Anxiety & Panic in Teens

Parent Q&A

  • Dealing with high anxiety teen

    (13 replies)

    Anyone else parenting an anxious/ depressed teen? My child is bright, creative, highly sensitive, and anxious and depressed. She's in CBT therapy, she's on medication, she exercises and does well in school. However today, as she has for the last two weeks, she could hardly get to school because she was so worried about a panic attack and her generalized anxiety. She then texted and called me throughout the morning hoping to be picked up. Eventually my husband went and got her. I know that if we hadn't picked her up her reaction would be to refuse to go to school tomorrow. She attends a small, supportive, fairly low stress high school but keeps asking to homeschool or do independent study. We know that won't help matters and respond negatively every time she brings it up but I'm afraid she will just keep missing school to the point that we won't have a choice. Please don't respond if you haven't parented an anxious teen. If you have and have any strategies or insights that have helped I'd love to hear them. 

    RE: Dealing with high anxiety teen ()

    Hey!

    My daughter experiences some anxiety as well. One thing we tried is keeping an anxiety log. Everytime she gets nervous, we will write down the date, time, and maybe some potential triggers. We were able to find some patterns (when she doesn't sleep, she is more likely to be very stressed the next day)

    I think the other thing is just to spend a lot of time talking to your daughter. Talk to her about everything -- life, school, boys -- and that way she can open up to you about why she might be feeling anxiety. 

    Wishing you the very best.

    RE: Dealing with high anxiety teen ()

    Hi,

    We have done a lot of the same. My daughters anxiety seem to be triggered by hormones and allergies. She took the 3 month pill and it really did help.  Getting good sleep was a huge issue as well. Trazadone worked for getting her sleep cycle on track. 

    Allergies also prevented a good nights sleep and ability to pay attention.  Dayquil, allergy shots, Zyrtec.  So far so good. At some point she will have a sleep check to see if there is sleep apnea.

    Of course lots of conversations Hugs and love.

    RE: Dealing with high anxiety teen ()

    Dear Amomanon

    I really feel for you. I too have an anxious teen who, after two years of periodically meeting with his therapist, is now happily camped at college. My son also at times begged us to take him out of school. It took us a while to understand his reasons. He wax anxious about not fitting in and had a tendency to blow things out of proportion. We found a therapist named Scott Fischer, who is very relatable with teens, and this is the first therapist (out of three) that my son has "clicked with". Scott specializes in working with teens/young adults with anxiety, ADD, etc. His methods work for my son, because they talk while walking or moving around rather than sitting face-to-face in an office (which my son found intimidating). Scott is very laid back and has helped my son really express himself and get to the "core" of his feelings, rather than focusing on quick behavioral fixes. We have tried CBT in the past to treat anxiety and my son will be the first to report that the behavioral habit reversal techniques only addressed his symptoms but not the cause. You can learn more about Scott at https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/name/Scott_Fischer_MFT_Berkel... or at scott.fischer81 [at] gmail.com  

    RE: Dealing with high anxiety teen ()

    Please reexamine your stance against homeschooling/independent study. Read about it, talk with parents and teens who are doing it. Your daughter is telling you what she needs, and you respond negatively?  Please listen to your daughter and trust her to know what she needs for herself. Give her more control over her life. If her school isn't working for her and she is telling you that in every way she knows how, please listen to her. 

    RE: Dealing with high anxiety teen ()

    There is a supplement called PharmaGaba that helps when you’re having a panic attack. My daughter used it once & it helped very much. Knowing it was available was a huge help later - she felt more in control & less afraid of getting one in public. Depending on school policy, she could keep one in her backpack or at the school office. 

    My daughter also likes to use aromatherapy essential oils. She’ll bring a scented cloth in her backpack. Again, it’s about control over her moods. 

    Last - I let her have one ‘skip day’ to use when she needs a break from the stress, no questions asked, each semester. If she’s begging to stay home, I’ll ask if she wants to use her skipday, and she’ll decide to save it for later  

    This is a hard thing to deal with. I’ve been there, and I feel for you. 

