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Teens & Pre-Teens: Anxiety, Fears & Phobias

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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Teens & Pre-Teens: Anxiety, Fears & Phobias


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Relaxation Tape for 12 yr Boy with Anxiety

Dec 2011

My 12 year old son has situational anxiety/panic issues related to when he goes to the dentist for anything else but a cleaning or has to go the doctor for shots. I am looking for an mp3 relaxation or hypnosis recording he can listen to that can be download from the web. Most importantly it needs to be a recording that a 12 year boy can relate to (i.e., no flowery imagery ). Any suggestions?


If you would like a tailored MP3 recording, I have seen a great hypnotherapist named Lucy Seligman who does a session and records it. She is really talented, and I think the benefits of a specifically-tailored recording might be worth the price. Right now she has a holiday deal for $55 per session; you can contact her at 510 710 3917, or email her at lucy@lucyseligman.com. The MP3 recording is included in the price. Christine
Here's an idea. On his own or with you, create an mp3 based on images and ideas and perhaps music or sounds that your son loves and that calm him down. Decades ago when I got divorced, I recorded an inspiring poem in my own voice and played it over and over before I left for work each morning. It was empowering to hear my own calm voice claiming all this good. You can use your phone (free conference services offer recordings of calls or your cell phone may have an app), the computer, or a recorder. Record instructions like breathe deeply and relax the body parts; picture, feel, hear, taste whatever he feels will calm him. Reply if you want some more ideas how to do this. Even if you purchase a professional recording, this might be an additional tool that will empower your son. Nancy
We've had good luck with a small, portable device called Stress Eraser (http://stresseraser.com/science-of-the-stresseraser), which helps users modulate their breathing and heart rate. It's not an audiotape, but it trains people how to control feelings of panic. Once you learn how to do this, it often just takes a minute or two with the device to get yourself back to a better place. It also helps with stress-related insomnia. Best of luck. Margaret S.

15-year-old very anxious and worried, can't sleep

June 2011

Our 15 year old daughter is very anxious (or worried, not sure if this is the same or not). Before softball practice, before games, before tests at school...she feels sick to her stomach, is overly-worried and insecure, cannot sleep, and so on. This happens several times a week, and every night when she goes to bed.

She says she cannot sleep because her comforter is not right, too fluffy, too flat, too something. She has a very hard time going to sleep, and wakes me at least three times a week in the middle of the night because she cannot sleep (although I cannot help her, either).

I am at the point where I am no longer too understanding, because I am exhausted and frustrated. It seems totally irrational to me, and yet I know she cannot help it. She is also frustrated and embarrassed.

What to do? Therapy? Which kind? I hate to think that she has to live like this forever. I feel that if she just had some coping mechanisms, she could help herself in these situations, rather than shut down and give in to her feelings of insecurity and worry. Need some sleep!


I was like this as a child and teen (the bedtime part is especially easy for me to relate to). I stumbled around as an adult, trying to cope with my anxious feelings, which I didn't even know how to describe. I generally attributed my bad feelings to having done something wrong, or something outside of myself causing them, or to being depressed. My therapist helped me recognize them as anxiety, and I began realizing that I was anxious whether there was anything wrong or not. That helped me break the cycle and I do better now with emotional tools I have figured out for myself.

I do wish my parents had taken me to a cognitive behavioral therapist so I could have developed good tools for anxiety when I was younger. CBT helps people slow down their thinking so they can recognize their anxiety triggers and break the cycle. There is individual therapy and group therapy. A friend saw Dr. Elke Zuercher-White (http://drzuercher.com) and I met her as well. She may not be in your area, but she specializes in this and might be able to refer you to someone near you.

Anxiety is very treatable, but it does take willingness and effort on the part of the patient. You have to be brave and stand up to your fears in order to make them go away. a little brave every day


How frustrating for both of you! I'm sure she doesn't like being sleep deprived either, on top of teen stress and hormones.

Things your daughter might try before bed: 15 minutes of stretching or yoga or meditation (pay attention to breath and try to quiet the ''tapes'' running in her head). Avoid lights, TV, computer. Avoid protein, but eat an apple or crackers. Try chamomile or Sleepytime herbal tea, or chamomile, MELATONIN or TRYPTOPHAN supplements from health food store. A child's dose of Benadryl can help with sleep, especially if she has allergies anyway this time of year.

In general, during times of stress, eat protein with breakfast and exercise daily. Avoid chocolate, sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Good luck!


I, too, have an anxious teen. Imagine how hard it is for them to make it through each day with the anxieties!? We got her on a low dose of zoloft (her pediatrician subscribed) and she is doing much better! Some kids are just wired that way---and luckily there are medications which can help immensely. If your insurance covers it, I recommend a psychiatrist at Children's Hospital. We saw Dr Lisa Hardy years ago and she was wonderful. Good luck and don't despair but don't wait any longer to get her help. mom of a worrier
More on addressing the sleep deprivation: There was just an article in the paper about cooling the head giving relief to insomniacs (not only in going to sleep, but sleeping better). This may be connected to the fact that body temperature must go down in order to sleep.

About anxiety generally, maybe she could get a referral to a psychologist who could prescribe some mild anti anxiety meds. Good Luck!


