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Parenting Children (6-12) Community
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Avatar universal

Childhood anxiety and decreased appetite

My 10 year old daughter has been having acute anxiety/panic attacks for about 4 months now.  The list of her fears seems to be endless...from death/dying, embarassment in front of her schoolmates, to separation anxiety from myself (her mother).  She has been seen in our local hospital (we don't have a family doctor) and therapy with Mental health has been arranged starting in a month's time.  One of my big concerns right now is her loss of appetite.  The mornings are absolute hell, trying to get a couple of mouthfuls of food into her. One of her most prevalent reactions in her attacks is stomach pains. (Usually the pains start first, then the panic follows) I am concerned that she is going to start losing weight, if she hasn't already.  I am also wondering if her anxiety could be caused by food sensitivities or perhaps she may have developed an ulcer from the stress?  Is this something worth looking into?  I have not been able to find any information that links food sensitivity/allergy and anxiety.  She has never had any known allergies and has always been a perfectly healthy child, until these anxiety attacks began.  Thank you.
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Avatar universal
I am also wondering if her anxiety could be caused by food sensitivities or perhaps she may have developed an ulcer from the stress? --  your words

Probably not.  Most anxiety issues result from the neurotransmitters in the brain; in other words, your daughter inherited this tendency at conception.  Eating issues, toileting issues, sleeping issues and frustration/temper/hyperactive issues are common behaviours to those suffering from anxiety.  The anxiety is causing her stomach pains (sort of like the giant butterflies one gets in the stomach before having to deliver a speech or be in the limelight).  The worse thing to do is to force her to eat (it is possible that she would only vomit or at the least, become ill).  A common side effect of anxiety is weight loss and this is one the reasons why anxiety must be treated.  When she is relaxed, then she will be able to eat (she's probably not eating at school either or using the bathroom although I suspect she will lie about this).  Don't push this issue - but you could ask the teacher.  The only solution is to "lessen the anxiety" - this is the hard part.

Right now, the best thing you can do is not put any pressure on your daughter. This only makes things worse and trying to force her to eat or discuss her fears/anxieties will only increase her discomfort.  Be sure to have an excellent supper at night and do not
discourage your daughter from snacking in the evening.  Our child suffers from extreme anxiety and when she was unable to eat (note I said "unable" not refuse), I left her uneaten dinner on the coffee table in the family room - by the end of the evening, she would have "picked" at it until the plate was empty.  She was only able to eat bits and pieces at a time - enough to keep her weight in check.  Secondly you need to educate yourself on this disorder and then you may need to help the school understand your daughter.  Luckily, summer is nearly here and you will have some time to do this.

I might suggest you google phrases as "anxiety and children" or "how to help a child with anxiety" or "behaviors of anxiety in children" or similar words/phrases.  The treatment process is multi-modal and from the description in your posting, therapy alone probably is not enough (although that will be the place to start).  You may need to find a medical mental health specialist as a child neurologist or a child psychiatrist for this multi-modal approach.  I am wondering if your daughter is suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD for short) as this disorder often "rears its ugly head at about eight or nine years of age.  Nonetheless, I have given you a lot of information at once - sorry if it is so overwhelming.  Anxiety is common disorder for adults and children alike but it is also highly treatable with an excellent prognosis.  Today, our child is doing so well (she's now a teenager.  If you have any questions, please write.  All the best ...
Avatar universal
First of all, I am educated on anxiety.  I used to suffer from it myself a few years back after a traumatic personal incident.  I was able to get over my anxiety though, through counselling and meditation.  Note I said "meditation", not medication.  My daughter's school is already well aware of what has been going on because our first thought was that the anxiety might be caused by bullying or some other problems with school.  We have addressed an issue that my daughter was having with Math, and she has also been seeing the Counsellor at school for several weeks now.  We have been able to pinpoint a more specific cause of her anxiety at this point.  It stems from a fear of driving.  Her attacks always hit when we are preparing to take her somewhere, whether it be school, or just simply going for a Sunday drive.  This fear of driving seems to be a result of a tragic accident that occured 2 years ago that took the lives of 3 very close family members.  It has probably been manifesting over the past 2 years and is finally coming out now as anxiety.  Along with seeing a counsellor at her school, she will be starting therapy in about 2 weeks time.  I am just glad that we finally have an answer and she can start on the road to recovery.  Thank you for your input, I am glad to hear that your daughter is doing better.
Avatar universal
It's difficult to answer a posting when only some of the information is given.  Sorry if I hurt your feelings but I felt I replied to what was written. I wish the best for your daughter ....
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