Anxiety & Panic in Teens

Parent Q&A

Therapist for teen with anxiety Sep 21, 2019 (7 responses below)
Acupuncture/herbs for a teen with anxiety? Sep 10, 2019 (3 responses below)
Anxiety Support for a Teen Sep 5, 2019 (5 responses below)
Dealing with high anxiety teen Oct 16, 2017 (13 responses below)
14 yo daughter with panic attacks Apr 28, 2017 (5 responses below)
Treatment for Panic Attacks in Teen Nov 14, 2016 (8 responses below)
17 year old's excessive anxiety about family Aug 15, 2016 (6 responses below)
  • Therapist for teen with anxiety

    (7 replies)

    A couple of years ago, my 14 year old daughter developed anxiety about being home alone (after previously being totally comfortable staying home by herself). She’s afraid that something will happen to me or her dad while we’re out and she’ll be left by herself and be in danger. It’s not rational and she knows that but it’s gotten increasingly worse over time, not better. Just tonight she was in tears thinking about how hard it is and how scared it makes her feel, even when only one of us is away now. This morning her dad was out early and she was awake and she said she had to look into my room several times to reassure herself that I was still there. And even seeing I was there, she still felt overwhelming anxiety. So I’m looking for a therapist, preferably in or near Berkeley, who specializes in anxiety and may be taking new teen patients. 

    Thanks so much!

    We see Anatasia Kim at the Wright Institute. She specializes in anxiety. She is knowledgeable, warm, has a great sense of humor, patient, puts kids at ease and has been so, so helpful.

    We have had good luck with Reyna Cowan, PhD in Rockridge. She helped my son with his anxiety and he really enjoyed talking with her. 

    I heartily recommend Kendra Dunlap as a therapist for teens. She is kind, approachable, makes teens feel heard, and also gives helpful guidance to parents (while respecting therapist/patient confidentiality.) We tried out about 3-4 different therapists while trying to find a good match for my child, and I'm so glad we found Kendra. She has an office not far from downtown Berkeley BART. https://soulharmonypsychotherapy.com/

  • Acupuncture/herbs for a teen with anxiety?

    (3 replies)

    Looking for recommendations for acupuncturists/herbalists with experience treating teens struggling with anxiety. 

    My 16-year-old daughter is in therapy and that has helped her so much. This would be an additional resource for her. Would ideally like to find someone who works with teens frequently and has a good rapport with them.

    Greetings, 

    My daughter was clinically depressed as a child and at 16 she began acupuncture treatments with Sherry Yang which definitely helped along with all of the other modalities we sought for her. Sherry Yang is a wonderful and very caring doctor. In China she practiced psychiatry and taught acupuncture in the Bay Area. She raised a brilliant daughter in the Albany school district. Both of my daughters continue to see her and she treats us like family. 

    My daughter’s almost 20 now and doing remarkably well. Sounds like you’re doing a great job managing your daughter’s medical/mental challenges. Keep at it because the rewards are wonderful. Wish you and your daughter all the best. 

    http://www.sherryyang.com/

    I've done acupuncture 3x with Kelly Stock.  But she is also an herbalist with a master's in Oriental Medicine.  My teenager saw her once for acupuncture and really liked her.  We haven't done any oriental medicine other than acupuncture with her, but she has a healing presence as to the acupuncture.  She has an office in Orinda, and you can probably get a feel for her from her website.  kellymstock.com 

    Try Marie Bowser. She’s GREAT for my teenage son. After the first treatment, his evaluation scores routinely accessed by his therapist jumped from 2 out of 10 to 6 out of 10. He went back for the second treatment. He’s kept up really well. The therapist was pleasantly surprised. She believes that it was the acupuncture treatment that made a difference. The therapist herself went to see Marie to experiment the magic. She’s been sending her patients to Marie ever since. Marie Bowser is in Albany. (510) 984-1101. AJ

  • Anxiety Support for a Teen

    (5 replies)

    Hi,

    Does anyone know of any program or support for teens suffering from anxiety. I am looking for a place, person, organization that can guide and help me and my teen in dealing productively with anxiety. Learn some coping skill. 

    Thank you in advance. 

    RE: Anxiety Support for a Teen ()

    Kaiser has great support groups. My daughter recently started in a middle school age group there that meets once a week, and parents meet separately as a group at the same time with a therapist. 

    RE: Anxiety Support for a Teen ()

    Comprehensive Wellness in Walnut Creek has weekly support groups for both parents and children dealing with anxiety. The gal who runs them (Allyson Mayo)  is a doctor of behavioral health and is amazing!  https://www.comprehensivewellness.org/groups/

    RE: Anxiety Support for a Teen ()

    Clearwater counseling in Oakland (bear Oakland Kaiser) was amazing for work with teens!!

  • 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  

  • 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.) 

  • 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.

  • 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.

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