Hello there, I sympathize with you as I also have a daughter who has suffered a bit like your daughter. She would get excruciating stomach aches at the most random times as a result of stress over her teams or teachers, etc. Since your daughter is already a teen, I would suggest only two things: regular yoga classes and a new comforting bedtime routine. I'm not a yogi myself, so I can't recommend any place in particular, but I know from first hand experience that yoga does work in subtle yet miraculous ways. My daughter took some yoga classes at the YMCA. Now, she immediately goes into a yoga pose on the floor when she feels that stressful stomach pain coming on. Yoga, or something called Praniyama, has taught her how to breathe to calm herself, which would also help your daughter sleep better.

In terms of a comforting bedtime routine, there is strong scientific evidence showing that both a cup of hot milk and a smallish piece of bread help the body sleep. If she won't/ can't drink milk, then chamomile tea. If your daughter is unhappy with her duvet, consider buying her a new one that's more evenly distributed. I'm like her. My duvet has to be just right or I don't sleep well either. I found that light, but several, layers work best for me, that way I can throw them on or off as I need them. Of course, make sure her room is dark and quiet and that she gets some direct sunlight during the day. It also helps to turn off all the screens (tv, computer, texting, etc.) an hour before bedtime.

I would like to add that we developed our responses to our daughter's stress after consulting with her doctor. We asked for a therapist referral, but our doctor said to try these holistic approaches first and they totally work. Believe me, yoga and a calm bedtime routine are much less expensive than therapy. And this is even more important: Instead of thinking of herself as ''needing help'', yoga and the easy bedtime routine have actually empowered our daughter to know she can handle the stress herself. Thankful for yoga and praniyama.


I have written in before but want to recommend Dr. Lester Isenstadt again for working with children/ teens with anxiety, depression, school issues, etc.

Years ago I saw a child (whose parents were going through a difficult divorce) thriving when I expected her to be hitting bottom. It turns out that she was seeing Dr. Isenstadt - a great recommendation for taking our daughter to him. He has worked with depressed and anxious kids for 30 or 40 years and, five years ago, helped repair our daughter's self-esteem as well as treating her anxiety disorder and depression. He is extremely experienced, skillful, as well as up-to-date on current brain research. He's a Psychiatrist so can prescribe medications if chosen, but also does counseling directly with the kids he sees so he really knows how each child is progressing.

There is so much pain in anxiety. We are grateful for Dr. Isenstadt's skill in addressing our daughter's anxiety and hope that your child finds similar relief and self-confidence. If needed, his number is 510-848-2170. Wishing you all the best


Very anxious 14-year-old - what might help her?

March 2011

Our 14 year old daughter has always been more emotional and anxious than her sister. Even as a toddler, she would scream (for example) if the sun was in her eyes, whereas her sister would just cover her eyes with her hand. I never thought much about these types of reactions, but now that she is a teenager, I see that she has probably always been very anxious. She worries a lot, and with most new situations, her first reaction is negative or fearful. She is often fearful at night (around bedtime), and is in general a fairly stressed out, anxious, or worried kid.

What might help her? I think she might be a good candidate for meditation, or yoga, or something to help her help herself. I have sort of concluded that this is who she is, but if she were to develop some coping strategies, or ways to calm her fears, her life would be so much easier. Therapy? Any ideas? Mama of anxious girl


Yoga and meditation can actually make a sensitive person more sensitive. If you go in this direction make sure there is someone teaching who knows how to deal with any experiences that might come up (in my case a kundalini awakening at age 16). Neurofeedback and EMDR could be very helpful for your daughter. Melanie
Your daughters sound like they could be mine: my oldest (age 20) is fearless and loves to live her life independently and spontaneously while my youngest (age 17) worries about anything and everything to the point that she is afraid to take any risks whatsoever. In the past year, my daughter's anxiety levels increased to the point where she was having trouble sleeping, was constantly stressed out and was experiencing panic attacks with increasing frequency. She wasn't interested in yoga or meditation, (too self-conscious), and talk therapy with a LCSW was not helping at all. Recognizing that we needed to do something fairly immediately, especially if my daughter was to have any chance of success at going away to college this fall, we both talked to her doctor who recommended Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and specifically Dr. Daniela Owen at the San Francisco Bay Area Center for Cognitive Therapy on College Avenue in Oakland.

I was not familiar with CBT, but I read the postings on the BPN website and the info on the Center's website (www.sfbacct.com) and realized that this was exactly what my daughter needed: work with a professional who could help her to recognize her self-defeating patterns and teach her skills to help her break out of her downward-spiral-way-of-thinking about how things could go wrong. My daughter has now been seeing Dr. Owen for about two months and I can't say enough good things about Dr. Owen and the impact she has had on my daughter. At the end of each session, she comes home with a written plan about the work she is to do on specific items: getting to bed earlier, finishing certain college-related tasks, etc. She is visibly happier, getting more sleep, and is getting better about making decisions and accomplishing goals. All of this is reducing her stress and anxiety and more importantly, she is learning how to help herself. I highly recommend that you at least start by reviewing the information on the BPN and SFBACCT websites to see if this might be something that would work for your daughter. Mother of a not so anxious teen


17-year-old's terrible anxiety

Jan 2011

My 17-year old son has been dealing with terrible anxiety for two years now. Therapy and a failed attempt at meds have not worked. In both instances, he was the one who put the brakes on these avenues for help. His world is getting smaller and smaller because he is fearful of pushing himself into new situations. His anxiety has become a self-fulfilling prophecy...he gets worried that he may get sick and, thus, does whether it is for presentations in a classroom setting, taking tests, sports, going into SF with buddies, etc. Any ideas are welcomed. We are currently trying hypnotherapy and I would appreciate input you have had with this or other alternative approaches.


