Anxiety Disorders in children? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 04-19-2008, 12:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello wise mamas,

My five-year-old son is a very, very anxious kid. He has been this way since he was born. He used to be very outspoken about his anxieties as a toddler (i.e. of the wind, rain, bathtub, I could go on and on), but now seems to keep them mostly to himself. When I asked him today if there was any point in the day today when he felt worried about something, he said,

"what do you mean? I was worried the whole day long."

And then he gave me a little bit of insight into his mind by telling me that when he's at school he always has to sit so that he can see out the windows. But he really doesn't like to talk about what worries him. He usually will tell me that he can't tell me, or that it's too scary to say out loud.

Lately, his anxiety (or what I perceive to be his anxiety) is presenting in the form of anger and aggression towards me (growling, telling me he hates me, hitting/kicking/scratching me). He seems very tense and unhappy much of the time.

He is happy at school (he's in preschool from 9-3 5 days), and his teachers say he's a joy and haven't noticed any of his anxiety issues for over a year now (initially he was very anxious about the fire drills, and they definitely noticed that). The only reason I can think for why he does so well there is because it's such a predictable routine.

He is, in general, more anxious about things that MIGHT happen, or in anticipation of things that we've told him are going to happen, than he is about things that are actually HAPPENING. Transitions are incredibly difficult for him right now. I think it's likely because he's worrying about things without telling us.

He is also plagued by a fear of dying. Occasionally he will tell me, "I can't stop thinking about scary things. Please make it stop." And usually the scary thing he's thinking about is "dying."

And then sometimes--sometimes for a whole DAY even--ds will just seem totally fine and like he doesn't have a worry in the world. He has the potential to be totally easy-going, but then he also has the potential to be incredibly resistant to EVERYTHING.

Does this sound like it could be an anxiety disorder of some kind? I definitely feel like *I* am an anxious person, and there is a lot of anxiety in my family (some people are medicated for it). I don't know what to do to make life easier and more enjoyable for my kid. But at this point I'd do just about anything.

Thanks!

Lex

Mindfully mothering SIX kids (ages 4, 5, 7, 8, 11 & 11) in a small house with a lot of love.
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#2 of 14 Old 05-27-2008, 10:57 PM
 
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First of all, It is so hard to think about LOs having so much worry in their lives. My 10 year old has been struggling with anxiety for most of his life now and it has been a challenge for all of us. Your LO's story reminded me a lot of my son. Unfortunately I don't have much time to respond, but I wanted to let you know that you can certainly PM me and we can talk more.

I also have a psych background- which always makes it so much more difficult for me!! Always analyzing stuff! My son has some sensory issues too which actually cause a significant amount of anxiety.

Best of luck to you- sorry I couldn't spend more time helping but I wanted to let you know my heart goes out to you!
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#3 of 14 Old 05-28-2008, 12:24 PM
 
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Yes, it does sound like an anxiety disorder. If it were me, I would take him to some kind of talk therapy and see if that could help. There are lots of psychologists who specialize in this kind of thing.

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#4 of 14 Old 05-28-2008, 01:01 PM
 
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Originally Posted by lexbeach View Post
Lately, his anxiety (or what I perceive to be his anxiety) is presenting in the form of anger and aggression towards me (growling, telling me he hates me, hitting/kicking/scratching me). He seems very tense and unhappy much of the time.
I think it's great that you recognize that anxiety in young children can present as anger, aggression, inflexibility, and general unhappiness. My son's "misbehavior" really started showing up at around 3. We thought it was just the "terrible twos." His preschool teacher mentioned that she thought his behavior was due to anxiety--something I hadn't considered at all. I assumed fear would equal "flight" and not "fight" in a young child. It turns out she was right. We had an evaluation with a psychologist and with a developmental pediatrician when ds was 5 and he was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. That was a relief because anxiety is very treatable! (I have OCD.)

