UKC

/ anxiety and phobias - a perspective please

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Minneconjou Sioux on 08 Jan 2018

This is NOT a request for medical diagnosis, this is NOT a request for suggestions for professional help. This is a request for some insight into what approach by parents and friends might have been most helpful to those of you who have suffered.

Some background. I am someone who treats life like a challenge and, for the most part, I enjoy the challenge. I take higher levels of risks than most "mainstream" people and I generally don't worry about very much. My wife is the same. She is a nurse so sees a lot of stuff and deals with a lot of stuff and takes it all in her stride. We are a very active, outdoors family. Skiing, kayaking, canoeing, climbing etc.

I have an older daughter who, at 13, is probably one of the most independent people in her age group that I know. She doesn't bat an eyelid about very much although, like everyone, she gets nervous now and again and isn't that great with heights.

My youngest daughter is 11. She takes part in all our activities and, TBH, is probably a little more capable than her older sister and possibly a little more academic. They are very different so we don't try to compare. BUT, she suffers from anxiety attacks and worries about things that have no logical basis (I would place that in the "phobias" category). When she is in an attack it is very hard for me or anyone else in the family, to fully understand what she is going through and I'm not sure we cope with it very well.

As I am perfectly aware that the "pull yourself together" attitude doesn't work I wonder if there is anyone on here who is a sufferer who might share what behaviours in others was/is most helpful to them?
Timmd on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:
I wouldn't know about the phobia aspect, but having dealt with panic attacks and anxiety during my 20's ( I struggled to leave the family home during the day at one stage), I guess an approach which doesn't say 'See it was all about nothing' once any anxiety attack has passed would be a good one. It could help (I'm sure you are already) if you created an atmosphere where she felt able to talk openly about what it feels like, too. Try not to be anxious about her being anxious, and give the impression that you know she'll get to be okay again, even if you may sometimes occasionally doubt it, like I'm sure my parents did at times. I always felt secure, so I guess they didn't let on about that.

My Dad has often taken the probably quite English approach of sprinkling humour into conversations about anything serious, which has meant I could talk about something quite 'heavy' one minute, and then switch moods if I've wanted to, and any seriousness has been dispelled if I've wanted it to be.

Try and create a comfortable atmosphere where she doesn't feel like she's any kind of burden I guess, and make sure she feels valid (that her fears are valid just because she's experiencing them, even if they 'don't exist' in the real world), rather than weird or not valid for having them. If you've a network of family friends who she knows, and social gatherings you can all go to, where they can be aware of what she's going through, and accommodate her towards letting her have space to be anxious in before rejoining people, that could help towards stopping her from feeling isolated, especially if any of their children are her friends as well, but any network is helpful I would think.

I was much older than your daughter is when I had my anxiety problems and panic attacks, but I found the network of family friends I have who go back to childhood to be very beneficial. If I have any more thoughts I'll post them.

Hopefully this is just a phase for her, and that it eventually makes her mentally stronger like I think it did do for me. Or not too eventually, in her case. I can banish annoying tunes at will now, which I couldn't do before.
Post edited at 18:46
Minneconjou Sioux on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Timmd:

Thanks. I guess I'm very aware that I can start to speak with her during an attack with the best intentions but that the discussion becomes so circular and so illogical that I find myself wanting to explode. I fully understand that her experiences are very real to her and that must be quite draining and tiring for her (it is for me) but I wonder, sometimes, if I should just walk away when I feel myself becoming tense, or stick with it so's she knows I'm there for her?

Just thinking out loud really. No need to answer. But thanks for your response. It has been helpful.
Timmd on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:
I had one professional say I was the most anxious person she'd seen about their anxiety, and I can deal with rooms full of strangers now and talk to them about something. I always found it reassuring to have my parents 'lurking' in the background, and knowing that they were there. Probably I wouldn't over think things, in that if you want to let her know you're there for her she's bound find that reassuring. It took a bit of 'back and forth' between myself and my parents I guess (it was new ground for them, too, with my older brothers not having the same thing happen), until they gradually found the best way to help me, so if you're not sure about the best way to react, that's not so unusual. It doesn't mean you'll always be not sure.
Post edited at 19:52
girlymonkey - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I have no experience of this, so hopefully someone will confirm whether this would work or not.