We struggle with the same issue in our 15 y.o. son. I don't have any perfect answers, but I'll mention a few other things we've tried.

We did biofeedback (there's someone at Children's, and there are independent people; it doesn't appear to require someone who is ''the best'' for this to work.) My son became readily able to reverse all anxiety while in the office doing the exercises. He was not so successful generalizing it to the outside world, but some are.

We also did EMDR with Colleen West in El Cerrito. (She's good.) This only really works if there are some traumatic memories associated with the anxiety. In my son's case, it was simply memories built up about panicking when trying to do homework or attend school. The EMDR (only three treatments needed) helped substantially with these discrete areas, but didn't impact the more generalized anxiety in other areas.

At this age, of course, their initiative in trying to combat it is essential, and so we are relatively powerless. I'm convinced that in the long term he will use meditation or exercise as big parts of managing this, but that's going to be in his court. We thought our son would not be able to attend high school, but to our mutual joy, he is managing so far. I've had to work constantly to train myself to not reflect back his anxiety, to try to show that I know he's going to get through it, rather than wringing my hands and joining his insomnia etc. Good luck. trying to model serenity


Support Group and CBT for 16-year-old son with anxiety attacks

March 2009

My 16 year old son is experiencing daily anxiety and occasional panic attacks. He sees a therapist and a psychiatrist for medications. He is in the process of finding medicine that helps. He has expressed an interest in group therapy with other teens who experience anxiety. He is also interested in changing his therapy to someone who will teach him some Cognitive Behavior Therapy. We live in SF. Mom trying to help son


My 14 year-old is provoked by various anxieties and receives therapy in weekly small group sessions at Communication Works (cwtherapy.com - inquire w/Kris who has researched and leads anxiety groups.) The focus of my son's therapy is on examining the social thinking/cognitive component of interactions with others - e.g. for insight to probable results of particular responses. Then practicing newly learned behaviors - through communicating from a broader repertoire of choices - is encouraging his success and coping. It's an opportunity for direct application of his growing awareness through very concrete skills! Good luck from another caring mom. lize
My 16 yo daughter has anxiety disorder and so do I. I can't say enough good things about how effective CBT is for treating this disorder. It's really the way to go and to learn the skills as a teenager is fantastic. You might start with The San Francisco Bay Area Center for Cognitive Therapy in Rockridge, 510.652.4455 for recommendations/referrals. I highly recommend Deborah Efron,LCSW. She can be reached at 510-717-1415. I don't think she is taking new patients but she does provide referrals. Best of luck to your son! CBT Fan and Mom

Anxiety-riddled 13-year-old wakes me at night, calls me at work

March 2009

Okay, so I my 13-year old daughter is going through a lot. She misses school 2-4 days a month because of severe menstrual cramps, migraines, and a knee problem that stared this year. She tries to catch up but gets stress about it from teachers. But is her anxiety-riddled behavior normal? She always wants to know when I am going to get home from work. She calls me at work to report problems when she is home sick and her Dad is right there. She wakes me up at night because she can't sleep; had a bad dream; has a headache; has cramps, etc. Just last night I went to bed early so as to get to work early for an important meeting and she woke me up right when I went to sleep. I have explained to her my sleep problems. If I am awaken I get an adrenaline rush and it takes me up to 2 hours to settle back down. Her Dad was still up in the living room and she could have gone to him! I am trying to help her be more self-sufficient and let her Dad help. I know there are times when you just need your Mom, but her Dad is a great guy and I am the primary wage-earner and I need my sleep. Should I be taking her to the doctor or a physcologist for this? Is this much anxiety normal? JK


This message is also for the mom who wrote about her daughter having generalized anxiety symptoms. I am the mother of two teens and am also a psychotherapist who specializes in working with adolescents and their families. What I would suggest is for the parents to have a consultation with a therapist who works with teens. If possible, get a referral from someone you know who has had a good experience with a therapist for their teen. Articulating all of your concerns should give the person enough information to evaluate what would be the best treatment. Good luck. jan
To the mother of the daughter who is missing school, waking her up in the middle of the night needing reassurance: my heart goes out to you and her.

