Anxiety in My 9 Year Old Daughter at Night

Updated on May 19, 2011
A.B. asks from Truckee, CA
14 answers

My 9 year old daughter has had severe anxiety associated with panic attacks every night now for several months. She has a phobia of getting sick, mostly of vomiting. Every night at bedtime, her phobia rears it's ugly head and she suffers from anxiety. She has sweaty palms, fast heart rate, shivers, constant swallowing and basic fear of being left alone. We have been seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist for about 2 months now. It doesn't seem to be working. Sometimes she won't actually get to sleep until after 1am when she actually went to bed at 8:30pm. We have been down every road from sympathy to taking away friends as name it. I know we're supposed to show compassion, however sometimes I feel as though she's playing a game with us. No matter how much we try to help her with breathing, guided imagery, journal writing, music therapy, or just sitting with her, she doesn't really try. Her response is always, "I can't", or "I won't be able to sleep." I also know that the fear can be very frightening from past experience. Unfortunately her anxiety is causing her to feel sick to her stomach and the ironic thing about it is...she has a phobia about that. Her grandmother, great aunt, uncle, and aunt all have anxiety to point of vomiting. I have been dealing with the fear of vomit my entire life and had milder symptoms like hers as a child (I just kept it all to myself). Unfortunately she had a severe case of the stomach flu two weeks ago which has caused her anxiety to increase. Anyone else have a child that is suffering or has suffered in this capacity? If so, what did you do and how long did it take to taper off? Any advice at this point would be helpful. Thanks!

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answers from Sacramento on

I feel like i should caution you regarding the suggestion by another mom to check out dianetics. in case you dont know, this is a religious cult also known as scientology which was made up by a science fiction writer named L. Ron Hubbard. I had a friend who got involved with these people as a teen. I visited one of their centers with her and was immediately struck by the fact that they all spoke the same way, acted the same way, I felt they were brainwashed. after fleecing her and several of her family members for quite an amount of money the scientologists became less interested in her when they couldnt get more money. if you decide to check it out, be warned. a good therapist would be much more beneficial.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I'll be honest and tell you that I have no experience with this. BUT, I have been reading a book called "The Case Against Homework" and it talks about the plethora of children in this country suffering from anxiety of hours of endless homework - especially 8-11 year olds. Maybe you can look at this and read the book for some answers. Talk to her about her homework and find out if it is a source of anxiety creeping into the rest of her life.
Best of Luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Anxiety and panic attacks also run in my family. My 11 year old niece currently is having a similar problem. Among other things, she is very afraid of illness of all kinds, and her imagination runs away with her at night. The fact that there have been several deaths associated with her classmates (a mother murdered, a sister passed away) has not helped. She has been seeing a therapist, who has helped, but the therapist recently suggested my neice see a psychiatrist and try medication. She said that anxiety can become worse during periods of rapid brain development. My son also had frequent bedtime panic attacks in 4th grade. Best of luck to you, I know it is hard.



answers from San Francisco on


your daughter sounds like she is going through a tough time and it sounds like it is not easy for you and your family either. she is lucky that you are willing to try and help her in any way you can.

are you open to acupuncture or acupressure? i have seen people with anxiety and panic attacks feel much better even after the first session. of course it will probably take several sessions but it will definitely help. as an RN, i highly recommend trying alternatives and leaving medications as a last resort. they often have side effects which can be as bad or worse than the initial problem.

if you lived in the bay area, i could recommend some acupuncturists. maybe you could ask around and see if anyone you know can recommend an acupuncturist they have gone to? i hope that they will look into her nutrition as well.

good luck and i hope she feels better very soon!