You want to be there for her, but find the conversation frustrating. Would it help her and you if you were there but silent? Or maybe just agreeing with everything she says? Could that be comforting without being frustrating? I would guess she will be more open to reasonable conversation once the attack has passed.
BnB - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:
Everything Timmd has said is very helpful and I don't want to diminish its value but I'm now going to give you some very specific advice that you should heed with great care:

Don't let any member of your family ever pass negative comment on your daughter's appearance and, furthermore, NEVER pass comment on ANY female's figure and, in particular, their weight, especially within earshot of your daughter.

Pay great heed to her social media activities.

I'm not trying to scare you (well, maybe a little bit) but there is a modern epidemic in advanced societies of teenage mental health problems with high incidence of consequent eating disorders and your daughter ticks the pre-requisites

High achieving family - check
Academic attainment - check
Overall competence -check
Anxiety attacks - check

Let me be clear, this is not a diagnosis. It's a few important precautions I wish I had better taken. And I can say the same for my business partner and his family. We were lucky and my daughter recovered from clinical depression and anorexia nervosa to take up a place at a top university . My colleague's niece has been confined to hospital for 3 years.

Sorry for the alarmist tone but treating your daughter's anxiety with the seriousness that has you posting on here for help is a great start and, with good support, she and your family will avert the worst outcomes to the point that these attacks come to be called simply "a phase" she went through. Good luck.
Post edited at 20:00
Big Ger - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

From a professional viewpoint, it sounds like she may need some formal(ish) CBT or other intervention, (DBT is very good with younger people.)

As for what you can do? Be calm, acknowledge her fears, but remind her that this is another "attack" and that you will keep her safe until it passes. Don't deny her experience, but don't "buy into it".

Offer distraction, but do not insist she engages with it.

I'm very busy moving house at the mo, but still feel free to email me via UKC if you'd like.
Timmd on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to BnB:
Good advice. I grew up before social media became more of a trend. I'm sometimes rather glad I was a teenager during the 90's, rather than now. One can be self conscious and self critical enough as a teenager anyway, really. Hopefully the OP has social media in mind.

In my own case, I had the goal of not letting cannabis spoil my life as the thing which pulled me through to being okay again. I guess at 11, the goals might need to be more parental in origin, in terms of the OP and his partner giving her the self belief that she'll get better again. Parents having faith in their children can go a really long way.
Post edited at 20:01
Minneconjou Sioux on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to girlymonkey:

> I have no experience of this, so hopefully someone will confirm whether this would work or not.

> You want to be there for her, but find the conversation frustrating. Would it help her and you if you were there but silent? Or maybe just agreeing with everything she says? Could that be comforting without being frustrating? I would guess she will be more open to reasonable conversation once the attack has passed.

It sounds plausible but these attacks are triggered by essential activities where she needs some input. She has a fear of going to sleep (her fear is more around not waking up). If you are sitting with a child at 11.30pm who is extremely stressed about falling asleep you really need to try to move them through. She is one of the healthiest kids I know, so there is no logic to the conversation because I know she will be fine and she is convinced she won't be. So silence doesn't work because she is seeking reassurance and agreeing doesn't work because I would be agreeing to her fear.

I realize that this needs professional help, and we are getting it. I guess I just wanted to hear from anyone who actually experiences anxiety to let me know what approach they appreciate the most.
Rigid Raider - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I've suffered periods of anxiety in life and have always found that the anxiety is based on my own misconceptions and that confronting the anxiety by understanding the subject helps to defuse it. For example we moved house after six months of hell at the hands of nightmare neighbours who had dogs that barked and whined all night. When we moved I was dismayed to find that the dogs at a neighbouring farm also barked at night, which made me extremely anxious and kept me awake. I went round, got to know the farmer and his dogs and within a few weeks the problem had disappeared.
girlymonkey - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

That sounds really hard. Hope you both find the answers you need and she learns to rationalise her fears.
Minneconjou Sioux on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to BnB:

Thanks. I hope no one on here (no one with any sense in any case) will think that I am treating this lightly or that I am avoiding the proper channels. I'm not.