Please don't rule out the possibility that your daughter has experienced or is experiencing some sort of trauma (bullying or more). Start by asking her. Hopefully it's not the case, but if it is, the issue needs attention right away. Concerned fellow parent in San Leandro


I am not a dr, but there is something wrong with the picture you have described. It sounds like your daughter is crying out for help. You haven't mentioned what kind of relation your daughter has with her father (step father?). Is he concerned? And, why has he not been pro active in helping your daughter? She is still a child but if she is not going to her ''dad'' for help, there is a reason why. You need to figure out those reasons. He may be a ''great'' guy but obviously there is something else to the dynamics you have described. anon.
Dear JK,
I'm a mother myself, and this doesn't sound like a normal level of anxiety to me. Is it possible that your daughter has suffered and/or continues to suffer from some kind of trauma or abuse and is having trouble telling you about it? It might be easier for her to talk about this with the help of a professional. I would suggest getting help for her right away. My best suggestion is Dr. Marc Schwartz, who is wonderful with teens, and was a great help to my son in dealing with his issues of depression, etc. Marc's number is (415) 945- 4077. Good luck! Another Mom
To the parent seeking help with GAD. We spent 8 years working with 5 therapists to finally get a diagnosis of GAD for our daughter and she is now on Prozac. It made a world of difference. Getting the right diagnosis in our experience has everything to do with the quality of the therapist you employ- even with such a VAST selection of therapists in the Bay Area we were stunned by the ineptitude of even the ''finest'' (according to some) therapists. We got our daughter's diagnosis at last through educational testing with Jessica Lipkind (Albany PsyD.) Jessica is very professional,thorough and scientific about her work- her evaluations follow the child throughout her educational life so she is very very precise. From there we found an adolescent psychiatrist for the prozac. We are also having our daughter see a homeopath to deal with ''secondary anxiety symptoms'' - apparently the prozac only works so well with some kids (the Super Anxious) and they often recommend a Beta Blocker for secondary symptoms. That's simply TOO much medication for a little body (young teen). We have found the homeopathic remedies to be spot on- super effective. If your child's anxiety is not over the top, I would recommend seeking homeopathic help FIRST- there are many many effective remedies for anxiety and the homeopathic philosophy takes into account the WHOLE person- unlike psychologists who essentially are looking for ''disfunction''- Good luck finding the right practitioners, it is the single most important part of the journey- be sure you feel your provider is really good. anon mom
You are not alone! Your daughter has a twin and he is my 13 year old son. He calls constantly throughout the day if I am not home asking me when I am returning. If I lay down to sleep he waits until I am sleep and gets in the bed with me. I have to keep putting him out. Every decesion, he wants my help and will wake me up for anything. He won't go outside and play unless I go with him and we live directly across the street from Ohlone Park. An evaluating therapist gave me hard but honest information. We are enabling them. We have to ''push our beautiful birds out of the nest.'' You have to ask support from your husband in front of your daughter. Tell them both I am going to sleep. Do not respond to her attempts to wake you. If you are out of the house and she is with your husband and calls either don't answer or keep the call very short, ''I will be home when I get there, please only call for emergencies''. If she has a sick day from school, do not stay home with her. It is so hard. I am home on disability and he is so happy sitting up under me. Now I make sure to leave the house everyday without him, even just to go to the library or Starbuck's. You may want to get a therapist involved and get help. We found there were some other issues that needed attention. You can email me anytime. T.

13-year-old thinks she has GAD (General Anxiety Disorder)

Feb 2009

I am looking for advice/professional help for my 13 year old daughter who thinks she has GAD (General Anxiety Disorder). We are very close but I think we are at a point where either I need to seek advice or she needs professional help. Her situation is not serious but I am very concerned with the symptoms she is showing. Thanks for any input/advice :) A Worried Mama


My daughter, now 14 , was diagnosed last year with ''Anxiety Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified'' because of severe generalized anxiety. Here are the professionals who helped us, in the order in which we saw them:


-Dr. Marianna Eraklis, Orinda, a behavioral pediatrician who's terrific at sorting out normal teenage behavior vs. symptoms needing treatment. Great place to start -- highly recommend her. 925-254-4000
-Dr. Sonia Partap at Stanford, specialist who ruled out neurological disorders. Our regular pediatrician referred us to Stanford after the Children's Neurology Dept. was unable to give us a prompt appt.
-Dr. Petra Steinbuchel, psychiatrist at Children's Hospital Oakland, diagnosed her and put her on a combined antidepressant/antianxiety/mood stabilizer (Abilify) and another mood stabilizer (Topamax) . She has vastly improved on these meds. 510-428-3571
-Adolescent Psychiatric Unit, Herrick Hospital, Berkeley. My daughter has been hospitalized voluntarily twice in the last 6 months, due to thoughts of cutting herself and suicide. Great program, really helped my daughter.
-Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), Herrick Hospital. Daytime outpatient program, child sleeps at home; provides transition between hospital and usual life.
-UC Psychology Clinic, Berkeley. Open to public; sliding scale. PhD grad students provide care under supervision. We've worked with Jenna for individual therapy and Lian for family therapy. Both are excellent. 510-642-2055
-Marchus School, Concord. Public school for kids with emotional and social problems interfering with regular school. Outstanding staff and program. 925-602-6150
-Contra Costa County Dept.of Mental Health. Providing free therapy at school site. Contact your county dept.for info.

