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Teens & Pre-Teens: Anxiety, Fears & Phobias
Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Teens & Pre-Teens: Anxiety, Fears & Phobias
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?
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 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
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!
About anxiety generally, maybe she could get a referral to a psychologist who could prescribe some mild anti anxiety meds. Good Luck!
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.
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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 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
-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
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?
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
''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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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...
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