Anxiety & Panic in Teens

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello,

    I'm looking for an Oakland (or nearby) therapist experienced in working with LGBTQIA teens with a history of severe anxiety, vegetative depression, disordered eating, self-harm, and school refusal. They are in the Kaiser intensive outpatient program, but they just don't have the resources to meet my kid's needs. 

    In-person would be WONDERFUL. My kid hates Zoom & will not do groups because of it. 

    Thank you

    I highly recommend you check out a therapist with a dialectic behavioral therapy background as those are great skills for addressing the root causes of the issues your teen is struggling with. Though they are zoom only right now, Caitlin Burnham is excellent, works primarily with/in the LGBTQI community, and is skilled in DBT work. She is the first therapist my teen has bonded with and they have come a long way together in the last year. You could also check out the Oakland-based Clearwater DBT clinic--they often have queer interns/staff, are very QT friendly and also do great work with kids (and parents, since that in my own experience is definitely part of the work to be done) with similar issues. Good luck.

    My kid sounds a bit like yours.  They like Kay Guyer, who is an art therapist. Kay is non-binary and young.  Which has been very helpful for getting my kid to talk in therapy. 

    Also, we are about to start a 6 week DBT session with Clearwater in Orinda.  DBT is known to be effective for self-harm.  I have given up on Kaiser's mental health program because they do not have enough resources.  kay [at]

    Hello - Our teen/family had a really positive experience with both the intensive outpatient program and the individual therapists at Bay Area Clinical Associates (BACA) in Berkeley (  They specialize in working with youth, and services are being provided in-person again.  There may be a waitlist, but they are most definitely worth a try.  Good luck!

  • 14 year-old anxious daughter

    (7 replies)

    Hello fellow parents, I am searching for ideas to help my 14 year-old daughter, who struggles with anxiety. It seems to come over her in waves when something stressful happens, at which points she plummets and tells me how miserable she is. It started when Covid shut down school. Now she's better, but she still talks a lot about anxiety and hopelessness. Are there resources for anxious teens other than traditional therapy? Something that might give her some tools and strategies for feeling better? Thank you.

    My daughter has been helped immeasurably by DBT classes, where she has learned to “regulate her emotions”.  Talk therapy helped as well, but DBT is such a useful tool.  She is strong, confident and solid, and I have her therapist Dr. JJ Kelly, and JJ’s DBT group to thank- as well as my daughter’s years of hard work to get herself to this point. JJ has a that might be helpful to you and your daughter. 

    My daughter started taking Lexapro, the smallest dose, and it made a huge difference in her anxiety. It's worth checking out with your family medicine doctor or psychiatrist. 

    Hi there.  I am both a mom of an anxious teen and a therapist.  "The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook" is widely available and is a cheap and effective way of providing tools to both identify the kind of anxiety at play and how to deal with/survive the anxiety.   There are also lots of youtube videos coaching people through good somatic techniques, such as provoking the mammalian diving reflex (it's a real thing!).  It has helped my teen to recognize that anxiety affects thinking *and* is a physiological phenomenon and that means you can use either cognitive techniques or somatic techniques or both. I coach my teen to use whichever feels most accessible at the moment.  Yoga, regular exercise --- even walking --- can be big help overall and becomes more effective with time and practice.  Good luck!

    I'm sorry your daughter is struggling. Mine has struggled with anxiety since she was a small child, with it ebbing and flowing over the years. Targeted CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) has been very helpful to her in gaining skills to manage her anxiety. She's now a confident, almost 20-y-o who can name her anxiety and manage it effectively (she is not, and has not, been on medication).

    Here are some tools that contain strategies for managing anxiety:

    "The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook" by Edmund J. Bourne, PhD was recommended by our family therapist years ago and proved helpful to me in helping her.

    The Calm app, or anything similar to help with mindfulness and breathing techniques.

    "The Anti-Anxiety Notebook"

    I wish you and your daughter well.