I know how scary this can be. Feel free to email me at for support. Nancy


12 year old's intense fears triggered by movies

Nov 2008

Our 12 year old daughter has been experiencing veryintense, paralyzing fears for about a year. These fears are always triggered by a scary movie (the latest one was one she had to watch in English class, as the new genre they are studying is ''science fiction and mysteries''). The result for her is that she is unable to go in the bathroom by herself, must have someone with her when she brushes her teeth, she cannot sleep in her own room, she cannot do her homework alone (must be surrounded by other family members), and so on. Mostly, these fears occur at night, when it is dark outside. She gradually gets back to normal and then, WHAM, she will see a scary movie at a slumber party, school, or something like that and the whole things starts over again!

I did take her to see a therapist, which seemed to help in the moment, but now what? It is not getting better overall. She feels awful about this condition (she is embarrassed and ashamed to feel this way), is tired from lack of sleep, and feels frustrated that she is powerless to say no to friends and teachers who ''make'' her watch this stuff. Even as she is watching the movie, she is afraid of being afraid and what the consequence will be later. We do encourage her to speak up to her friends, which she tries to do. But, for example, at the last party, she was over-ruled and her choice was to leave the room (which she was afraid to do, because it was night time and she did not want to be alone), or watch the movie with everyone else. From now on, I will warn the parents at sleep-overs, but I cannot monitor every interaction (as in the case of what happened at school).

For the record, nothing has happened to her, outside of her movie fears (both I and the therapist confirmed this), and she does not have any other OCD type of behaviors that would go along with these seemingly irrational fears she is experiencing.

We are at our wit's end, and my husband and I are starting to fight about this (he thinks we should ignore it and I think we should help her). It is not going away, and is not getting better. HELP! Will she grow out of it?


My 15 year old daughter had a very similar experience when she was 11. She was left in the car with her brother, then 8, in front of a cheese shop on Hopkins while I picked up cheese for pizza for dinner. When I came back, my children told me some of the middle school kids were talking to them through the closed window. After this experience my daughter couldn't be alone while my son was totally unaffected by the incident. She had to be escorted to the bathroom and everywhere else. Of course, as a parent you don't know how long her fear would last. So the normal thing to do seems to be take her to a therapist or seek for professional help. But I didn't grow up in the US, and taking her to a therapist felt against my instinct, even though my friends recommended therapy. My daughter wanted to be with me all the time. So I decided to be with her all the time. It was a bit tiring after a week, and more importantly worrisome. At night it got worse. She slept with me and my husband. But I felt her fear when I was with her, whatever the cause was. So my heart goes out for your daughter. But it doesn't last forever. I don't remember exactly how long. But it wasn't long. Now my daughter is perfectly 'normal.' She is a sensitive person who gets scared of violent movies. But who doesn't? It's only so natural to feel this way. I cannot understand why more children aren't paralyzed by the kind of movies they watch. Hang in there. She will be fine sooner or later. Best wishes and thoughts. Hia
Stop stepping in for your daughter. At this point, she definitely knows she can't handle scary movies. She has to learn to say ''no, I don't want to watch it.'' If she doesn't, then she has to live with the consequences. I am 50, and was exactly like your daughter. I never outgrew it. I still sleep with a hall light on when no one else is home and have not seen a ''scary'' movie since Silence of the Lambs, which tortured me for years. I never grew out of it, but I have to deal with it. she needs to deal with it.
When my son was 7-8, he saw a PeeWee Herman movie that featured a character called Large Marge. That person took off a mask in the movie to reveal a monster behind the mask. This so scared my son that he had to be wrapped in a blanket and held for a day. He told us he was worried we were all wearing masks that hid our true faces. He then slept in our bedroom for a month, then his little brother's bedroom for a year. He also became very worried over certain books. It was problematic for him to watch movies with friends. Here's the good news--he did indeed grow out of his intense reaction to external stimuli. But it took a while. I kept telling him that he could watch his fear and see that nothing bad was going to happen to him just because he had this feeling in him. This seemed to help, but it took years. So I don't think ignoring the matter is helpful, but trying to take the intensity out of the child's response might offer relief. And by the way, he has an extremely vivid imagination which he's learned to channel in amazing ways. mom of formerly frightened kid
Wow! That sounds very intense and very hard. I also had a very vivid imagination when young, and still do, so that even scary (Agatha Christie etc.) stories had me up at night, and even stories of the devil became very real for me. Being very imaginative is a real gift, and my recommendations would be to really protect her and be there for her. How about telling the sleepover parents that she can only see movies there that you have previously approved (and, by the way, I find it extremely insesitive to have her fears re the movie 'overruled'; I will NEVER a allow that in my house), and a similar discussion with the teacher? There must be a non-punitive alternative for her (and, hopefully, some other students so she's not alone)instead of the fear-inducing movies. And, btw, why are so many movies watched in school??? I would defintely let her sleep with you and be with her at night when she's afraid without making a big deal out of it. I had scary dreams for years and wish my parents had been more comforting and present around those. Pro Support
The teachers even show scary movies in elementary school. So frustrating! Here are some ideas.

Get a scary movie or turn on a scary tv program and show your daughter how they use music to manipulate the viewers feelings. Turn the sound off and some of the terrifying scenes are actually funny without the music.

Get her transferred out of a class that uses scary movies.

