My 4 year old daughter appears to be displaying signs of anxiety and even panic attacks. I am very worried about her. Is this normal? A phase? Or do I need to take her to her doctor? She gets so upset and I can't calm her down, she gets sweaty and breathes really fast and cries, she gets focused on something and can't stop talking about it...I think she is having a panic attack!
It isn't out of the question that your daughter may be having anxiety issues, or even panic attacks. Some people who are predisposed to anxiety (usually attributed to genetics) can display anxious symptoms from a VERY early age. I went through this with my own daughter. Being that I have a LONG history of anxiety myself (was a very anxious child)...I was able to recognize her symptoms as anxiety immediately.....it was unmistakable that a few times she was basically having a panic attack. Now, in the case of my daughter, she only had extreme anxiety a few times, so I didn't have to intervene other than doing "Mom" stuff by reassuring her, etc.
With a child as young as 4, it's hard to know if what you are seeing is behavioral in nature, or truly an anxiety situation. My advice to you is to observe your daughter...see if you notice a pattern with the anxious behavior....for example...does it happen when she knows she is going yo have to be away from you? Some anxiety, like in that situation, is appropriate. Are there triggers...like it happens at bedtime, or when she is going to go in the car? Listen to what she is SAYING too...kids that age are usually pretty straight forward and just come out and say what's on their mind.
I wouldn't get overly concerned at this point, but if it continues, or worsens..I think a trip to your pediatrician is in oder. Diagnosing things like anxiety disorders in children is very tricky...due to the developmental factors and stages they go thru, etc....but if this continues to occur, or you notice that it is really affecting her daily life...then what you would probably end up needing to do is ask your ped for a referral to a CHILD psychiatrist or psychologist. Meds are for the most part completely out of the question in a child that young...so she would have to work with a therapist to help teach her how to identify her emotions, and how to deal with them...and a big part of that will be stressing to her to communicate what she is feeling to YOU.
Coming from a person who remembers just SOOOO much anxiety from my childhood (despite an absolutely wonderful,almost fairy tale childhood)...I sincerely hope she is just going through a stage, or having some behavioral issues. It's rough to see your child go through something like that.
Keep a close eye on her, give her lots and lots of emotional support and reassurance...and intervene with your doctor if you feel it is necessary.
Best of luck to you...please let us know how she is doing!
Please don't jump on the "anxiety bandwagon" with your daughter, there are so many variables at her age that by doing this you could head her in the wrong direction. Post your question in the Child Behavior Forum where you can get a better understanding of how children act, or react at this age and where we have someone who has a background in early childhood behavior who gives wonderful advice.
Hello. You've received some really good advice here already. Your little girl is so young and it is so very hard to identify what is happening with such a young child. There is such a huge variability between kids at that age in terms of emotional development. And they do things that seem so unusual and we start to really worry about it. Then it turns out to be a phase. For example, my son started to blink his eyes a LOT and in a way that reminded me of tourettes. My son has a developmental delay and issues with his nervous system, so I was really concerned. But then I took a deep breath and waited to see what would happen. In three weeks time he stopped doing it and I determined that he had just discovered the control he had over his eye muscles. But as I got upset about it, it fed the problem. Staying calm and observing quietly, the problem resolved.
To be honest, what you describe does sound very similar to a tantrum. When my sons have been in the full meltdown mode, they would look very much like what you describe. Sometimes they are crying as well but sometimes they appear to be "hyperventilating". As I also said, I have a child that has some issues with his nervous system. He has trouble with regulation/modulation of emotions. He has a very hard time calming down after getting upset. He is now 6 and we've found ways for him to calm back down. Deep breaths, a cool down spot, counting to 10, opening and closing his hands into fists all will calm him. Also, using his words calm him. Sometimes a child at 4 will have trouble verbalizing what is going on. It helps to give them the words. I'd go to the library and check out books on emotions. The kids section will have books that will put things in words that your daughter will relate too. For example, my sons describe a bad mood moving in as a storm cloud. A full out sense of losing control is a tornado. They make books on all sorts of topics. There are books on worrying for example. Both fiction and non fiction, so use your library search and check out some books to help her verbalize what she is feeling inside. This will help you both understand what is going on. Also, some kids like to self soothe when upset orally. You can provide her with something chewy------ a thick piece of gum, something thick to drink from a straw. Heck, just the straw itself for her to chomp down. A common form of self soothing for kids is to chew or s uck on sleeves of their clothing. So, maybe offer her one of these ways to help herself calm down (not the clothing but one of the others.) Also, I'd start keeping a log of what precedes the event. You don't say here, but look for the triggers.
So, I agree very much with watching and waiting. It is true that children can suffer anxiety but as stated above, it is quite hard to distinguish exactly what is going on with a child so young. Time will tell. At your next well visit with her, I'd mention it to your pediatrician or if the episodes become frequent or intensify. If they determined that there is reason to suspect anxiety/panic------- I would do as stated above and only see someone that is trained in child psychiatry or psychology.
I've had anxiety for about 15 years now. The wost thing you can do is make a big deal about it. The more you show that you're worried, the more worried she'll become and it just becomes a vicious cycle. Try and find activities or hobbies that she likes doing to distract her...or go for a walk. Create a 'happy zone' that she can go to, to feel 'safe', and only use it for that reason. Reasure her that what she is feeling is okay, and always praise her for small steps she makes.
It's awful to have...i know. She is still young though so she could grow out of it, or if not. just help her find tools to live with it, like any other 'disease' or 'disorder'. As she gets older she will figure it out on her own, and it will get easier. Hope that helps and good luck :).
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