    My 14 year-old daughter has struggled with crippling anxiety on and off for several years. We found a pediatrician who is interested in this issue and has experience with medications. Our daughter has benefitted tremendously from a low dose of Lexapro coupled with a beta blocker. I know many people are wary of using prescription medications for kids and teens but when handled carefully by an experienced doctor it can be transformative. Relief from anxiety is a blessing.  

    I've always had a lot of anxiety that I just thought was part of my personality. I finally got called out as being anxious as an adult and started to look more into it. I heard about this book on fresh air and it's so fascinating! It has truly helped. Its available though the library as an audiobook if you want to test it out before you buy. 

    It's called Unwinding Anxiety by Judson Brewer, and he talks about how anxiety forms as a habit in our brain, and how the act of recognizing it when it comes up helps us to break the habit. Understanding what's going on in your brain really helped me in ways that traditional talk therapy never could. 

    Have you thought about setting her up with an EMDR therapist? EMDR was the only thing that ever alleviated my panic attacks and anxiety waves. If traditional talk therapy is like a hammer in the toolbox, EMDR is like the power tool -- it's so, so much more effective. Happy to share the therapist I used if that's helpful?

  • Seeking advice, referrals, experience, etc. in helping our child (15 years old) who will not leave the house, go to school or see a therapist due to what appears to be anxiety. (likely body dysmorphia, depression and sleep disorder issues, as well) Unfortunately, I can't get my child to leave the house to meet with a doctor or therapist.

    He is sweet and kind; no oppositional or defiant behavior, no drug or alcohol use, etc. He wants to change but has not been able to do it on his own and neither have we. This has been going on for quite sometime and was exacerbated the pandemic. We'd really like to find a way to help him without resorting to residential treatment.  We would be open to an outpatient setting but we can't get him to leave the house, so we're at a loss of what to do. 

    The thought of having outside professionals forcefully dragging my anxious child out of our home against his will and placing him in a residential treatment facility is heart breaking. If that's what we have to do to help him, we will do whatever it takes but it's my hope that he can be treated at home to begin with, then build up to leaving the house but still live at home. We'd we'd like to exhaust all other resources before resorting to residential.

    Your resources and advice are deeply appreciated. 

    I wanted to respond that my heart goes out to you. We are in the same exact position, it started earlier this year. Our daughter, who is now 14 and in eighth grade, has a lot of anxiety, which was exacerbated by the pandemic

    She attends a private school. At the moment though, she is homeschooling and completing assignments from her school. We also got her assessed through the school district; I suggest you do the same because your child might be able to get accommodations based on anxiety where is school attendance is such a big factor and another option might present itself.  For example, in our school district, they do have an online program for kids year-round (many students elect into it due to various circumstances, including physical and mental health issues issues).

    As a parent, I also joined school refusal FB groups that have been helpful.  If you use FB, you can take a look.

    You are an amazing parent that you are supporting  your child.  Please feel free to reach out if you have any further questions.

    Scott Weber LCSW is amazing. He has tons of experience with teens in need of supports, going to RTC, alternatives to RTC, etc. 

    Other resources include 
    Facebook page WTRS Wilderness Therapy and Residential Search (run by parents/guardians of teens who have been through it all) They gave great resources and feedback 

    Willow in the Winds

    support groups for parents/guardians of kids at risk or in RTC or Wilderness Therapy. They are all online now by Zoom but there are meetings around the Bay Area. Contact jrao [at] for more information or visit the webpage

    There are short term programs too such as Paradigm 30-45 days which can be very helpful

    Disclaimer: I am not an expert, but have some experience with my own son, who is now 21, away at college, and thriving. He had severe anxiety, panic attacks and some difficulty going to school during middle and high school. What really helped him was therapy with Melinda White on Solano Avenue, along with an SSRI. I think that, if your child won’t leave the house, it would be productive to find a psychiatrist who works via video to get him on an SSRI first. After a couple of months, it’s possible that your son will be able to leave the house to go to therapy. Or maybe you can find someone like Melinda who works online in order to truly treat his anxiety.  I was compelled to write because a therapeutic boarding school sounds perhaps like a drastic measure for your anxious child. My son is still on the SSRI, and occasionally still becomes anxious in certain situations, but he calls me on those rare occasions and we talk through what he leaned in therapy (mostly CBT-based). Best of luck. 