School anxiety was a big deal for ds--although we didn't realize it until kindergarten. It had pretty much turned into school phobia by the time we decided to homeschool at the end of kindergarten. The school was pushing us to get anxiety medication for ds, but I wanted to try a change in environment first (homeschooling.) We tried homeschooling and no medication for a year, and because ds didn't have to deal with school anxiety, things were better. But he still had obsessive "scary thoughts" and trouble sleeping, so we started Zoloft 3 months ago. He has less overall anxiety and less obsessive thoughts--and he's less anxious about the thoughts when he does have them.

We've tried talk therapy and play therapy and neither had big results. Play therapy at least helped us to figure out what ds was worried about--but it didn't help "treat" the fears. By the time we tried talk therapy, we already knew what the fears were, but all we got from the therapist was, "We aren't going to let those fears win, are we?" I had more success teaching him how I deal with obsessive thoughts myself (mental exposure therapy, postponing worrying, progressive muscle relaxation.) If you want to find out what's behind your son's anxiety through therapy, I'd recommend play therapy. It's a non-threatening way for kids to express their fears (through action figures, etc...) Our doctors don't think that talk therapy is that effective for young kids.

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#5 of 14 Old 05-28-2008, 07:33 PM
 
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Lex, your son sounds shockingly similar to my DD, who's now almost 4 1/2. She has expressed anxieties and fears since she could talk, but I thought it was within our realm of stuff we could handle ourselves. Then last year were in a very very very minor car accident, and things just snowballed from there. At first she didn't want to get in the car anymore, only wanting to walk. We live in a suburb, so car travel is necessary, so she would bring bags and bags and bags of stuff from our house with her. She run around gathering things, while shrieking and hyperventilating and whimpering. She'd take anything she could, toys, silverware, socks, fruit, anything. This behavior continues but now she also has severe separation and transition issues. Even if I say "Hey, let's go to the zoo!" She's scream that she doesn't want to leave the house today. And the anger, oh my. Hitting, kicking, spitting, pinching, scratching, defiance. Honestly, I don't even think she remembers the car accident any more, the anxiety has just built up on itself for so long that it's not even about that anymore.

Well, her pediatrician has broadly diagnosed anxiety issues, and we are seeing a play therapist next month for a more definitive diagnosis and treatment. The hard and horrible thing is, that we have a prescription for Zoloft that we are supposed to begin giving her today. I'm so so so sad about that. It's the last thing that I wanted to do, but this is seriously destroying our family. Whenever we're trying to go somewhere, she has the attack (or whatever you want to call it) I get frustrated and irritated, DH gets grumpy and angry, pretty soon we're getting snarky with each other, and our poor 2 1/2 yo DD is in the middle. Ugh, just horrible. And the absolute worst is to see my little girls eyes when she's going through this, so big, round, and terrified. On the up side, her doctor thinks that medications would only last for about 4-6 months, to break the cycle of anxiety and by then we'd have tools for dealing with it.

I have no advice, just understanding. We are in the middle of it ourselves, but hopefully on the verge of getting help. to you, mama!

Wife to DH and mama to DD(7) blahblah.gifand DD(5) moon.gif...Lola the Wiener Dog dog2.gif, Faulkner the Little Giant dog2.gif, Ginger the Wonder Cat cat.gif,  Azkaban the blue parakeet, Sunny the yellow parakeet, 3 nameless hermit crabs, and a whole bunch of fish!

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#6 of 14 Old 05-28-2008, 08:18 PM
 
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On the up side, her doctor thinks that medications would only last for about 4-6 months, to break the cycle of anxiety and by then we'd have tools for dealing with it.
That sounds like a great plan. It sounds as if your daughter is "fighting to survive." It's like her survival instinct is set to high alert unnecessarily and leaving the house triggers the alarm. Perhaps the medication will lessen her anxiety enough so that she can have several months of positive experiences with leaving the house. That's like exposure therapy.

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#7 of 14 Old 05-28-2008, 09:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Woah, thanks for all the responses! I'm glad this thread was bumped up since no one responded when I first posted it.

