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Question
Posted by: Jojo | 2012/04/23

Extremely anxious child

Hi Doc,
My son is turning 7 next week and is so highly strung and emotional. If we do anything out of the ordinary he''s almost hysterical or so tearful and anxious.
For example, we were given tickets to the rugby (kzn) on Saturday. As a family we''ve never been, so thought it would be a nice treat. My 4 year old was great, my elder son, was so anxious - what time would we go, what time would we come home. Hanging onto to my hand for dear life. After a while when we were seated he calmed down and enjoyed it, but as soon as it was finished, he was asking us to out the stadium - so scared we would be locked inside.
This is not an isolated case - same if we go out for dinner (not that often due to finances). But as soon as we''ve finished eating he wanted to go home - scared we''d be locked in the mall.

Yesterday he was panicking because he had to go to Sunday school which he really enjoys, but last week we had to wait a few minutes for them to finish as the minister in church finished earlier. Yesterday he was panicking about that...

Today, he''s panicking about giving out his birthday party invites to friends - what if he can''t find them, or he''s not allowed to talk in class..

Just a few recent cases - but it''s getting out of control now. I''ve just about had it. My patience is now GONE. I have taken him to a psychologist, but she just said it''s anxiety about losing me - his primary carer. Not enough friends at school - especially aftercare.

What do you suggest I do to help him. Apart from losing my temper.... I''m at my wits end and don''t know how to help him. He''s just so anxious and I know it''s defined as GAD, but don''t know how to get him to deal with this irrational behaviour. The more I talk, the less he listens.

When we''re home he''s a normal happy little boy, who drives me mad with his antics etc. He loves normal, is highly intelligent and plays well with friends and his little brother (of course they fight at times). Basically, he''s a normal boy, but extremely anxious if we do something out of the ordinary.

Any advice please!!!

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

I would certainly want a good expert opionion in a situation like this. To be sure of the right diagnosis. Overall, you are describing a child with excessive anxiety, especially, apparently, focussed on getting locked into places - has this ever actually happened to him ? Or maybe has he seen a movie in which people got locked in and something awful happened to them ?
He seems to be Awfulizing and Catastrophizing - expecting the most awful and catastrophic possible outcome to ordinary events.
The psychologist sounds unhelpful, and somewhat out of date, hung up on old-fashioned and analytical type explanations rather than more realistic and useful ones.
Like Liza, I'm sceptical about psychologists who are certain about one very specific explanation for anything, of the One Size Fits All variety. CBT ( Cognitive Behaviour Therapy ) would indeed be the best bet, and would ensure an up-tp-date modern psychologist using well tested methods. It is a method good at understanding and revising unhelpful habits of thought and deed such as you are describing in your boy.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

4
Our users say:
Posted by: Lou | 2012/04/26

Have you tried Bach Flower Remedy? You would need to consult a Bach Consultant - not sure what area you live in, but try and google to find one. The person will do a consultation with your son to asses his problems/issues and mix the different remedies together for him to take. Its not expensive (I pay R60 for a consultation including a bottle of drops that is mixed especially for me). I put my daughter on it for ADHD issues, and it helped immensely.

Reply to Lou
Posted by: R | 2012/04/24

He does seem to have an excessive amount of anxiety, but please do yourself a favour and read the book ''The Introvert Advantage'' or ''The HIdden Gifts of the Introverted Child''. Reading that might help a lot with understanding how draining events are for him, and would help with the anxiety. Things like asking how long an event is going to take or worrying about every single detail when it comes to giving out the cards is very typical of being an introvert. I spend a lot of session at a psychologist many years ago to ''cure'' me of my introversion and anxiety, but if they only helped me to accept that it is who I am, and that it is a good thing it would''ve made a world of difference.

Reply to R
Posted by: Liza | 2012/04/23

Perhaps you should take him to a different psychologist to be assessed? I''m very sceptical when a psychologist gives one reason why a child is acting a certain way, when it''s much more likely that a combination of different reasons could cause the anxiety. This kind of anxiety needs multiple therapy sessions - preferably of the CBT kind. If you do not know of any child psychologists that offer CBT to children, call the Depression and Anxiety support line (number is at the top of the page) to find one close to you.

Good Luck
Liza

Reply to Liza
Posted by: cybershrink | 2012/04/23

I would certainly want a good expert opionion in a situation like this. To be sure of the right diagnosis. Overall, you are describing a child with excessive anxiety, especially, apparently, focussed on getting locked into places - has this ever actually happened to him ? Or maybe has he seen a movie in which people got locked in and something awful happened to them ?
He seems to be Awfulizing and Catastrophizing - expecting the most awful and catastrophic possible outcome to ordinary events.
The psychologist sounds unhelpful, and somewhat out of date, hung up on old-fashioned and analytical type explanations rather than more realistic and useful ones.
Like Liza, I'm sceptical about psychologists who are certain about one very specific explanation for anything, of the One Size Fits All variety. CBT ( Cognitive Behaviour Therapy ) would indeed be the best bet, and would ensure an up-tp-date modern psychologist using well tested methods. It is a method good at understanding and revising unhelpful habits of thought and deed such as you are describing in your boy.

Reply to cybershrink

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