    I am so sorry you and your child are dealing with this..... he does need help, but it doesn't sound like extreme measure like you describe would be the best idea. I've been in a similar situation with both my teens..... navigating mental health is really rough.

    My first question is whether he's working with a psychiatrist? If not, I'd try to get in with someone you feel he could connect with. Same with a therapist. Both can be done from the comfort of home via telehealth (video call) at first. And both should take an extensive history from you the parent, so your kid has less talking to do ;) You may have to set some boundaries and insist he at least be present and as engaged as he's able with them. My son at one point literally did therapy and psychiatrist appointments from under a blanket on the couch, answering questions as briefly as possible in monosyllabic phrases. A good psychiatrist/therapist can work with this situation.

    I can honestly say that the combination of good psychiatric care, therapy, and the right school environment truly saved both my kids' lives.

    I wish I could recommend a psychiatrist or therapist with an opening, but sadly it is so hard to get in to many practices right now. I recommend looking at the BPN archives for recommendations and just start calling and telling folks about the situation. You could also try getting on the waitlist at Clearwater Counseling in Oakland, which is a DBT therapy center with great therapists and programs. We received some good referrals while working with them. Both my kids also did CBT therapy, which helped immensely with anxiety. Medication enabled them to actually engage more in the therapy.

    It is so hard, but there is a way to find a balance of requiring that your kid get some help while also acknowledging and supporting them lovingly in their struggle. I found that getting therapy myself helped me better support my kids.

    Parent of anxious teen boy here (although never an issue with not leaving the house, he did love not having to attend school in person). First thing: Is your son diagnosed with anxiety disorder? Have you had him assessed yet for any mental health issues? We had our son diagnosed through the MIND Institute (through UC Davis Medical Center, located in Sacramento). They are excellent; it's possible they can work with you via Zoom. I'd start with them. 

    He will likely need to be medically managed. My son works remotely with Dr. Laura Nasatir. My son is on a very high dose of Sertraline (Zoloft) and his anxiety has become incredibly well managed, although not without issue. 

    Once you get your son assessed and diagnosed, I highly recommend calling the Anxiety Treatment Center. It is in Rancho Cordova, but they may be able to recommend similar programs in the Bay Area (I think that Stanford maybe has a similar program?). They run an IOP and a PHP: Intensive Outpatient Program, or Partial Hospitalization Program. My son has been attending the IOP for two weeks so far, and it is really amazing what it's done for him. The group is for adolescents in his age range only. (They have various groups for various age ranges.)

    I would absolutely NOT turn to a residential treatment center complete with the "child grab" approach unless you were working with an expert and that's the last resort (I can tell you don't want to do that). Those programs are often meant for kids with various types of disorders. For example, our son was enrolled in an IOP through our local hospital, and it was a terrible fit; all the other kids had very different issues (suicide attempts, self-harm) and our son with his anxiety and OCD simply didn't fit in; it wasn't therapeutic for him. So be sure to do your due diligence on PHP and IOP options. 

    You may ask the facilitator for my contact info if you'd like to talk any of this through. It's tough, but we have had things really turn around and it's been the first time that we've seen our son's anxiety (and other issues) lessen through all of the other types of therapies that we've tried. 

