5 sessions of neurofeedback my son was back at school half days and by 8 sessions he was back full time and has not looked back. He does still fear getting the stomach bug, but he can now handle being at school even though others have been out with the stomach bug. I can’t recommend neurofeedback enough. No side effects and fairly quick response.

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Always there

My kids are all predisposed… family history. One of my daughters who suffers from Anxiety (vomiting has been the focus.) has made incredible progress with Cognitive Behavior Therapy. We started extensive therapy in third grade when it was the worst and she is now 18 years old. Although she experiences anxiety on a daily basis, her coping skills that she learned with cognitive behavior therapy at a young age have been beneficial to her coping now on a daily basis. I have never been against medicine but it was always my last option as a parent. To date, she has been medicine free. She still lives at home, thriving at college and is the love of my life. I am so proud of her! It’s a struggle for her daily and for us as a family but we stick together. When I look back and think of the hours of therapy, driving to and from, working on skills, etc… etc… it was all worth it. Hang in there if your experiencing this. It will eventually get a little easier. The key is to stick together and let your loved one know that you are in it with them. It’s not their fault that they’ve been cursed with this and together you will fight it.

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asma

Its realy helpfull article.
My daughter is 4 years 5 month old. She is socially shy and get anxious when we go outside or if guests come to our home. She never greets . Anf never eat before others. She is going to nursery since she was two years old and from the age of 4 years she is going full day school. Im school she has only one friend she only plays and talk with her never talk to teacher and not even greet for a single time. I tried to contingent her brhavior with reward if you greet your teacher then you ll get reinforcer. Bt in evry situation its not possible. She has eating n digestion problems i am so worried about her. When i worked with her before going to situation like if we r going n i prepare her if you would say hello you ll get toy in such situation she greets but while saying hello she gets sweating n fast heart beat. Plz suggest met

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Daniela

Hi Asma, my daughter had similar characteristics when she was in daycare – never spoke or played with other kids and never greeted her teachers – she’d walk in so shy each time. We started occupational therapy with her to build up her confidence – my daughter wouldn’t go on a swing, trampoline or play equipment. We found that as she found the courage to do these things through occupational therapy, she became more confident. In her first year of school she was much better socially and had a great group of friends. She still has anxiety but she’s getting better dealing with it. It took about 12 months of occupational therapy to see the difference but it’s been worth it. She continues to go every fortnight just to teach her skills to help her deal with different situations

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Pam

I wish my mum and dad knew this as I was growing up! This is great stuff. Helping me even now as an adult, and I can use it for my kids and others.
Thankyou.

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LeAnn

Such a well written article! One of the best I’ve read regarding childhood anxiety. My sweet 10 yr old daughter has shown signs of anxiety since birth… (she gets it from her mom as I’ve suffered with GAD all of my life) It was heart wrenching to watch her suffer from the same demon that had robed me of so much peace/happiness growing up. I’ve always yearned for a list of suggestions to refer to when she is in the throws of an anxiety attack….. and these are wonderful. Thank you!!

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Elizabeth Miller

As a trauma therapist, I am thrilled with what I am learning here, as well as seeing how encouraging this information and discussion is. I certainly do not want to imply that all anxiety is trauma based, but I would encourage parents and practitioners to remain calmly aware that significant symptoms that crop up, often seemingly from nowhere, can be a distress reaction to harm. No doubt, ADHD symptoms can be ADHD with or without trauma, but I believe it is important to recognize and differentiate behavioral indicators of what a child cannot articulate or, perhaps, even recognize as abuse.

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Andre Alyeska

“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.”

This is a great analogy! I worked in residential treatment for years and will probably return. Helping kids see the difference between perceived and real threats/stressors is huge. I’m going to use this.

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Hey Sigmund

Thanks Andre. It can really help kids to have something concrete to help them make sense of things can’t it. I’m pleased this will be useful for you.

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Paula

THANK YOU!!! Our 9 year old has anxiety that keeps her up at night for hours, makes it hard to go back to school after a weekend or any kind of school break and has sent her into full-blown panic attacks. We have had her in counseling and learned some strategies but nothing is as powerful as this. I could see the relief on her face when I explained the physiological process and how she does not have to let it control her. This all makes so much sense and just that validation that, “yes, all of those sensations you experience ARE real AND there is something we can do about it” was priceless.

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Hey Sigmund

Paula I’m so pleased you read this article and have shared it with your daughter. It can make such a difference for them when they understand what’s happening. Kids can do amazing things with the right information can’t they!

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Lisa Tuggle

I enjoyed this article. As a school counselor I see quite a bit of this and what I wanted to mention is this: Very often the “worries” are completely irrational, so there really isn’t a trigger. For example a child with perfect behavior is anxious because she’s worried about getting in trouble at school. Another has anxiety because she’s “worried” about getting sick and throwing up at school. In reality this had only happened once.

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bridgit

I cannot express to you the relief this article has brought to our home. Homework was a daily fight, as was emptying the dishwasher… don’t even get me started on filling it! We counted “fits” a few weeks ago: 32 in one week. Since having this conversation(s) with our child, 3 is the most there have been in a day, 0-1 being the norm. This has been life changing: thank you for the work you do!

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Hey Sigmund

Wow! That’s amazing! I’m pleased to hear this has worked so well for you. I can write about it but it’s up to parents and kids to be open to the information and to do something special with it. Sounds as though that’s exactly what you have done – and what an incredible difference. Thanks so much for letting me know.

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Sharon

To medicate or not to medicate?? A difficult decision for any parents of children suffering from anixety or any form of mental health problems. Having a 12 year old who has suffered on and off from anixety most of his life we hit a really rough patch 3 months ago that intensified when school went back a few weeks ago. His support network was fantastic and he was talking to you us about everything but the physical symptoms were weighing him down more than anything. Feeling sick all the time, stomach pains, vomiting at school, crying at the drop of a hat for no reason, not eating etc, etc. anyway cutting a long story short we went to a health food shop and discovered Adol Essence (designed for anixety in adolescents). OMG the turn around with 24hrs was amazing. I wanted to share this for anyone who maybe looking for an alternative to SSRIs etc. We are also about to start working with a GP and we are not against medication but to find something that has had no side effects has been amazing. As Tim said in an earlier post it’s hard for them to use the breathing techniques and mindfulness when they are feeling so bad. Now that he can think clearer and concentrate better he can use the techniques and practice them as well. Thanks for the awesome article/s! As parents of kids with anxiety i believe we need to be open to everything, trust our gut and keep looking until we find what works the best for our child. This may mean stepping outside of our own beliefs and keeping an open mind. This isn’t about us it is about them.

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