11-year-old with anxiety

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Date Joined Aug 2007
Total Posts : 1202
   Posted 6/19/2009 2:11 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi all,
I'm a regular on the Crohn's forum, but this post is about my daughter.  She is 11 and for years (about 4?) she has moments of intense anxiety.  It seems to revolve around a couple of basic fears: #1. Things are going as she expected them to go.  #2 being late #3 not being able to control her world.
I have always noticed that she has a really strong reaction when things in life don't go as she has "planned" them to go.  I guess this is the same as #3 not being able to control her world.  This seems like a silly example, but since it's fresh in my mind, I'll use this.
She's been wanting to add blue streaks to her hair for a while and chose to do it yesterday, with one week of school left.  It had to happen Thursday.  Could not happen Wednesday and certainly not Friday.  So we stopped by a salon when she freaked out about the colors not being what she wanted.  There were 4 shades of blue and none were what she wanted.  We left and went to a store to purchase our own "do it yourself" kit.  The color on the bottle was what she wanted so off we went.  The first time we applied the color it hardly took.  And, worse, some of the blue dye got on her skin (hands/arms) and she was out of control fearful that it would never come off.  ("Get it off, get it off" shaking hands in the air...)  I had her wash her hair and applied the dye again (now it's 10:30pm) to leave it on longer in hopes of a darker color.  Well, the color went pretty good, but it's not what she was expecting. 
This morning her alarm (and mine) did not go off.  We woke 15 minutes later than usual, but still plenty of time to get ready and arrive at school on time.  She was shaking and hysterically crying that she'd be late.  She breaths very shallowly, almost like hyperventilating, and is repeating her fears: "I'm going to be late!  I'm going to be late! I'm going to be late!"  (We were not late and never at risk for being late.) 
Again she starts the hands flapping in the air and almost like screaming, but more of a squeal.  Again with the blue on the hand (about the size of a pencil eraser), "get it off". 
I won't go through the whole episode and all the details, but it was an irrational fear and it wiped her out.  I remained calm through the time, helping her get her stuff together, but did tell her that her reactions were not appropriate.  She said that she does not know how to stop when she gets that way.  I remind her to "breathe!"  I turned on the tv while I brushed her hair, in hopes of distracting her thoughts/fears and pulling her into a rational state of mind.  It did not work. 
When we finally arrived at school (4 minutes early), she asked what she should do if she started freaking out at school.  I asked why she'd freak out at school and she said she didn't know. 
I just don't know what to do to help her.  This is only one example, but this type of over-reaction, panicky behavior happens far too often.  I'm just hoping I can get some perspective here and maybe some advice and ideas to help her feel less fearful...
Thanks for taking time to read!
--female dx as UC in '04 (1st symptoms in '03), switched to Crohn's in '05, 1 fistula, crohn's colitis, limited to large intestine  --rejected (reaction/didn't work): Asacol, AZA, 6-MP, MTX, Remicade, Humira, prednisone, Tysabri
--Prochymal in Phase III study (can't wait til it's approved!)
--Compounded budesonide 3mg/daily, Started Cimzia first dose 2/10/09.  Dx Osteoporosis 10/08 started Forteo 1/27/09

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Date Joined Jan 2006
Total Posts : 768
   Posted 6/19/2009 2:44 PM (GMT -6)   
After having 6 kids I only had one kinda like that. A daughter who just challenged my every ability. Frankly you sound like you are doing the right things. YOU have to stay calm no matter what.

I now have grandchildren that age. I have worked with children in my profession teaching swimming and sports for 35 years. Kids these days mature quite a bit younger than I did or even my own children. 11 could certainly be the edge of hormone city if you know what I mean.

Someone recommended the CBT program on "Mind Gym" and it is really interesting and good. Might want to check it out. Talks about thought process from events that happen to resulting behavior. Learning to fix thought processes has helped me a little so far as I've worked on it.

Hope this gave you some ideas to think about and God bless. Raising children is the most rewarding and hardest thing I have ever done.

Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 341
   Posted 6/19/2009 3:39 PM (GMT -6)   

First off I'm sorry your little girl is suffering. I have 2 myself. 16, and 13 and boy are they handfuls.

Anyway it sounds like she might have anxiety/panic attacks along with some OCD stirred in the mix. (I am not doc or therapist fyi )

Being calm through the panic attacks is the best thing you can do for her. The next think is reinforce the fact she is fine. Don't react to her panic attacks just reinforce that she is fine. If you start to baby her, cuddle, or show signs your worried. She will feed off of it and she might not ever learn to handle these attacks.
Now I'm not saying if she is in full blown tears to turn your back. More so sit with her hold her hand and tell her she will be fine. But you don't want any reactions you do to turn into a "must have" in order for her to calm down. Because then she will have an even harder time moving out and progressing through life.

Most anxiety/panic attack people (including myself) live life on a routine bases. When we have our anxiety, panic "spells" we have our comforts, which can be as simple as pacing our home in the same fashion, rate of walk, and even what we say to ourselves. I also have to call my mom. But because my mom has been so supportive, I can just call. I don't need her to come over and sit with me. Just her comforting me over the phone is enough.

Next step- Get her some therapy, and visit the doctor. These situations that happen to her are VERY scary. I can't stress to you how horrible they are. You want to jump out of your own skin to get away from them. But can't so you have to tuck the fears away, scream, cry, and just deal with it.

I can understand her fear of her skin being that "color" forever. The fear of people laughing at her, of it growing bigger and the what if's. And they race through your head no matter what you try to do to stop it (this is the OCD part). And at her age it will be twice has hard to get her little mind off of the "cause" of the problem.
To help my daughter when she starts to panic to the point she paces and starts with the "what if's", I tell her it is normal and that I have gone through the same thing. (Her's right now is sore ribs) I give her a big smile tell her she is fine and that all is well. Then I go back to what I am doing while I keep an eye on her. She will usually calm down some but still pace the house and get a little moody. She will come back to me again with the same question and I tell her the same thing. She will then settle down and listen to her music.
IF I get upset what so ever. Including changing my voice, she will freak out.

Children are very easily excited. Which makes it twice as hard. And of course on the parents as well. The best thing you can do for her is get her to the doctor and some therapy to start dealing with this. The sooner the better. She is young and her little brain is so in touch with the world right now. Take it while you can.
This might be short lived and only last a few days, weeks, or months. Or it can be years. So teaching her now how to deal with them is very important on her future.

My doc had me put my daughter on benadryl which did and still does calm her. There are not many drugs out there for young children. Therapy will probably be your daughters best way. Benadryl is used to help ease anxiety as it does have a calming effect. But it can also make them tired and not able to stay awake during classes.

Btw cold cream like Ponds. Helps remove dye from skin. Not always but I used it on my daughters blue neck and it worked!! I hope your daughter doesn't get to upset when the blue turns green as it starts to fade, wash out. My daughter got very upset at that point.

Have a great day


Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 1683
   Posted 6/19/2009 3:39 PM (GMT -6)   

Hi there

Im a high school teacher and i want to ask you a question without offending you- please dont take this the wrong way-

some of the things you mentioned sound like Aspergers syndrome (im NOT saying your daughter has that) but Aspergers kids can be highly anxious, need a strict/structured routine (being 15mins late would be a trigger) and often display traits of OCD mixed with high anxiety. They MUST at all times be in control of their environment.

I agree with Trigirl, you sound like an excellent parent and you just want whats best for your daughter. Would you consider therapy? would your daughter be open to therapy? shes also at an age where hormones are running rampant through her body which could also account for some of her behaviours.

feel free to email me if you want, i hope things get easier. your daughter sounds cool. Blue streaks at 11? she rocks!