    Many therapists are working online these days, would your son consider talking to someone through a screen? We have a similar child, although body image issues and sleep issues (and mild depression) have not caused anxiety or withdrawal. We've found that therapy and some form of movement are a great help. Maybe your son would agree to taking a walk around the block with you at night when it is dark and no one can see him? Walking and talking are very good therapy too. You don't mention gaming or online schooling. Speaking from experience with anxiety myself, the longer he is away from a 'normal' teen existence the harder it will be for him to reenter society, so I would do whatever you need to get him help, and it sounds like you are willing to do so. I wish I had more advice, but I hope that talking to a therapist online might be an option for him. You might also try to find one who will come to you - hopefully someone has a good referral for you - wishing you the best outcome!

    So much empathy here. The pandemic has really created a mental health epidemic for....well, everyone. 

    We have been dealing with this since Fall 2019 with my now almost 15 yr old and it has been difficult but there are so many more resources out there than I had ever realized. My kid has anxiety and depression, which presents in self-harm and inability to go out/go to school/leave the bedroom/bed, etc. They do better some days, some days not. We have Kaiser and have made our way through their pediatric behavioral health department. Most of the folks there are really great & knowledgeable but they have few resources.

    When it came out that my kid was self-harming, they did the 2-week partial hospitalization program (STEP through Seneca) where they go to the program rather than school for those 2 weeks. It was helpful for learning coping skills and in-person group therapy helped my kid to see that it wasn't just them dealing with all of this. The following year, they spiraled again, & did another stint with STEP, but it was over Zoom (both my kids loathe zoom). 

    One thing is that both my kids have ADHD, which exacerbates their anxiety & depression, so we originally had a 504 with the district for their ADHD accommodations but were able to add anxiety and depression to that this year. If you don't have a 504 plan, check with your child's doctor to start this process. We are now moving toward an IEP after having 2 stints of short-term residential.

    Last fall, my teen really spiraled and did 2 weeks in a residential program in SF which really helped keep them grounded and not self-harming until about 2 months ago. After spiraling again & being too depressed to go to school for about 3 weeks, they did another 2 weeks at the same program which did help, though maybe a little less than the first time, but they still feel they had a good experience.

    My kid was upfront & told us & their therapist from the Kaiser Intensive Outpatient Program that they would not be able to go back to school this year. It would have been too much for them. So, we just set up a "hospital at home" program, where a district teacher communicates with our teachers, finds out what is necessary to be done, and comes to the house twice a week to work with them. There is A LOT of leeway with regard to assignments, credits, and grades, which I was really surprised to find out. I had nightmares of summer school, etc. I am grateful that we can take the stress off of school.

    We are still holding our breath and reading about the longer term residentials in case they need it. It is SO painful because I really just want them to be home with us, but I also know that they have a difficult time keeping themselves out of depression at home, and if that means they are unsafe, then I would rather them go into a program that helps them create a solid foundation of healthy skills so they can learn to regulate themselves. Right now we are looking at a few Bay Area places, but have held off on checking for openings, etc. 

    The really frustrating thing is that my 2nd grader also has anxiety and his focuses on going to school as well! He is much better able to manage than his sib though & we are getting him the support he needs so hopefully in 7 years we are not in the same boat again. 

    I am very sorry for your situation.    I have a son (early 20s) who may have BDD and I was able to convince him to see a counselor for this issue.  (The counselor did not confirm if there is a BDD issue because everything is confidential.) He still struggles, and I hope one day he will return to therapy.  I have noticed that staying home a lot can affect a person’s self confidence to socially interact with others.  I tried to compensate by inviting people over for dinner.

    A few years ago when I was searching for answers on anxiety (OCD specifically) I found an organization that has a lot of helpful resources.  It’s called the OCD Foundation. At their Austin, Texas conference I was amazed to hear speaker panels composed of young people who talked about what helped them.  These were young people who suffered from different types of anxiety, including body dysmorphia. There were also numerous helpful Q&A sessions, and support groups targeted for parents and others targeted for younger adults.   

    I have attended two of its annual conferences.  I made a California friend that I keep in touch with.  Here is the link to the upcoming Denver conference in June.