    RE: Dealing with high anxiety teen ()

    Our anxious teen is only 13 and so far we have three things that seem to have helped somewhat. The first is that he is taking one of his classes online instead of in a traditional classroom setting. This seems to give him a little breathing space during the day. He goes to the library to "do his work" but mostly seems to save his work for afternoons or the the weekend and uses the time during the day to just chill a bit. The second thing is that on the weekends I help him sort out all the stray papers in his backpack (because he seems incapable of filing them and then gets overwhelmed which seems to be a trigger for his anxiety) and each day we go over what homework he has due that day and what he has coming up. I help him make lists of things he needs to do and that helps to keep him on track a bit. The third thing is that when I "tuck him in," I spend 30-60 minutes just talking about what is going on in life and work to help him reframe things in a more positive light and help him brainstorm solutions to things going on with him. We also prioritize him spending time with his friends and getting enough sleep and have sent him (already) to a college counselor because he would fret endlessly about not getting into college.

    All that said, he's still coming home at lunch today because he spent 1.5 hours last night crying about going to school today so it isn't like this is a panacea. But things are far better than they were.

    RE: Dealing with high anxiety teen ()

    Hi, I have a 14 year old who experiences anxiety and it often leads to school refusal. It's so stressful so I just wanted you to know that you're not alone. I don't have the answer because I think it's a very complex issue. But I am finding that family therapy is helping somewhat. She's on medication as well and has a therapist. CBT is a great form of therapy for depression,and anxiety: it might just take a while. I think there's so much pressure on teenagers these days both socially and academically that if there's a child who is sensitive, they're just going to be anxious. I'd be interested in hearing what other people have to say. I think having an anxiety journal is great a great idea if you can get her to do it.
    All the best!

    RE: Dealing with high anxiety teen ()

    If she is interested in homeschool or do independent study, community colleges have many online UC approved classes.  If she is a dual-enrolled high school student taking less than 10 units per quarter, it is tuition free.  Hope this helps.

    RE: Dealing with high anxiety teen ()

    I have two highly anxious teens.  I empathize with you.  It is very difficult to parent anxious teens - walking on egg shells all the time.  Its so hard to give them enough support to literally survive, while providing them the tools to move toward a healthy, independent life.

    It sounds like you have taken the positive steps of therapy, medication, and a low-stress school.  I honestly don't know how much you can do at home to support your daughter, assuming you are getting guidance from her therapist.  I have two thoughts:

    1. Have you considered a one-to-one tutoring model school that is familiar in working with high anxiety teens?  One such example is Lydian Academy in Menlo Park.  I imagine there is something similar in the East Bay.

    2. You may want to begin working with a consulting group such as The Bodin Group in Los Altos.  It sounds like your daughter is really struggling despite all supports.  Bodin could help assess the situation and suggest alternative paths.  I do not know of a similar group in the East Bay.  Bodin is fairly unique in what they do.  

    Persist, good luck, and do something for yourself today.  Those of us who parent anxious children are in it for the long haul.

    RE: Dealing with high anxiety teen ()

    Hi -

    I too have a teen with anxiety.  I encourage you to work with her doctor to see if she needs a med dosage change or med change. Sometimes, due to extra stresses, meds need to be adjusted.  My teen was homeschooled for a few years before high school and in hindsight I think socially it would have been better to stay in school w/more therapy and medication.  We didn't start medication until later towards the end of homeschool and returning to public school.  It is still a process and probably will be for awhile.  I am also considering looking into a homeopathic doctor, but need my teen's agreement to change diet before exploring that option.

    RE: Dealing with high anxiety teen ()

    My 19 year old has all three (3) forms of anxiety and I asked her viewpoint on your situation.  What I say now is from the mouth of someone who lives with anxiety on a daily basis.  She also is in CBT therapy and on medication. 