Maz XX

                        Co-Moderator Anxiety & Panic- Depression
'He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.' (Psalm 147:3)
Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, CFS, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Sinusitis, TMJ disorder, Asthma, Endometriosis, PCOS, Chronic E.N.T and Upper respiratory tract infections, Reactive Arthritis, GERD,  IBS, Glandular fever, Migraines, Anemia, Chemical/Noise/Light sensitivity, Trichotilomania, PTSD, Seasonal Mood  Disorder, OCD, Benign Vertigo,  Impaired immune system. Tachycardia, tinnitus, low clotting factor= bruising. Tendonitis, Bursitis.
Meds: Zoloft 150mg. Xanax 4mg. Celebrex. Mobic. Panadeine Forte. Digesic. Nexium. Phenergan.Multiple surgeries- I bear the scars of my poor physical health.
Age:29. AP first DX @ 10. Fibro etc DX @14. Proud Aussie.

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 6/19/2009 6:36 PM (GMT -6)   

Hello and welcome to the A & P Forum. 

I raised 4 children and am the Grandmother of 7, one of the 7 has Aspergers.  ADHD and Aspergers often go together, and milder Aspergers used to be misdiagnosed as ADD / ADHD. My granddaughter was dx with ADD at a very young age, 3 years old and then Aspergers.

It is possible your 11 year old could have a problem but you mentioned she has had the anxiety for the past 4 years.  I noticed you are trying to keep her from having anxiety attacks by meeting her expectations, the blue hair which she insisted had to be done.  I am wondering if perhaps you may have some luck with her if you took on the decision making and how she would react if you just set some ground rules and she must comply with them.

Saying "No" to your child is never easy. When saying no to your child keep in mind that an explanation is always necessary, and your answer should be consistent with your other behaviors.

To make sure you are not seen as simply the “bad guy”, make sure your relationship is open and make yourself available.

Let your children know  why you are saying “no” and what they may be able to do to get a “yes” from you next time, or at what age you feel their request is appropriate, and why.

Remaining calm when she is feeling anxiety is the right thing to do so I commend you for recognizing that by remainging calm you are helping your daughter.

Coming here and looking for help is a positive step in helping your daughter.  I wish you the best and please know we care. You are truly a caring Mother.





Moderator: Osteoarthritis & GERD/Heartburn
Co-Moderator: Anxiety/Panic, & Depression
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"When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others."
Not a mental health professional of any kind

Post Edited (stkitt) : 6/20/2009 8:24:29 AM (GMT-6)

Veteran Member

Date Joined Aug 2007
Total Posts : 1202
   Posted 6/19/2009 10:59 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks to all of you. It helps so much to type it all out and hear some responses from people who understand. I really don't think this is "typical" hormonal changes, but I guess everyone is different. I'd love it if she just "grew out" of this. It has been going on for years and I don't see it as just the adolescent rollercoaster. I worry it will be something she struggles with for years to come. It's hard enough for anyone to have their expectations shattered, but when her comfort in stability is so closely tied in to those expectations being as she planned... life could be really hard.

I had never considered Aspergers. I am familiar with it as I have a friend and also know the father of an Asperger's girl (and autistic boy). She is quite social and so I didn't think much about that. But, like everything else, I suppose everything manifests slightly differently in all kids.

Today I did stop the behavior by setting the rules (even before I read your post, Kitt!) She does want the streaks darker, so we are going to get them done. She was wanting it done today but I said absolutely not. I needed a break from the intensity of the way the streaking activity had gone. So we scheduled an appointment. This gives her the ability to look forward to it and me the ability to control when it happens.

The worse problem is her fear of being late. I mean, that sounds nutty to say. It's great that she respects schedules and school rules. But, you'd think the world will end if she's 30 seconds late. The kick is that I've never, ever in all her years in elementary school, gotten her to school late. I learned early on that it just complicated my life to come anywhere near pushing the "late" button. (She screams and cries hysterically with teh "what ifs" - "But what IF we're late?" As we end up arriving 5 minutes early. It's not at all grounded in reality. The reality is that we always leave before it's necessary. The reality is that if she's a few seconds late, or even a minute late, it's elementary school. It's fear of embarrassment, the teacher being mad, all the "what ifs". I toyed with the idea of forcing a "late" arrival so that she'd see it "wasn't a big deal." then I decided that it was easy enough to just get to school 5 minutes early and sit in the car until they opened the doors to the school. (Mind you, the kids are not even allowed in the school until the "first bell" rings. They are not late until 5 minutes after when the "tardy bell" rings. We get there 5 min before the first bell and sit to wait. This usually eliminates or reduces the anxiety in the morning. This seems out of whack to me.