    For me it has been very emotionally draining to have a loved one who is ill.  But I try to celebrate the little victories by writing about milestones in my journal.  For example, today he said “the food was good.”   Or today he ate dinner with us for the first time in 6 months.  Or he took the bike out at night for 10 minutes. 

    One thing that I found helped me is to listen carefully to what my son says and to respond with concern and questions.  It sounds like you are already doing this. My son and I sometimes have very emotional conversations now.  Something that I have started to think about doing is to model  good responses so that he learns how to respond in a job evaluation.  So instead of arguing with him if he criticizes how I talk, I want to say, “Thank you for telling me, because I want to improve how I communicate.”  Or if he misunderstands something big time, I’ll let hours past and then explain what I meant to ensure that he doesn’t harbor ill will.

    Please take care of yourself.  Your health is of paramount importance.  I found by nurturing my own hobbies and getting excited about physical exercises, it gave me something to talk about rather than exuding worry.   And sometimes when I pursue personal interests I am rewarded with new friendships that help me to cope with my situation at home.

    I have just spent the last year dealing with the exact same issues with my 13 year old daughter.  I would suggest that you try get a psychiatrist and psychologist to see your son via computer. If he will talk to a Dr via computer that is great.  My daughter refused to talk to hers (we have Kaiser), but I talked and the Dr was willing to prescribe an SSRi which helped my daughter with her depression and her more extreme anxiety symptoms.  She was able to engage more with therapy even though it took MONTHS for her to even talk to her therapist via computer. 

    For local out patient therapy, we had a very positive experience with Sandra Concannon of Green Leaf Therapy in Orinda.  She worked with both our daughter and us as a parenting coach.  We saw her exclusively via computer and she is trained in CBT and exposure therapy which are both used to help people who avoid life due to their anxiety. As a parenting coach she helped us set some boundaries at home and be on the same page to help push our daughter because her avoidance due to anxiety was huge.

    The psychiatrist also was able to refer us to a PHP program (5 days a week/ 6 hrs a day) at Rogers Behavioral Health in Walnut Creek that specializes in OCD and anxiety and we got on the waiting list (5 months).  PHP programs are the highest level of living at home mental health care. Based on my daughters issues we were able to get an anxiety disorder diagnosis that got her into the Home/Hospital Program in the school district so she had 1 on 1 instruction via computer while we waited for a spot in the PHP program and continued to try to work with her therapist.  I also requested an IEP evaluation which started the long process to get her an IEP for emotional disturbance (ED) which got her a school district social worker/therapist and a non public school (therapeutic) placement.  This is very important if you ultimately need to go to a residential treatment center or a therapeutic boarding school because you can get the district to pay for them (they are incredibly expensive). Unfortunately my daughter was too non functioning anxious to do the PHP program and I hired an Educational Consultant to help me determine what residential programs would be a good fit for her. My daughter started a wilderness therapy program in Idaho last week.  We brought her there ourselves and did not use professional transport.  It was super hard, but ultimately she knew we had exhausted all the options at home.  We told her there was no choice, either they were going to come get her or we would take her, but she was going no matter what.  She chose to go with her dad. I found the FB group:Wilderness Therapy and Residential Treatment Search Support to be an invaluable source of info while we decided our path.

    I completely understand wanting to exhaust all other resources before choosing residential, I felt the exact same way. 

    Good luck with everything.

  • Hello. My teenage son has been seeing a psychiatrist for depression, anxiety and supposedly ADD. We have a feeling he does not have ADD but can’t focus and has no motivation because of his depression. His current psychiatrist has prescribed TONS of pills that are not really solving any of the issues and cause lots of side effects. I have called lots of other psychiatrists but none are taking new patients. Anyone you know, that you recommend, that is taking new patients?  Any places I can find other doctors to call?  Please don’t suggest Pacific Coast Psychiatric Assoc. They are just a money making machine. I would prefer doctors with their own practice. 