I think it is the obligation of the hostess to create a party at which all the guests are comfortable. I know some people are very selfish and say ''this is my day and I can do what I want.'' But still I think you or your daughter can call ahead of time to find out what is planned. Then you or your daughter can put gentle pressure on the host to find a movie that all enjoy. If that doesn't work, your daughter can choose not to attend, or choose to attend the fun part of the party. Or, if she has an ipod or other such device, she could listen to music and read while the rest of the group watches the movie. I think it will be easier for her just knowing that she has choices. anon


http://www.a-levelpsychology.co.uk/common/supplementary/1841692514/675.pdf

''Systematic desensitisation'' is a therapy that you might want to check out. You mention ''you did see a therapist''. Did you know that often it takes a very long time to mend something that may have taken a very short time to initiate? Also there are many types of therapists, and many therapists of each variety. Sometimes it takes more than one course of visits or changing therapists to accomplish your goal.

I encourage you to be very persistent in finding what will work for your daughter. She does seem more sensitive about this issue than others, but in my experience she is not alone. Also as a society we may be unaware or minimally informed regarding how children are impressed by films and video games etc. There have just been recent studies that are linking anti social behavior to violent video games. To me it should be obvious, but as we know we are all different. We did not allow our daughter to see scary films until she was much older than her peers who were watching them. It turns out I scared her unexpectedly playing a make believe game when she was young and underestimated how ''real'' it might seem to her. We still talk about it. Lessons learned.

If you insist that your daughter has not accomplished her goals of well being usually insurance coverage can be extended. I would also really insist that you discuss with her doctor about providing a written release from watching further films for class. If your daughter was highly allergic to guinea pigs, what would you do if the class project was ''raise the newborn guinea pigs'' and ''bring the guinea pigs home for a week''? I am thinking if you could think of this as an allergy to scary films maybe you would have a better sense of what to ask for in terms of school or visiting peers.

At this age teens are really into the horror genre, so I would expect this is a real problem for her. It could really push her buttons to always be put in the situation of having to watch, or anticipating what might happen in a film, and lead to worse things. Adolescence as we all know is rife with peer pressure, and they can be quite cruel to each other. She at least needs to have permission to leave, go to the bathroom, call you, call her therapist, or refuse to watch something that she is not comfortable with. Teachers will not cut her any slack without a written medical note, and then you may still need to meet with her teachers. Teachers can be opinionated even when it flies in the face of heavy medical documentation, this is my first hand experience both as a working teacher, and a mom with a child with special needs.

Find her the right therapy, and also a way to control her ''fear'' reactions - breathing, yoga, meditation skills are helpful. Hypnosis might be helpful. There are certified medical hypnotists and self-hypnotism can be very useful it moving through fearful moments.

Regards and good luck. Sending my support


There is a treatment that could be very helpful for your daughter. It is called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Check it out online.) I've worked with kids using this method and it has been very effective for diminishing fears. jan
Thank you for posting this and for all the thoughtful responses. My 13 year old son is quite fearful and I have been exploring the program I have seen recommended on the advice/recommendations letters. It is offered at Kaiser Vallejo, reducing fears in children, 8-14 years old, I believe. The MD who offered this class has provided his info for sale at: http://www.angelnet.com/fear.html caution vs fear?

12 year old with anxiety attacks

Sept 2008

My twelve year old niece suffers from anxiety attacks. In her mom’s words, she gets stuck in a “whirlpool of worries that she can’t get out of.” Her mom has found books directed at the parents of children struggling with anxiety, but I’m wondering if anyone has any suggestions for books or programs for the children themselves. Thanks. Concerned uncle


Both my girls went through the same thing - it started around age 11. Check out ''Dr. Fear'' who teaches phobease group classes for kids at Kaiser Valleojo twice a year. You don't have to be a Kaiser member, the cost is resonable (? 100 for 6 weeks). He uses cognitive behavioral therapy techniques - will give homework each week. Very empowering for the kids to see they aren't ''crazy'' and that there are very concrete things that they can do to stop the anxiety. I think the next class starts in October. Google it for contact info. grateful mom
I don't know where you're located but UC Berkeley's Psychology Dept has interns who do therapy under the guidance of an experienced therapist. You can specify cognitive therapy, gender of therapist, etc. I would recommend the cognitive behavioral therapy for this, having gone through it with my child very successfully. Who knows if later she may benefit from traditional therapy, but this is where I'd start. If you're not near there I suppose you could try calling other universities? Oh, the benefit, excellent work at a sliding scale. - been there
Hello, I think it would be helpful for your niece to actually learn some strategies for dealing with anxiety. I have an anxiety prone 6-year old and my mom got her a CD which teaches her relaxation and mindfulness strategies. It is called: ''Still quiet place:playful practice to promote health and happiness'' by Amy Saltzman MD (contact info is dramy@foryourselfhealth.com). She may also have a CD for older kids, but I have to say I enjoy this one myself when I feel stressed. mgh

12-year-old is constantly freaked out that she will die

Nov 2007

My 12 year old began experiencing what we consider to be severe anxiety in the past six months and particularly when she began middle school. We consulted with a psychiatrist who specializes in children and she diagnosed her with depression and signs of OCD yet that was not definitive. We have tried conservative treatment- psychotherapy and homopathic remedies but she is only able to control some of the anxiety during the day but at bedtime she is constantly freaked out that she will die from whatever she is focusing on that day. The doctor is now recommending an SSRI, Zoloft or or Lexapro. We see all the warnings on the web and are freaked out. Can anyone advise as to their experiences with either and let us know what they have found. We so do not want to get this wrong with our daughter but also do not want to see her continually struggle and suffer. Thank you. Anon.