    Cam states the following: 

    Homeschooling and independent study will not help the anxiety.  It will make it too easy to become a hermit and not live life.  Talk to friends when having a bad day, make sure you get support from your friends.  Tell your teachers you have anxiety and ask for support and understanding.  Parents: do not force your child to go to school if she is having a bad day.  Daughter: if you miss school make sure you get your homework done and turned in.  Parents: when your daughter is having an attack, ask her what she needs for support.  Perhaps it will be to leave her alone, or tell her everything will be okay.  Allow her to tell you how she needs support.  Sometimes a change of area will help, such as taking her for a drive.  Make sure she is taking her meds.  Be supportive.  Recognize when she does go to school but don't overpraise.  Going through a panic attack can stop you in  your tracks and for the person having the attack, makes them feel stupid.  Look, panic attacks are going to happen, but you can't spend your life worrying about them, you just need to keep moving forward. 

    My daughter has offered to speak with yours if she would like.  My daughter is 19 1/2 - was diagnosed with her anxiety disorder at 16 and started meds at 17.  She just started her 2nd year at SFState, has a part-time job and is doing really well.  Not sure if the administrator of this website will allow for a connection but happy to let the two girls talk if it will help.  Over time it does get better, but as a parent you need patience, understanding, love and not getting into your own heads that all this is your fault or that you are bad parents.   My daughter does live at home and looks to move out her jr year at college.  She is a great kid and we are pretty close.  It took me a long time to understand her and not be negative and pushy.  I am a pretty strong parent and my husband is the soft parent so until we got to our groove, it was tough on us also.  She does text or call us when she needs help and we stop to give it to her.  No matter what, she is our first priority and she knows this.  Make sure your daughter understands that no matter what you love her.  You support her.  She is perfect the way she it.  

    RE: Dealing with high anxiety teen ()

    Hi there,

    I highly recommend Holden High School. They have lots of experience working with teens who are anxious. The school day is shorter, there is a lot of flexibility in the curriculum, and weekly on-site therapy built into the program. You should check them out. Best wishes.

    RE: Dealing with high anxiety teen ()

    First of all, I am sorry to hear that your daughter and you have been struggling so much with the issue of anxiety and how it impacts all of you. I have definitely been there. My first recommendation will sound odd, but I would add one extra act of "self care" to your (yes, you the mom) week. It sounds like you're the main support for your daughter, and this is an "oxygen first" kind of situation. You'll need sustained compassion, firmness and energy to shepherd your daughter through these years. We did all of the same things you are doing: small, supportive private school, therapy, exercise, meds. Same request from then 14 year old daughter: home school me! We didn't consider independent study, but that might have benefitted her because one thing she really hated was sitting in glass with her brain racing, feeling bored, and being unable to focus. But in her case, I think her level of depression and anxiety was greater than we really knew. She began to refuse school altogether (one month) her freshman year. We also did some family therapy, and my husband and I sought out a parent coach--all of these things helped, but not enough. Ultimately, my daughter just grew more anxious and depressed and needed a higher level of care. We would never ever in our wildest dreams have considered sending her to a therapeutic boarding school, but that's what we ended up doing. We had her evaluated (a neuropsych assessment), and it was recommended. It was a really hard choice as well as expensive. But it was also like all of us gaining life skills on steroids. My daughter got a great high school education in a supportive setting and learned how to pull herself out of depression--or as she says, "to live a full life despite depression." She's home now, attending a very supportive, low low stress college prep high school called Orinda Academy. She looks forward to going to school every day. Life isn't perfect, but we now know we can get through challenges together in a more loving, less stress filled way. Everyone in the family is doing better. Our story may not fit your situation: I hope you can find success with more local solutions. But just in case you try and it doesn't work, please, please, please take heart. You will make it through these trying times. And if you want to join a support group, you might try one of these:  (Low fee)  Family Sanity: familysanitygroup [at] gmail.com     Free: http://willowsinthewind.wixsite.com/willowsinthewind/support-groups      All the best...

