My DS was diagnosed with anxiety at age 4. He does not have ADHD, but does have sensory issues and some other OT issues.
He was already going to OT to deal with the sensory stuff, fine motor skills, etc. For the anxiety, we took him to a child psychologist who did CBT with him, and it made all the difference. His anxiety related behaviors were really ramping up to the point of him not wanting to participate in activities he had done since he was really little and previously been totally comfortable with, having panic attacks at school, etc. I wasn't willing to let him slip away from the life I knew he had enjoyed because of the anxiety. So, we began a lot of work with the therapist - sometimes just my son, sometimes just me and my husband and sometimes all three of us together. It actually did not take very long to start seeing a significant change in him (although the work during that time was pretty intense for us). He was so much happier, able to participate, relax and not worry as much.
A few things we learned from our therapist (and I know this is just one person's professional opinion, and others may have a different take, but it rang true for us) -
- genuine anxiety is generally not something a person outgrows - it is kind of a life long thing that you need to learn to manage. My son still has anxiety. We all now know how to deal with it much better so it doesn't impact his life the way it used to.
- we have to be careful about the kind of school setting we choose for our son. He went to an alternative public school for 1st grade and went backwards in a lot of ways. It was too big, too chaotic and the teachers weren't willing to implement any suggestions we had or even really recognize that the anxiety was causing the behaviors. We never even got as far an an IEP. He is back in a small private Montessori this year (second grade) and doing great again.
- someone else mentioned the anxiety getting worse in certain seasons. This has certainly been a pattern for us. My son's anxiety was triggered by my cancer diagnosis when he was 2.5 yo - and it was spring time. Our lives were turned upside down pretty quickly as we dealt with it. So, spring time is when we see the anxiety really flare. Our therapist said that young children who don't have as many verbal skills to process traumatic events, often really take in their surroundings at the time of the event - which, when they experience them later, can become triggers for anxious times.
- Anxiety in kids is often misdiagnosed because a lot of the behaviors associated with anxiety can also be associated with other things. For some reason, many professionals are quicker to label a child as having ADHD or even autism than anxiety.
We were pretty opposed to medication for our son, and wanted to try everything else before we went down that road. Luckily, we were able to avoid it with the help of a great therapist.
I hope you are your little guy are able to get some good help. I remember feeling so sad for my son as I watched him struggle. I also remember feeling like I had no idea what to do to help him. Things are so much better now - but we had to make some changes for sure.