I don't want to cater to it - give her what she's looking for and encourage the fits - but I also want to be supportive understanding that it's all real to her. This morning, I helped with the requests that were reasonable. When she made an unreasonable request (like I NEEDED to take off that blue spot before she could do anything else) I declined. It was just postponing everything else for an irrational request and therefore fulfilling the fear of being late.

Anyway, I guess I will get her into see a therapist. I just wish I could help her myself, but I just don't think I can. I try to be patient without coddling... It gets hard sometimes.

Thanks again. I love my girl - she's absolutely amazing - perfect student, sweet, loving to me, and understanding of my Crohn's. But, yes, she is very hard on herself - a perfectionist.

--female dx as UC in '04 (1st symptoms in '03), switched to Crohn's in '05, 1 fistula, crohn's colitis, limited to large intestine  --rejected (reaction/didn't work): Asacol, AZA, 6-MP, MTX, Remicade, Humira, prednisone, Tysabri
--Prochymal in Phase III study (can't wait til it's approved!)
--Compounded budesonide 3mg/daily, Started Cimzia first dose 2/10/09.  Dx Osteoporosis 10/08 started Forteo 1/27/09

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2006
Total Posts : 6927
   Posted 6/19/2009 11:49 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi SR,
I think taking her to the doctor and getting her a fully evaluated (to include a psych workup, by a child psych and it might be something good to have someone who specializes with chronic illness too) is a really good idea.  Not necessary because I think that she really has anything, but because I think it is good to rule it out.  Because given the timeline that you set out I wonder if this does not correspond with your illness?  It seems like this started around the time your were dx, and she may have not been able to express her feelings about how worried she was about you.  And still might have problems doing that.
Do you think she might be responding to the lack of control she feels over Mommy being sick by overcontrolling her own situation (thus she is allowed to display anxiety about it)? This is a common reaction of children who are in "out of control" situations (like chronic illness of a parent or themselves) and is their way of taking back some control in their lives (especially given her cusp age, meaning hormone changes). Do not feel like you have to answer any of these questions, but I would like you to consider them.
Do you think of her as a high empathizer (you said she was understanding about your crohns)? Is she a super functioner?
Also children internalize our own tension. How are you doing?
Does this get worse when you are in a flare? (I think it would be pretty natural if it did, or she becomes a super functioner.)
I also suspect there is something going on at school that is causing an addition to her tension. 
What are her plans for this summer, does she feel comfortable with them? End of school tests? Summer school or camp?
I think getting her into a therapist is key! I would really like to see her get better. I think therapy might help her in creating more adaptive behaviors. 
Take care,

Forum Co-moderator - Crohn's Disease:_All comments have the caveat contact your local health care provider.

I will find a way or make one. –Phillip Sidney 1554-1586

All that I am and all that I shall ever be, I owe to my Angel Mother.

The Bucket List- Have you found joy in your life?  Has your life brought joy to others?

Make sure your suffering has meaning…

Post Edited (MMMNAVY) : 6/20/2009 7:22:34 AM (GMT-6)

Elite Member

Date Joined Apr 2005
Total Posts : 14995
   Posted 6/20/2009 9:34 AM (GMT -6)   
Navy that was awesome and I think you may very well have a point with her worrying about her mothers health. That could very well be whats going on. Ssr59, I think you are doing a wonderful job with her and I think its great that you are saying no to some of her fears. Sending healing thoughts and prayers your way.