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  • 14 yo daughter with panic attacks

    (5 replies)

    My normally enthusiastic, positive 14 year old has been experiencing anxiety attacks recently. I've read past postings, so know that she is not unique. She said her anxiety is mostly school-related: 80% social and 20% academic... but can't pinpoint specifics on what's causing the attacks. Today she had an attack in class while watching a video about kids dying. The attacks seem to be getting worse by the day. She is a freshman at BHS. Up until recently, she has been happy and says she enjoys her classes/teachers/classmates. She does fine academically, but does not have a group of friends (hangs out with a couple friends from middle school during lunch-time and not at all after school or on weekends). She said she is losing confidence in herself, is afraid to meet new people and increasingly afraid to participate in class, which has never happened before. She has a small group of close friends outside of school (through her extra-curricular activities) with whom she does most things. She's busy and seems to be doing okay with her extracurriculars, though I can see the diminishing self-confidence creeping into her activities too. Since I've never experienced anything like this, I'm trying to figure out how best to help her. I'm waiting to hear back from her primary doctor. If you have a child who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, I would love to hear your story about how you and your child handle it. It seems like she needs both tactical tools to deal with it when it happens (breathing techniques?) and help with reducing anxiety over the long term. If your child sees someone for anxiety whom you like at Kaiser Oakland, can you provide the recommendation? Thanks!

    Our almost 12 year old daughter started experiencing panic/anxiety around Thanksgiving 2016, and we found Kaiser's mental health services to be very helpful. We started with her pediatrician to rule out any physical stuff, and then she was referred to therapy. First, she saw a therapist one-on-one once a week for about eight weeks. Then she signed up for a young teen anxiety group and completed that series. Kaiser's cognitive behavior therapy approach has helped a ton! I think there are many ways it could work, but for our girl, the one-on-one was a good start (since she was nervous about therapy) and gave her the basic tools for handling anxiety, and then the group reinforced the tools. 

    One of the funniest tools her therapist used was to tell our daughter that she had to limit the sharing of her worries (with us, her parents) to 15 minutes per day, and that we as a family should set aside "worry time" and make it available to her but only in a limited amount. Daughter was instructed to identify worries as they arose during the day and to put them into a "worry bucket" to be shared later. This seemed odd to us, as we are used to having ongoing dialogue about everything with our daughter, but it really helped. Daughter was less inclined to dwell on her worries, either on her own or in our presence, and she ended up not requesting that much "worry time" before her constant fretting seemed to diminish significantly.

    Lastly, both my husband and I have benefited from Kaiser CBT approach, so we were able to reinforce the message from our daughter's therapist. I think this helped. Kaiser sent home written materials to be reviewed by us and our daughter at home and it was a great refresher. One last story: yesterday, my daughter was experiencing anxiety and she talked herself out of it and used distraction techniques to feel better. She then told me how grateful she is that she received therapy so soon after the on-set of symptoms. 

    My daughter is a sophmore in high school and has experienced anxiety this school year. She also has chronic pain issues and her anxiety manifests itself through physical pain and sickness. I have struggled as a parent as the best way to help her but I have found a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, Dr.Rachel Zoffness, that has been helpful. She isn't through Kaiser though. I also used to teach and one of my students went to group therapy through Kaiser. I don't anything about the program except that my student went through it.  Hope you can find her help.

    Hi,

    I am sorry your daughter is going through this, it is so difficult.  We have a similar situation with my 13 year old.  She has tried medication, with some success, and cbt with no success, it even made her feel more depressed.  She tried mindfulness but she has narrowed it down to tactical.  Where to go from here we are not sure and I look forward to seeing the answers to your post. She tried cbt at Kaiser and outside of Kaiser and felt that they were both the same.  Outside of Kaiser we had more access to appointments and the therapist opined that it should take about 14 sessions.  The therapist outside of Kaiser said that she is absolutely shocked at the increase of anxiety and depression in teens. (I am personally bothered by the selection of books that the schools select. They are always very very depressing and focus on death and abuse of children. I think that they can mix it up a bit.) 

    I just saw this video today and thought it might help your daughter and also you if you explore the website:

    https://speakupforkids.org/story/emma-stone/

    It's Emma Stone talking about her anxiety - I think knowing 'it's not just you' is a huge help...has been to me - good luck!

    Hi, My son conquered his anxiety and panic attacks using a self-help program called

    "Turnaround, Turning Fear into Freedom"

    It consists of a workbook and a series of CDs that tell a story with characters.

    I know see there are many programs offered.

    My son enjoyed learning on his own at his own pace in the privacy of his room.