But this is my social media resource and has usually been helpful.

Thank you for the good advice. It isn't alarmist at all. The issue of mental health, especially in our teenagers and pre-teenagers is a serious one.
Minneconjou Sioux on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Big Ger:

> From a professional viewpoint, it sounds like she may need some formal(ish) CBT or other intervention, (DBT is very good with younger people.)

> As for what you can do? Be calm, acknowledge her fears, but remind her that this is another "attack" and that you will keep her safe until it passes. Don't deny her experience, but don't "buy into it".

> Offer distraction, but do not insist she engages with it.

> I'm very busy moving house at the mo, but still feel free to email me via UKC if you'd like.

Thanks, I appreciate the offer. I won't take up your time unless I'm really stuck as we do have some good resources here. Could you just let me know what CBT and GBT are?

marsbar - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Have you tried breaking the routine to see if that breaks the pattern of attacks?

I’m normally a big fan of routines, but it sounds like she has got used to being afraid to sleep and that has become her routine. Changing the physical environment by having her sleep in a different room might disrupt the pattern?

This sounds like quite an extreme suggestion, but have you considered swapping beds with her so she can sleep with your wife for a few nights?

In your shoes I’d probably wonder if something specific has triggered this issue. Has someone she knows or knows of died recently? Has something else happened to scare her?

It could just be her hormones, it’s a funny age.

I wouldn’t try to rationalise with her, or tell her that her fears are unfounded. I’d suggest keeping conversation to an absolute minimum and reminding her to breathe properly. Panic affects breathing and not breathing enough makes the panic worse.
marsbar - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I’d probably also try something like https://www.tisserand.com/product-category/wellbeing/sweet-dreams/

It may only be placebo, but sometimes placebos work!

johncook - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

As someone who has anxiety attacks, the thing i find that works for me is friends who know my problem. They will stay close and listen. They will prevent me doing anything stupid (really stupid). Afterwards they will discuss calmly in a neutral manner what the problem was.
Being told to 'pull myself together' results in an extremely angry response. Being 'patted on the head' makes me more anxious. It is a hard balancing act for my friends but they mostly manage it.
I am somewhat older than your daughter and i have developed various coping strategies.
You have a very hard time in front of you, but with love and care and possibly proffessional guidance, you and your daughter will get through this and develop your own coping strategies.
I wish you all the best for the future.
Minneconjou Sioux on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to marsbar:

Thanks marsbar, yes we have done all of your suggestions. These are all short term "fixes" to a much deeper problem but sleeping with Mum is often the only outcome that gets us all some rest.
Minneconjou Sioux on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to johncook:

Thanks John. She does have various coping mechanisms available to her but fails to use them. For me that might be her age but I'm not sure. Like I said, she does and will continue to get professional help.

I am actually very confident that we will get through this but, in the mean time, I'd like to make her journey easier by behaving in the best possible way I can.
freeflyer - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

It must be awful to sit in bed not knowing if you're going to wake up.

I have a few suggestions; I hope that something might be helpful.

You say that you'd like to like to make her journey easier by behaving in the best possible way you can. Would you consider going to a professional to talk about your situation? After all, they have a lot of experience.

As an experiment, put this problem first, make the family's activities totally dependent on her for a while, and see what happens.

Find some activity where she can explore her feelings without it becoming too scary and personal. I have little experience in this area, but some kind of drama class?

Discuss with her whether any kind of spiritual practice would interest her. These may or may not be religious, but avoid ones that discourage independent thought and personal growth. See if any of her friends get involved with this kind of thing.

My personal favourite is some kind of meditation, as that practice encourages the idea that you can sit on your mat or cushion or whatever and feel that you're about to die, and yet do nothing, and nothing happens. It is simple to do, and asks the question: what are emotions?

While the other suggestions may improve her coping strategies, this one has the potential to be a lifetime solution.