Gail *Nanners*
Gail*Nanners* Co-Moderator for Crohns Disease and Anxiety/Panic Forum
Been living with Crohn's Disease for 33 years. Currently on Asacol, Prilosec, Estrace, Prinivil, Diltiazem, Percoset prn for pain, Zofran, Phenergan, Probiotics, and Calcium and Xanax as needed. Resections in 2002 and 2005. Also diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Osteoarthritis and Anxiety. Currently my Crohns is in remission.
*Every tomorrow has two handles.  We can take hold of it by the handle of anxiety, or by the handle of faith"*

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 6/20/2009 9:36 AM (GMT -6)   

Good Morning SR.

I am glad to see you have so many great responses to your post and I understand you love your girl, she sounds like a wonderful 11 year old but even 11 year olds have problems and I so agree with Navy.  I know Navy is wise when it comes to looking at the big picture so please do read her post and take away from it some great words of wisdom.

As a parent we want to help our children and that is only natural.  You are helping her already by recognizing that something is going on.  Do not beat yourself up as you are reaching out looking for help and support and you have come to a great forum to find it.

Also do not feel bad about taking her in for evaluation both medical and psycholgical.  I took one of my own in and one of my granddaughters also has been to therapy. I am a firm believer in using the resources we have available to help us parent. :-)

On a side note, my husband has Crohn's and was dx when all 4 of our children were at home the youngest was just 5 years old and the oldest was 12 years old.

I understand living with Crohns and raising children around a parent with a chronic illness.

You have my support.



Moderator: Osteoarthritis & GERD/Heartburn
Co-Moderator: Anxiety/Panic, & Depression
http://www.healingwell.com/donate *~*
"When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others."
Not a mental health professional of any kind

Veteran Member

Date Joined Aug 2007
Total Posts : 1202
   Posted 6/21/2009 8:29 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks so much to all of you for your responses and support and kind words. I have considered how much my illness impacts her life, however I'd not considered it with regard to the anxiety. I guess I started seeing the anxiety before I got super sick. However, in the past couple of years she's started getting really upset when she has to go to her dad's for visits. I finally realized that my being sick was a huge part of that. I think she was scared that I would have an emergency while she was gone... Or that I will be lonely or sick or sad or whatever while she is gone. (I hemmorhaged one night a couple years ago - lost half my blood volume) I did take her to a therapist for that and it seemed to help.

I was in the hospital for 5 days a month ago. They wanted me in longer, but she was a mess so I requested to be dischanged a little early. Currently I am almost off steroids and slipping again because of that. (I haven't been in remission since I lost Remicade 4 years ago.)

I talk openly with her about an ostomy and how it's a good possibility in my life... At least a temp ostomy. She is terrified of me needing surgery, but I think she would be happy if I were "well." The other day she said, "Mom, sometimes I've thought about what it would be like to be you." That was hard to hear. I try to keep her "out" of my illness, but it's just she and I and we share the bathroom ;-) It's not a huge house and she knows a lot just because she sees. But, she has learned a lot about illness and is so very empathetic, I wonder how she learned that trait at such a young age.

Anyway, she's always so hard on herself, expecting perfection. That's what worries me - she has such high expectations and does not handle it well when anything less than her hopes happens.

I guess I will call her counselor and see if she can work with the anxiety issues. The current counselor was referred to me by a friend with a daughter who was molested as a young girl.

Thanks again for everything - you guys are great...
--female dx as UC in '04 (1st symptoms in '03), switched to Crohn's in '05, 1 fistula, crohn's colitis, limited to large intestine  --rejected (reaction/didn't work): Asacol, AZA, 6-MP, MTX, Remicade, Humira, prednisone, Tysabri
--Prochymal in Phase III study (can't wait til it's approved!)
--Compounded budesonide 3mg/daily, Started Cimzia first dose 2/10/09.  Dx Osteoporosis 10/08 started Forteo 1/27/09

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 6/22/2009 9:19 AM (GMT -6)   

Good Morning and I see now where she would be afraid and very concerned about your illness and losing a parent, especially as you are the parent she lives with.

She has a very close bond to you and she is trying to be an adult when she is still a child. I think her counselor would do her a world of good.  She can talk through her feelings in a nonthreatening environment and not worry that she is upsetting you.

You obvously love your child deeply and this is a good thing you are doing for her.

Gentle hugs to both of you,


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