Since then (mid-April), we decided to have Lukas tested for food allergies. I remembered how when we eliminated dairy from his diet (soon after his third birthday (due to rashy skin and erratic behavior)) his anxiety and general behavior was greatly improved. Somehow we eventually started letting him eat dairy again, and at first it didn't seem like it was affecting him. But now I wonder. So, we had the full blood tests done to see if there's anything he's eating that might not be agreeing with him. We get the results tomorrow!

If eliminating foods doesn't end up making a difference then we are going to seek help from a therapist. Though, in the past couple weeks Luke's behavior has been much better than it was for the few months before. I don't know why. Although we did do a lot of talking and research about volcanoes and dinosaurs (two of the things that had been causing him great anxiety), and he doesn't seem so worried about them anymore. So maybe that's part of it. Today was another more difficult day, though, so I'm glad we're still working on figuring things out.

Since Lukas has been doing better (calmer, less anxious, less aggressive, less impulsive, less mean), his twin brother has totally been acting up. We never get a break! But it's been really nice to have Lukas be "the easy one" for a change, and I think he kind of likes it too .

Thanks, Mamas!

Lex

Mindfully mothering SIX kids (ages 4, 5, 7, 8, 11 & 11) in a small house with a lot of love.
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#8 of 14 Old 05-28-2008, 11:54 PM
 
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Hi Lex
I'm glad you LO is doing better. I, too, was going to recommend dietary changes.

Anxiety, I believe, can come from eating too much sugar, sugar alternatives (spenda, honey, maple syrup, etc), fruit (esp. tropical fruits in your location), fruit juices, soda, dairy, nightshades (tomatos, potatos, eggplant), tropical foods (coconut, mango, banana), and some flour products.

I would recommend eliminating these foods for a few months and see if it helps. Also beneficial would be for him to eat strengthening foods such as vegetables (esp, leafy greens), whole grains, beans and sea vegetables. If you are familiar with macrobiotics, that would be the route to take.

Good luck and I hope things improve!
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#9 of 14 Old 05-29-2008, 10:13 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi Lex
I'm glad you LO is doing better. I, too, was going to recommend dietary changes.

Anxiety, I believe, can come from eating too much sugar, sugar alternatives (spenda, honey, maple syrup, etc), fruit (esp. tropical fruits in your location), fruit juices, soda, dairy, nightshades (tomatos, potatos, eggplant), tropical foods (coconut, mango, banana), and some flour products.

I would recommend eliminating these foods for a few months and see if it helps. Also beneficial would be for him to eat strengthening foods such as vegetables (esp, leafy greens), whole grains, beans and sea vegetables. If you are familiar with macrobiotics, that would be the route to take.

Good luck and I hope things improve!
Thanks for the info! It hadn't occurred to me that there might be foods that he wasn't exactly "allergic" to but that were aggravating his anxiety regardless. I think the only thing that will be really hard to eliminate is the fruit. We already limit sugar to very special occasions (i.e. birthdays), and we've realized that citrus makes him freak out. I've wondered about apples/applesauce as well.

His favorite food is brown rice and black beans (or other kinds of beans), and he'd be happy to eat rice and beans for every meal. He also loves meat (chicken, turkey, beef), and vegetable sushi. It is hard to get him to eat leafy greens without having them be a part of a dairy dish (i.e. he'll eat spinach quesadillas, but will balk at spinach alone). He does love broccoli though.

Anyway, thanks for the idea! I will try to eliminate as many of those foods as I can.

Lex

Mindfully mothering SIX kids (ages 4, 5, 7, 8, 11 & 11) in a small house with a lot of love.
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#10 of 14 Old 05-29-2008, 10:30 AM
 
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Hello......another mama here working with an anxious kiddo!

I've been doing some research on anxiety, and found that ds could be magnesium deficient. Magnesium seems to work well to help with a host of maladies, and anxiety is one of them. There are natural ways to get more magnesium in the diet, and of course there are supplements. It seems to be a general opinion that the American diet is lacking in appropriate levels of magnesium.
http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/magnesium-000313.htm

Also, you may want to pick up a coping of "Freeing Your Child from Anxiety," by Tamar Chansky, PhD. before you go to a therapist. It's a great book in general and does a very good describing different types of anxiety disorders, and when anxiety is a problem, and when it's part of normal coping behavior. It may help you see some things in a different way, and will definitely help you discuss things with a therapist. I can't recommend this book enough.
http://www.amazon.com/Freeing-Your-C...2067795&sr=8-1

Here's a good website for some additional ideas:
http://www.worrywisekids.org/index.html

Laura - Mom to ds (10) and dd (7) "Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life." Brian Andreas.