Take heart, and believe that your daughter will come through this as a strong, sensitive, caring and wonderful person.
marsbar - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

All I can say then is just keep at it. I hope it settles soon.
Big Ger - on 08 Jan 2018
profitofdoom on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

> As I am perfectly aware that the "pull yourself together" attitude doesn't work I wonder if there is anyone on here who is a sufferer who might share what behaviours in others was/is most helpful to them?

I have suffered all my life from a deep phobia of a certain situation. When I am in that situation I am almost paralyzed with fear and cannot function. Luckily I can almost always avoid the situation and so get by/on in life - I have never sought professional help for it for that reason.

As you say the "pull yourself together" attitude is absolutely useless to me.

You asked me to share what behaviours in others was/is most helpful. This is my answer for me:

Do not belittle the phobia. It is completely real for the sufferer

Take the phobia very seriously. Realize that while it does not affect you it is very real for the sufferer

Try to understand the phobia and show genuine sympathy

Have great patience with the sufferer's illogical (from your viewpoint) efforts to avoid the phobia-creating situation

Wishing you lots of luck
Minneconjou Sioux on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to profitofdoom:

Thanks. That is what I was looking for.
Minneconjou Sioux on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Big Ger:

Thanks Big Ger. I assume that a diagnosis of some sort would be necessary before CBT or GBT? We are in the process of seeking that.
Big Ger - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Assessment, rather than diagnosis.

Ask your GP for a referral to your local child and adolescent mental health service for assessment. Do not be fobbed off by either a script from the GP, or it being passed off as a"she'll grow out of it" phase.

If your GP is not obliging, do a "walk in" at your local mental health offices, ask to speak with the duty officer.

School councillors / pastoral care people are often good at making referrals.
Minneconjou Sioux on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Big Ger:

Thanks. We are probably a reasonable way into the system already but might need a little more than we are already getting. I appreciate your time on this.
Big Ger - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

No probs, happy to help.
Pbob on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I would want my family to recognise that there are certain things I just can't do. Acknowledge it, but don't force discussion of it. Find out (by asking) if there are slight permutations or adjustments that could be made which would make the difference. They might not seem obvious or rational to you but then it sounds like the original issues don't either, and it might make a big difference to her. Do not try to force her to confront her fears. But if she wants to, support her however she needs it, but recognise that it may well be small steps. It sounds like you already recognise that her little issues are trivial compared to all the great things about her, but make sure she knows that.
pasbury on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I know you didn’t ask for a diagnosis but autistic children may display some of these symptoms.
Timmd on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Pbob:
Anxiety can be a funny one. I always knew that the situations I found triggering weren't actually threatening in themselves, but that knowledge wasn't a 'cure', the cure came from myself in gradually getting to grips with the things which made me anxious, learning not to respond in unhelpful ways. With it being an 11 year old, I think Big Ger makes a good point in saying not to 'buy into' what's making her anxious, by which I take to mean giving her the impression that she's right to be anxious. I can imagine it may be trickier with an 11 year old to find the right balance between validating their feelings (I can remember pointing out to my parents that it didn't mean my anxiety wasn't valid - in the sense of it being something real to deal with - even if I did find there was nothing to worry about), and not joining them in the creation of problems.
Post edited at 23:23
Big Ger - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Timmd:

> With it being an 11 year old, I think Big Ger makes a good point in saying not to 'buy into' what's making her anxious, by which I take to mean giving her the impression that she's right to be anxious.

Indeed. Acknowledge that you understand she is frightened, and that you understand that FOR HER these things are scary. Do not enter into debate. Reassure; "Yes I understand that at the moment you feel threatened/scared/frightened, but I will be with you until it passes and you feel ok again." (obvs phrased in your usual words and way of talking with her.

Sleeping with mum, I'm sorry, is a bad idea as it validates the fear, sets a precedent which may be hard to break, and gives one child a priority status.
Timmd on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Big Ger:
I think the OP has been quite brave in posting like he has done, and leaving himself 'open to attack' in talking about how they're approaching things, within the intimate sphere of their family. It's probably something worth keeping in mind when phrasing any posts commenting on any approach he takes.
Post edited at 00:00
Minneconjou Sioux on 09 Jan 2018
In reply to Big Ger:

> Sleeping with mum, I'm sorry, is a bad idea as it validates the fear, sets a precedent which may be hard to break, and gives one child a priority status.

