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Six year old, phobias, anxiety, what do I do?

(7 Posts)
treaclesoda Tue 16-Apr-13 23:17:56

Does anyone else have any experience or suggestions of how to deal with anxiety type issues in a child?

My six year old is very anxious in so many different ways. She is terrified of being abandoned - even nipping out to hang washing on the line will have her in a hysterical panic if I don't warn her first that I'm going outside. She is claustrophobic; she can't bear to be in a room with the door shut (although she can tolerate it if there is glass in the door, so thankfully she can manage ok at school) and is hysterical at the idea of using a lift. I can't, for example, take both her and my one year old into a shop together if we will need to go upstairs because she is hysterical at the idea of going in a lift, yet hysterical at the thought of walking up the stairs alone as well. We can't go on an aeroplane, as I know she couldn't cope. She finds it difficult to go on ferry, because sitting in the car as we drive onto the boat throws her into a panic as well.

She is very shy, very cautious by nature, and a worrier. Despite all this, she does have good social skills, she has plenty of friends, and I have had positive feedback from her teachers.

What can I do to help her? It breaks my heart to see her so distressed. She says she has things that make her scared but she can't (or won't) tell me what they are. Its almost as if she can't put them into words.

I fear for the future, as there is no sign of her growing out of these fears, if anything they have got worse as time goes by. I just want her to be happy.

I have been in contract with the Young Minds charity, and had a telephone consultation, but to be honest they didn't seem able to help.

frazzledbutcalm Wed 17-Apr-13 11:21:24

I'd go to GP (without dd) and get advice there.
Some people say to ignore (as much as you can) and not comfort dd as this can feed their fear. Not sure how I'd manage that though as your natural instinct is to comfort your child.
I'd get professional advice.

Andro Wed 17-Apr-13 11:42:03

You need a really good therapist who specialises in child phobias.

DS is being treated for a severe phobia of flying (a very bad experience followed shortly after by the deaths of his biological parents caused major issues), his current therapist is brilliant. A big part of his treatment has been helping him learn to express his feelings, he has made a lot of progress but it was slow going at first.

Do you have any idea when her problems started? I suspect the claustrophobia is a separate problem to the abandonment issues, the latter is probably going to be easier to get to the bottom of than the former. Some people are (and remain) claustrophobic all their lives (just as some people will always hate heights/spiders/needles/etc). What you don't want is anyone taking the attitude that she needs to 'get a grip'...it's not that easy (especially if she's having problems verbalizing her feelings and fears).

treaclesoda Wed 17-Apr-13 12:55:07

thanks for your replies.

I have been very careful not to ever dismiss her fears or tell her to snap out of it. The abandonment fear has probably always been there, and you're right, I suppose it is separate from the claustrophobia. The claustrophobia results from being trapped in a lift once. It was only for a few minutes, but it was enough for the fear to take hold. The abandonment fear I can't see any basis for, she has had a secure and very 'ordinary' home from the start, no divorce, bereavement or similar traumas.

Andro Wed 17-Apr-13 13:11:32

The claustrophobia results from being trapped in a lift once. It was only for a few minutes, but it was enough for the fear to take hold.

Having a clear root cause may make it easier for a professional to help her. Going on my DS's experiences in therapy, knowing the root has helped his therapist guide him in finding a way to put his fears in perspective...but she may well always have a problem with lifts having been trapped in one.

I'm no professional, but if the abandonment issues have always been there it might be that she had separation anxiety issues that somehow took root? If so, it would also explain why she's not able to express what the problem is. Is she as bad with her Ddad as with you (wrt anxiety)?

treaclesoda Wed 17-Apr-13 15:34:47

I think she is generally worse with me when it comes to the separation anxiety, although she would be anxious with him too.

Its strange really, she says herself that she doesn't actually believe that we would ever go out and leave her in the house alone, or anything like that, she knows that she is little, we're the grown ups and that we will look after her. Yet, she still worries about it, even though she knows herself that its not something she has to realistically worry about.

Andro Wed 17-Apr-13 17:05:05

Knowledge and emotion don't always correlate rationally in adults, never mind children. I really hope you can find her someone to help her, phobias and anxiety issues are the pits.

One thing my DS wants me to tell you about therapy is that sometimes you have to take a step back to take 3 steps forwards. His therapist said the same to us, but he thinks it's really important. He also really hopes your DD gets lots of cuddles and feel better soon.

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