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#11 of 14 Old 05-29-2008, 03:16 PM
 
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Hi Lex
I love the fact that your son enjoys veggie sushi. Nori, the seaweed that the sushi is made with, is wonderful as a snack on it's own. I think it also has good levels of magnesium.

Nori will also help him with this anxiety, although too much can also cause problems with aggression or anger. I'd also recommend limiting the amount of salt and meat he consumes since that they can also cause excess agressiveness or anger.

You can also prepare your beans with veggies in order to sneak some veggies in there for him. I love making fried rice w/ veggies and lo mein (noodles) w/ veggies for my family. Veggie tempura (deep fried vegetables) is also yummy and sooooo relaxing.

Good luck with everything!
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#12 of 14 Old 05-29-2008, 05:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, we don't have all of the results from the allergy testing yet, but so far we know that he is quite allergic to gluten. Yikes! It's good news and bad news. Feeding him will certainly be more difficult now, but I'm glad that there was such an obvious test result and it's clear that we should eliminate gluten from his diet.

I also found out that he's seriously low in Vitamin D. This surprised me because he's so fair, and spends so much time outside (we do put sunscreen on him during peak sun hours but he still manages to get a bit pink from the sun).

So, for now, we are going to eliminate all gluten, add a Vitamin D supplement, add fish oil (he had been taking this, but stopped several months ago), and wait for the rest of the test results.

I'm really optimistic that going gluten free is going to make a difference for him. I know that gluten is highly linked with behavior. Even if it doesn't affect his anxiety, maybe it will help him be able to cope with it better.

I think we'll hold off on therapy for now. He's gotten so much better at talking about his worries with me in the past 4 weeks or so, and I really think it's making a difference.

Thanks again everyone!

Lex

Mindfully mothering SIX kids (ages 4, 5, 7, 8, 11 & 11) in a small house with a lot of love.
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#13 of 14 Old 06-04-2008, 08:53 PM
 
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I think therapy is a good idea. Play therapy in particular would probably be really beneficial, since he's only 5 (and play is the language of children). You can find a play therapist (usually a psychologist, but could be a social worker as well) on the Association for Play Therapy website... A4PT.org.
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#14 of 14 Old 06-10-2008, 10:16 PM
 
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Hi Lex!

I'm subbing until I get a chance to organize my thoughts about the anxiety issue. I want to go back and look at all the links folks have been giving you.

DS (4 1/2) has sensory issues and a social delay, and I'm just starting to consider whether he may have some underlying anxiety that I hadn't picked up on until recently. He seems to suffer from a huge lack of confidence in his ability to succeed, especially when it comes to trying new things. I was a very anxious child and often wonder if I would have been better off with medication as a kid, even though I'm generally pretty anti-meds.

I'd love to know where you had your DS' allergy testing done and how that works. (We're in Northampton and chatted about a year and a half ago before moving here from Northern CA.) I don't think we've run into you in the park or the grocery store yet, but maybe we should connect sometime? We're pretty busy with finishing up the school year, but maybe I'll PM you after I've got my thoughts sorted out.

In the mean time, good luck. Getting gluten out of his diet sounds challenging, but at least he sounds like he likes a variety of foods. I think that worry about death is pretty normal for 5 year olds - we had a classmate back in CA who worried about it a lot. I find that any time DS is especially hard to handle, it's 'cause he's about to make some big developmental shift or have a growth spurt and that the anxiety/ stress/ or difficult behavior is pretty temporary. We're going to be having some psych evals. for DS at Learning Solutions on King St. this month. I'll let you know if we're happy with them.

Best wishes!

Betzi
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