    Have you tried osher center at ucsf? They have an integrative medicine approach and dr. Sanford newmark does both hollistic and medication management. Theres a waiting list but the practice is really good and you can get a fomal diagnosis if your son really has add. My sone was recently diagnosed wiyh ADD (inanttentive) and we have found his approach amazing and its usually coupled with other comorbidities. 

    My husband was late diagnosed add and he started going to mindful health solutions in wC and really likes Dr. HUYN.

    Hi, I'm sorry, I don't have recommendations for psychiatrists for treatment.  However, I want to strongly encourage you not to discount the diagnosis of ADHD, and the possible impact of ADHD on your son's mental health.  My biggest parenting regret is that I refused to accept any indication, suggestion or diagnosis of ADHD for my daughter from the time she was 8 until she was 15.  I said the exact same thing:  she doesn't have ADHD; she is depressed and anxious, has experienced trauma, so of course she can't concentrate!  My daughter continued to struggle until we finally got a comprehensive neuropsych assessment by a professional who educated me about what ADHD actually is, how ADHD impacts all aspects of one's life, and the powerful co-morbidity of ADHD with depression and anxiety.  I SOOOO wish I had learned about ADHD years and years ago; it is SO MUCH MORE than "can't focus".  The mysterious (!!), confusing cluster of seemingly unrelated traits, issues, challenges and talents that my daughter experienced her whole life began to make sense in the context of ADHD.  If you haven't already, I strongly recommend seeking out resources such as ADDitude ( to ensure that you have a deeper, reality-based understanding of the broad impact of ADHD on your child's life.  My daughter, now almost 21, still struggles, but she is doing MUCH MUCH MUCH better in terms of mental health, now that we both understand and have accepted that her beautiful, vibrant "ADHD brain" needs a different approach for dealing with the challenges of daily life. Good luck finding the support you need for your son, and for you and your family.

  • Has anyone had a positive experience with alternative treatments for anxiety? Because of my teenager's anxiety, she refuses to see a  psychiatrist, therapist or take any medication, so I would love to explore other options that might help her. 

    I've got an extremely anxious teen; it's been tough for all of us.  My list: meditation, exercise, Chinese medicine (accupuncture and herbs), yoga, horses, visiting old people, volunteering, helping others (not family!), hikes in nature.  My girl's 17; I think she'd be happy to help another anxious kid, but not be the "helpee" - too anxiety provoking!  Ask the moderator for my contact info, if you'd like.

    Not certain what type of anxiety your daughter has, but our daughter has social anxiety in addition to PTSD and these are some things that have helped her:  weighted blanket for sleeping, meditation app (she uses Headspace), and pets.  Having a dog (actually two in her case) has made her much more comfortable in going outside and also in interacting with people.   Also she sleeps much better with her dogs.   

    There are also CBT and DBT workbooks she could use to do some of the therapy on her own (or with your assistance).   NAMI, has a lot of resources for anxiety as well   They also offer some classes (which are being done virtually) for parents (the Basics class) as well as a more extensive family and friends class.  And offers a parent support group which could be very helpful.

    And if she will see her pediatrician, possibly they could offer some other recommendations.


    Alternative modalities for anxiety: exercise, meditation, forest bathing, spending time in greenspace, Any kind of exercise is good, such as walking, bike riding, lifting weights, etc. Even a little bit of meditation can help, and guided meditation is sometimes easier. Forest bathing is simply spending time in a bunch of trees. It is very easy and can be very restorative. And any kind of greenspace is good. Just reading or gardening in the backyard is good. But going on a hike is even better. 

  • Hi all,

    We are looking for a therapist for my bright, funny 13-year-old son. He has ADHD and the issues that come with that, including anxiety. We'd like someone who has experience with adolescents with ADHD and who will take on new clients. I'm pretty aware we'll end up with someone who doesn't take insurance, but the one person we've found so far who is taking on new clients is $250 and hour, which just isn't possible to do weekly. Thanks for suggestions/referrals!