    He has only very rare bouts of anxiety now and is much more aware when he feels anxious and has strategies for coping. 

    I would try this route before medication, personally.

    -Barbara 

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  • Treatment for Panic Attacks in Teen

    (8 replies)

    Hi, my 14 yo daughter has worsening panic attacks. She has had them for a few years but they are becoming more frequent. She used to have them once every 6 months or so in an extreme situation but now they are coming a 2-4 times per month or more. She has some anxiety, social and otherwise, as well as struggling with some self-harm. She is very creative and does well in school etc. She is in therapy at Kaiser but her long time therapist took a new job and she has not adjusted well to the new one yet. At this point I am considering looking outside Kaiser and/or considering getting a psychiatric consultation at Kaiser. Possible avenues include homeopathy (going to try that  very soon, not super optimistic but there are no side-effects), CBT ( possibly expensive, not sure she will buy into it), medication (worried about side-effects and long-term effects).  She is not open to meditation, yoga, etc. I would love to hear any advice or recommendations from this community. Thank you!

    My daughter used to get very severe panic attacks during her middle school years. We initially took her to therapy. But as a freshman in HS, she almost couldnt funtion because of the panic attacks. When she started missing school, we decided to take her to a psychiatrist as well who put her on meds. Those meds were adjusted over time by her doctor. Now my daughter is doing fine, is well adjusted to her life in college while still on her meds.

    I totally can relate to your reluctance to try meds for anxiety, and in our case too we used it as a last resort. But these meds did have a positive impact and helped us tremendously. My daughter was able to live up to her full potential because of it. The side effects are not too bad, and the doctor adjusted the dose so she felt fine taking the meds. Best Wishes..

    I commend you for looking for treatment for your daughter. She is suffering. I think that Biofeedback and Neurofeedback are very helpful for anxiety. They can help kids become more aware of and change their physiological states.  Also, you could consider talking with your daughter's doctor about a beta blocker medicine, which is fast acting and I do not think creates dependency nor side effects. That would be different than an SSRI or benzodiazepine. Good luck!

    I'm not sure what her Kaiser therapist has done already but I'm an MFT Intern and I'd be looking at giving her tools for managing the symptoms and de-escalating them followed by CBT to help her figure out what the thoughts/beliefs are that are driving her to feel anxious and try to recognize and change unhelpful thinking patterns. 

    I think for therapy to work it's really important that she sees someone she feels comfortable with and has confidence in. So maybe shopping around outside Kaiser is a good idea. You could try Psychology Today and look for therapists locally who use CBT. 

    Good luck.

    Has your daughter had a full thyroid panel done, as well as a complete blood panel?
    Her hormones could be off. One of the symptoms of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is severe anxiety.
    Does she have other less obvious symptoms....hair falling out or thinning, brittle nails, digestive problems, hoarse voice,
    tired all the time, weight gain. That's an easy blood test  at least to rule out (I'd insist on a full thyroid panel rather then the typical TSH the Drs tend to do).

    Does your daughter eat a lot of processed foods? The chemicals in processed foods can cause mood changes and anxiety.
    Does she drink diet sodas....artificially sweetened, processed meats and snacks?  You might try a gluten free diet for a month and see
    if that makes a difference.....you'd be surprised.
    Another easy-ish thing to clean up to rule things out.

    My son had severe anxiety when he was young. A gluten free diet and high doses
    of Omega 3 Fish Oil made a huge difference.
    My view is to look at a cause rather then treat a symptom.
    It was frustrating working with Kaiser since they typically treat a symptom.
    If  you decide to go out of Kaiser I can recommend a great naturopathic doctor who works with teens.

    Wishing you the best.

    My young adult daughter recently started a Yoga program at Kaiser that specifically targets panic attacks and anxiety.  It gives the participants tools to recognize & reduce anxiety.  I believe it is a 6-week class, once a week.   Not sure if the age group is inclusive for teens, but maybe they have a similar program?   She also recently started on Wellbutrin through Kaiser, and it seems to be helping, without any side effects.