Hi,

Our daughter had anxiety issues in the fifth grade but we were able to resolve them fairly quickly without the use of psychiatric medicine. She is now a high school student and thankfully has not had that level of anxiety since. We also used homeopathy and therapy to help reduce her anxiety. Although we did not get an official diagnosis from a psychiatrist for her condition I can tell you that for a time her anxiety was very intense and we were quite worried. Ultimately I credit her therapist with helping her the most in terms of teaching her to manage her anxiety. I am not against psychiatric approaches when absolutely necessary but I hope you will continue to seek alternative approaches to avoid drugs if at all possible.

Also, please check out a program called ''Phobease'' described by some parents who posted their comments on the Berkeley Parent's Network at the following link: liebgold.html. Phobease was developed by a doctor who has personal experience with anxiety disorders and developed a group therapy approach covered in a 10 week course. We went once but the drive was long and difficult through rush hour traffic and fortunately our daughter's condition improved without needing to continue. One thing my daughter remembers from the workshop that helps her control her anxious thought processes to this day is ''There are no what if's, only what is.'' For more information on Phobease and Dr. Howard Liebgold call (925) 335-9524; e- mail at Phobease@ aol.com; or click on the ''Cure Phobias'' section at www.angelnet.com. If you would like to seek help from our daughter's therapist please call Wendy Lucero at (510) 843-6587. I don't know if she is currently accepting new clients but if she is I would highly recommend her. She is a very gentle person and did a remarkable job helping our daughter. Good luck to you and your daughter. anon


In the past, I have suffered from severe anxiety and OCD, and have found Paxil to be very helpful. I can also recommend a very good therapist I am currently seeing, if you think that would be useful. His name is Kenneth Pound, he has an office in Rockridge near the Rockridge BART. His number is 510 496-6072. I hope this helps. Jim
Your daughter sounds like she is having some of the same difficulties that both of our children (ages 14 and 11) have - anxiety, some OCD, depression. We had them evaluated a few years ago and several recommendations were made including using counseling and medication. Like you, we were also concerned about using SSRIs and tried all other options first. Counseling in particular was very helpful for the depression, but it was never quite enough for the anxiety. After a year or more of the counseling route, we seemed to reach a plateau in their treatment. At that point, we began to seriously investigate the use of SSRIs. We asked their practioners many questions about the safety of SSRIs in children and had our fears addressed.

The children have now both been on SSRIs for almost 1 1/2 years. We were fortunate that they each had a good fit the first time (son is on Celexa, daughter on Prozac) and have had very few and minimal side effects. They feel so much better. Our very anxious son is still anxious, but can cope with many more situations than before and has a much more normal social life. Our daughter was doing so much better this past summer that we decided to try doing without the SSRI, so we weaned her off of it (under her doctor's supervision). What a mistake! She went back to being extremely moody and anxious, having lots of concerns about dying - thinking about dying was keeping her awake at night. Within three weeks, we were back at her doctor's office. That was a couple of months ago and now she is back on the Prozac and feels normal again.

I know that SSRIs are not for everyone and not the only solution to these issues - counseling has also been an important component for their well-being. Unfortunately, my children seem to have inherited the chemical imbalance that runs in my family, and will probably need to treat that imbalance with SSRIs for the rest of their lives. I'm very happy that they have had access to this option as it has made such a difference for them. Best Wishes. Another parent


My daughter exhibited similar symptoms starting at about the same time. I am convinced that they were related to hormonal changes. She also did talk and group therapy which helped, but this was in combination with drug therapy. The medication made a huge difference. But it was not easy. First, because of her paranoia, my daughter was convinced that we and the doctor were trying to drug her into submission. Then she was concerned that the drugs would alter her personality. It was only after she agreed to take the medication and began to feel better, that she realized the drugs were helping her find some sort of normalcy. If you decide to use the medication, be prepared to have to alter it as your daughter's body chemistry changes. Our daughter also suffered from severe migraines, and we found that the anti-depression medication, coupled with birth control pills to even out the hormonal balance has made all the difference. Our daughter is happy and functional. She has been able to move past the depression and has learned to convert her OCD into a very useful tool to organize her school work, her job, etc. The bottom line is that for us, medication has been an extremely successful therapy. I wish you the very best of luck in what is surely a stressful time for the entire family. Moving Out of the Darkness
To the parent with teen with OCD and depression OCD is shown to respond well to cognitive behavioral therapy. This also helps depression. Check the anxiety disorders of America website for further information(www.adaa.org ). I treat this issue as do a few others in the community. Feel free to contact me to discuss treatment. Melinda
Oh! My daughter experienced terrible, dramatic (I've been poisened and am going to die) anxiety attacks on the approach to middle school. We did talk therapy, but really, cognitive behavioral therapy, offered through Kaiser Valleo was a life changer! Very cook-bookey, with homework - do a google search! ''Dr. Fear'' - you do not need to be a Kaiser patient to attend. There is a home program, which you can order on-line, which we did. In addition though, the class is great! All of these kids attend - it's very liberating to know that you aren't the only one with these intense feelings. It saved us from a very terribly hard and scarey place. Good luck! anon.
My pre-teen (now teenager) suffered from panic attacks and worry thinking, too, as did I (Panic Disorder runs in my family). I strongly, strongly suggest you consult with a cognitive behavioral therapist--it is the best and most effective way to deal with anxiety issues--it has worked wonderfully for both me and my daughter and we're both drug free. You can contact the San Francisco/Bay Area Center for Cognitive Therapy on College Ave. in Rockridge, or Melinda White on Solano Ave. Also see: nacbt.org for information on cbt. Good Luck. A fellow parent
Our son was diagnosed with depression and anxiety issues when he was 11. He has been on Zoloft ever since and it is a Godsend.