I'm inclined to agree with you but, like all things, we tend to reach for the short term solution in times of significant stress. As I said before (I think), changing the routine etc. has simply been a case of "kicking the can down the road" rather than dealing with the actual problem. We are dealing with it but, as anyone who has been in this situation will know, it takes time and in the interim I'm trying to act in a way that is best.

Minneconjou Sioux on 09 Jan 2018
In reply to Timmd:

> I think the OP has been quite brave in posting like he has done, and leaving himself 'open to attack' in talking about how they're approaching things, within the intimate sphere of their family. It's probably something worth keeping in mind when phrasing any posts commenting on any approach he takes.

Thanks Timmd, I'm good with taking some robust advice and I can filter out what won't work or isn't applicable. It's always a tough decision to come onto a forum to ask such a personal question but I felt in this case the ends might justify the means. I'm not sure I would count it as "brave" but I do appreciate the comment.
Big Ger - on 09 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

You are of course right, just make sure a short term solution doesn't become a long term habit, (and thanks for accepting the comment as offered.)

In terms of duration/prognosis, with full proper professional support,6 months to a year is probably what you are looking at before full resolution.

If it's offered by a competent child psychiatrist, then do not dismiss what help medication can give, as a way of getting someone to the point where they can rationally deal with their fears.
Minneconjou Sioux on 09 Jan 2018
In reply to Big Ger:

> If it's offered by a competent child psychiatrist, then do not dismiss what help medication can give, as a way of getting someone to the point where they can rationally deal with their fears.

Its funny isn't it? we can take medicine for all sorts of things but taking it for a mental illness remains taboo. Almost as if it confirms that you have past the point of no return, that you can never live life again without these drugs. I certainly thought like that at the beginning of this journey but I would certainly entertain the idea now if I thought they could help. Again, I appreciate the advice.
Big Ger - on 09 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:
Good on you, sound attitude. Does it matter what form the cure takes, if the problem is alleviated?

These used to be the bane of my professional life at times, either;

"We don't want little Suzy taking medications, we've heard they have side effects."

"We've looked at this on Google, and we're not convinced they would help."

"We don't believe in Western medication, we want her to have talk based/colour/homeopathic/Reiki/ some bullshit therapy.


Now some of the shrinks I worked with had 30+ years experience of treating kids, (I have 36 years in the field,) and some, not all, were class leaders in the profession. But you always got some smart arsed punters who "knew better," due to google, "it's my kid", or "I've heard things about medication".

Makes you wonder how keen they'd be to reject medication, if the demons were in their heads.
Post edited at 02:58
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SenzuBean - on 09 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Do you have any more examples of the 'illogical' things that your daughter thinks about? I don't really see a pattern from just the one example of being afraid of not waking up.
womblingfree on 09 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Good luck. Be aware that you may be in for a hell of a wait. Over the last 18 months I've encountered gatekeeping practices of the worst kind. I can't speak for children and adolescent MH services but here in Wales accessing Adult MH services has been as total PITA

I also think you probably need a level of suport higher than what your getting, as life will get more challenging for your daughter. CBT is recognised as a key clinical treatment but provision is patchy
Timmd on 09 Jan 2018
In reply to womblingfree:

The OP is lucky enough to be in Canada I think.
Minneconjou Sioux on 09 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Thanks for all of the input. It has actually been quite useful both from a "things to think about/watch for" perspective and a "things that have been helpful for others who have/are experiencing anxiety" perspective.

As I said in my OP, I'm not looking for a diagnosis nor am I looking for a cure, just some insight into the experiences of those who have gone through this and what has worked well for them. Basically, I feel I can be more empathetic if I can walk in her shoes.

The thread can run its course now. If people continue to add to it that will be great but if not, that will be fine also. I probably won't add any more myself unless there is a clear requirement for a response.

Thanks again for the input.

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