    Fragrances can cause panic attacks. 

    http://www.executivehealthcareservices.com/article-dangerous-scents.html

    Use unscented detergents, personal care products, cleaning products, etc. Open windows for cleaner air. Get houseplants. New carpet and paint can also cause problems. 

    It will take awhile for the toxins to clear from her body, but she should feel better in several months. 

    We've used CBT for this, and it was very helpful for our daughter.  Ilyana Romanovsky is her therapist.  It is expensive, but Ilyana is very results-oriented, and it was definitely some of the best money we've spent.  Good luck!

    CBT is very effective for panic attacks. I recommend looking for a therapist who specializes in CBT and who has a large part of his/her practice with teens. This will take some research but would be well worth it if you could find a good match. I would ask what percent of their practice is teens, how long they have worked with teens, and what training and experience they have had with CBT. There is no "correct" answer to these questions, but I would look for answers that show a lot of experience, continuing education, and an interest in understanding what you need. 

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  • 17 year old's excessive anxiety about family

    (6 replies)

    Hello,

    My 17- year old son is a generally well-adjusted teen, very personable, does well in school, and seems overall happy and content. He has one particular area of concern: he worries excessively that something is going to happen to his sister, his father or me. If he knows we will be out of the our general area, he constantly tracks us with his phone, and if he cannot get a hold of us or does not know where we are, he gets terribly anxious and worried. I suffer from this a little bit too, and kind of live with this. Today he told me that he wants to see someone about this because it is interfering with his life too much. Do you have any recommendation for a therapist? What kind of therapy would you recommend for this? He has had this anxiety for as long as he can remember. He will be going to college in a year, and I really would like him to get a handle on this. Thanks!

    I would like to suggest CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), which helps people work directly with negative/anxious thoughts. There are some recommendations for specific therapists in the archives, and for lower-fee therapy there is the Wright Instutite: https://www.wi.edu/training-cbt

    Your son's difficulties remind me of my own (which I also began to struggle with at a young age).  I've found somatic therapy really helpful for finding a way through anxiety.  Jane Lazar is a wonderful practitioner in Berkeley (janelazar.net).  I highly recommend her.

    A close friend has had great experience with hypnotherapy.. she says it helped her get over writer's block and other friends who have a variety of fears

    have been able to resolve using hypnotherapy.. I heard the most effective is when they give you a CD to take home and listen while you fall asleep and it

    reinforces the session and can resolve issues in just a few sessions.. much faster than other therapies.  I don't know of any but you can probably look on yelp for

    your area.  My friend's hypnotherapist was Larry Garrett in Chicago, Ill.

    My 17-yr old son is working with a male therapist named Scott Fischer, who is very relatable with teens, and this is the first therapist (out of three) that my son has "clicked with". Scott specializes in working with teens/young adults with anxiety, ADD, etc. His methods work for my son, because they talk while walking or moving around rather than sitting face-to-face in an office (which my son found intimidating). Scott is very laid back and has helped my son really express himself and get to the "core" of his feelings, rather than focusing on quick behavioral fixes. We have tried CBT in the past to treat anxiety and my son will be the first to report that the behavioral habit reversal techniques only addressed his symptoms but not the cause. You can learn more about Scott at https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/name/Scott_Fischer_MFT_Berkel... or at scott.fischer81 [at] gmail.com                                                 I also echo Jane Lazar for somatic therapy, having worked with her myself. Key is to find someone your son can relate to.  Good luck!      

    My 16 year old son has experienced similar issues (along with other anxiety) and has been helped tremendously by Eliyahu Sills, MFTI in Berkeley.  You can find him online.   He's immensely calm, specialized in working with men and boys, does mindfulness...all of which has helped my son get to a much better place.

    Good luck!

    I recommend that you also consider Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT), which is an offshoot of CBT.  The skills based approach has been very helpful for me to manage my pervasive anxiety and I use the tools I learned at least every day.  DBT is not for those interested in long-term therapy as most DBT therapy lasts for only a year or so at the most.   I've both taken classes and had therapy at the Oakland DBT Center.  I've worked with Lauren Gonzalez but they are all well-trained in DBT.

    http://www.oaklanddbtcenter.com

    Alice

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Archived Q&A and Reviews


Questions

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