    Our 15-year-old daughter with anxiety has been working with Meagan Rossin (meagan [at] with good results. My daughter is not connecting with many adults these days, but she connects with Meagan. Meagan is taking new clients. Best of luck to you and your son.

  • 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.

    This sounds very much what my daughter when through for several years.  It has lessened over time with therapy and meds.  We also have had a long standing policy in our house that any time she is afraid, she knows she can come into our room and crawl into bed with us or wake us if she needs support.  This is not going to be easy on any of you.  And...our job as parents is to give our children support and comfort at all times.  I am sure you and your husband are great parents, but even with great parents, what your child is going through requires more hand holding than with other kids.  It took years for our girl to be relaxed at being home alone.  We put an alarm on the house and she can track us from her cell phone, just like we can track her movements.  You need to share with her what is the family plan should something happen to you both.  We put one in place so that our daughter knew what she should do in such a situation.  Even through our daughter is 21, she still knows who she can count on to call both in our town and out of town should anything happen to us.  A very strong support system needs to be in place.  Our daughter is an only child and I am not sure that is your situation.  If not, have her siblings provide some support to her, if you are like us, get a support system in place for her asap. As for therapist, we went to Bay Area Clinical Associates in Oakland.  They really helped all of us.  We highly recommend them.

    We've had good results working with Amanda Urena (510-473-5795) on similar issues. Not sure if she's taking new patients, but recommend her highly. Her office is near Piedmont Ave, a short drive from Berkeley.

    My daughter starting having pretty severe separation anxiety as a child. At 5-1/2 she began seeing Dr. Fortunee Kayra-Stuart and after 18 months of therapy she overcame this particular anxiety. Dr. Stuart practices in Berkeley and she's quite excellent! 

    A therapist sounds like the place to start and I'm sorry I don't have a recommendation. But in tandem with that, and only if it fits your family's lifestyle, have you considered getting a dog? This really helped my daughter's anxiety about being home alone and as an added benefit, we have ALL grown to LOVE our dog. They are a huge commitment – daily long walks, training, feeding, vet visits and the responsibility will largely fall on the parents – but even as first time pet owners, we have not regretted it at all. She knows when any of us are feeling anxious, upset or down and will snuggle up immediately. Lots of local rescues with wonderful potential family pets.

  • 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.


    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.

    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. 

    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)


    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. 

    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. 

    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!

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

    I would recommend a website called (I have no financial interest in this website). Fair warning, though--it is geared toward little kids. However, it was recommended to me by a therapist friend of mine, and I warned my teen it was geared toward small kids and that warning enabled her to be open to it. It uses cartoons to help explain the physiology of anxiety and then goes on to explain some skills (breathing exercises, logic, etc.) that can help people while they are having anxiety. This is a pdf that explains anxiety in an approachable way: that might be more teenager level. The cartoons are a bit better at showing examples, though, I think. These two resources helped a lot while I was trying to navigate my insurance to get an appointment with a counselor. I know this isn't completely what you asked for, but I thought I'd throw it out there as it helped me quite a bit!

    Try Dialectic Behavior Therapy classes/programs. The ones I know last about 6 months and involve both parent(s) and child.  Clearwater (private) and Kaiser Richmond both have DBT programs for teens.  I am a Kaiser patient, but went with my kid to Clearwater because driving to Richmond at night (that's when the program takes place) would be difficult for us.

  • 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. 


    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.


    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.

    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 or at scott.fischer81 [at]  

    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. 

    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. 

    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.

    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!

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.  

    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.

    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]     Free:      All the best...

  • 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.


    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:

    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.


  • 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 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'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.

    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. 

  • 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:

    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 (  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 or at scott.fischer81 [at]                                                 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.


Archived Q&A and Reviews


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 ( 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 ( 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 ( - 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