He's turning 18 in two weeks. Without it, I'm not sure if we'd be celebrating his birthday or planning a memorial.

It changed all our lives.

When his life gets over-stressed and he falls behind in school, he still has bouts of depression, but never as severe as when he was 11; these have been very rare.

We have always gone through family and individual therapy as well as seeing the prescribing psychiatrist regularly.

I feel that without anti-depressants there would be way more teen suicides than because of the medications. The media wants to focus on the small percentage of those who react negatively to medication.

I recommend trying the medication along with talk therapy for the whole family. Watch your child carefully for any worsening signs, but I bet he/she will feel better soon.

As an 11 year old, our son didn't know that the medication takes several days to kick in. Two days after taking it, he said that something happened at school that would usually bother him, but it didn't. Even just a confidence boost can help. Good luck. Anon


Anxious 11-year-old can't get fears out of his head

April 2006

Hi, My 11 year old son has recently asked me to see a therapist. He is insecure and and has learning difficulties. He is quite talkative but has had anxiety issues in the past. He is now complaining about fears he can't get out of his head when he is going to sleep and feels he needs ''to get alot talking out of hisself''. I am looking for a therapist in the oakland or south berkeley area who has experience with kids and anxiety issues. I am pretty anti medication and am looking for a wholistic approach as I do not trust giving SSRI's to children. Please don't debate me on this one. I just want recommendations for therapists.Thanks for any help. worried mom


Be very grateful that your 11 year old is telling you his feelings and not acting out or self-harming in order to get his fears out. I have a daughter who did just that. I was totally against medicating her and when she was 15, she attempted suicide. She was hospitalized in Berkeley and through others advice, I finally authorized medication. She is like a different person now. If you don't want to medicate (after you find a therapist) - consider giving him 1 1/2 teaspoons of fish oil a day (mix with juice). It is a natural form of Lithium - a highly effective anti- depressant
I wish you and your son the best. I have a daughter who also suffered from fear and anxiety. She was beginning to do some compulsive behaviors trying to eliminate it and was even more anxious at night than during the day. She saw Ellen Singer Phd at the reccomendation of a psychiatrist at Childrens. Ellen was able to help her (and us) feel much more secure. Her number is 525-1975. anonymous
Regarding your anxious 11 yr old son, I highly recommend the Cognitive Therapy group in Rockridge. Michael Tompkins would be terrific but if he is not available, you can trust the other members of the group. I know of several families who have successfully worked with a cognitive approach, It makes a lot of sense for teens and preteens. mom of teen boys
It's wonderful that your son is able to articulate his needs as you've described. That bodes well for him.

I strongly recommend Michelle Horton, Ph.D. (985-2958). She is a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with kids like yours, does great work in therapy with them and is an expert in learning and emotional issues -- which are often quite interconnected. She's located on College Ave. near Broadway, which fits your geographic desires. She also can recommend other options or therapists who may fit your needs.

Feel free to skip what follows, but I will offer four brief comments. First, 11 (middle school) is an age at which problems often rise to the surface, even if they've been present earlier.

Second, anxiety may originate in biology, experience or both, and may (or may not) be a symptom of a more involved psychiatric condition. That said, starting with a psychologist/therapist is the right course of action. Just don't assume this is necessarily as straightforward as it may first look.

Third, it's likely that you, and your son, will be misunderstood, objectified, criticized and dismissed -- by family, friends and/or especially the school system. ''Bad parenting'' is the usual script. Too many who should know better, or be more compassionate, are ignorant and judgmental. Don't accept that or let it make you crazy.

Finally, I respect your request for no debate on medications. I do encourage you to keep an open mind, and to make a decision after discussing the subject if it arises. A competent professional will be respectful of your views and will explain theirs objectively, leaving any decision to you.

I wish you well. Been there...


I recommend you call John Sprinson, he has an office in Oakland on Glen Eden (off Piedmont Ave.). His number is in the white pages. He is kind, smart, has a wonderful calm presence and will give you and your son an honest assessment of your son's needs and a course of treatment. been there
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