answers from San Francisco on

My daughter had this anxiety of vomiting all during her younger years. I had no idea why. While I was pregnant with her I had severe morning sickness during my first trimester that lasted 24/7. Interestingly, but bad for her, I was very miserable and anxious about it and did a lot of self- talking about how "I don't want to throw up", "I can't throw up anymore", etc, during that time period. I believe she acquired this phobia/anxiety, prenatally, during this time period.
Please contact a Dianeticist who is professionally trained in Dianetics therapy procedure. I've done a lot of searching. This is the only way I know to address these phobias and anxieties and get rid of them. It is really quite a simple procedure and it totally worked with my daughter. The book or DVD explains how these types of unwanted things are passed on familialy, especially prenatally. It makes total sense. When we started, we weren't necessarily looking to handle this particular problem since she was more concerned about other emotions and anxieties. But, thank goodness, since having Dianetics, my daughter doesn't suffer from this problem any more like she did, and she is sooo much happier and less anxious and emotional. It really works.
Good luck, and if you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.
-EMM from Santa Cruz, CA


answers from New York on

my daughter is also having some same sort of panic shivers at night, she is 5 years young and at night she will not sleep till both of us join with her to sleep. suddenly at the mid night she woke up and shivers , she had no flu, cold etc, then after 2 - 3 mins she fell asleep, 3 times happened in one month time, but not yet solved, if it done sure i will mail my response.



answers from Redding on

Sounds like OCD or Obsessive COmpulsive Disorder which can be inherited. I'd ake her to a psychiatrist and mention the family members that have similar anxieties. There is medication for it.

I'd also try melatonin to help her sleep. Its harmless and is just a natural product that the body produces to help us sleep and stay asleep. Some kids don't have enough. Your daughter may have enough but it fighting it with the anxiety.



answers from San Francisco on

Do NOT punish her for this, annoying as it might be. I would try "mirroring" her emotions: verbalizing what you believe she is feeling.

You could say something like: "it sure is scary to vomit," and "yes, vomiting is terrible," or whatever you think her exact fear is. Cuddle her and keep saying things like this until she calms down. Do NOT say things like, "it's fine, there's nothing to worry about," etc. That invalidates what she is feeling and makes her feel worse.

I learned this technique from a speaker in my kids' preschool many years ago. Mirroring peoples' emotions is a very powerful technique, and has the effect of minimizing the emotion, even though you will think it will do the opposite.

Try it, you will probably be surprised.



answers from San Francisco on

My 13-year old used to be scared to death of people throwing up. She was a generally anxious child, but vomiting and spiders led the list of things that scared her. Along the way I learned that she had low seratonin levels, and some simple changes to her diet changed EVERYTHING. She's now a relatively easy going teenager (and I sometimes have to pinch myself to believe she was able to turn around so much). During a recent car ride she asked me if I remembered when she was so afraid of throwing up and commented that she couldn't remember why she was. If you want to learn more about it, you can check out a book called Potatoes Not Prozac by Kathleen DesMaisons.



answers from Redding on

Dear A.,
There could be any number of things going on with your daughter and I would suggest having her evaluated more thoroughly. This could be something hereditary, it could have been picked up by osmosis, having other family members who vomit with anxiety. It could be something situational.
My daughter went through this at night at 10. She was fine during the day but hyperventilated at night and was certain she would vomit, insisted on having a waste basket in bed with her, just in case. Well, just prior, I had spent most of my pregnancy with my son in the hospital, critically ill. It was touch and go for me and the baby. I had him, he was fine, I got to go home. Three weeks to the day later, my mother in law passed away unexpectedly. In a span of 3 months, we had a new baby, a death, moved to a new town and had Grandpa who was elderly and suffered from severe dementia living with us. It was a lot to take in in a very short amount of time and I figured it was all just too much for her. I was very understanding, but my husband at the time was not. He told her to knock it off and quit the drama and acting like a baby. I mean, she was perfectly fine during the day, but at night it built up until she was freaking out. I spent some quiet time with her one afternoon and really had a heart to heart with her. It turned out that the way our house was situated, she was afraid Grandpa was going to die in the night in his room, closest to hers, and she wouldn't know what to do. She had heard my husband tell someone that he was going to live with us until he died. She took that to mean he was with us to die. As in, on his deathbed. I had her and the baby in our room for a while. She had her sleeping bags and blankets and after about a week, I got in her bed with her until she fell asleep. I couldn't promise her Grandpa wouldn't die, but I assured her that she was safe and not to worry so much about Grandpa, we were taking very good care of him. As the days went on and she was busy with school, piano lessons and making new friends, seeing that Grandpa was fine, her anxiety went away. Once she realized Grandpa came to LIVE with us and not to DIE with us, she didn't need her barf bucket anymore. Her fear was really real to her and I'm so glad she was able to tell me the core of it so I could help her through it.
There are fears and there are phobias so like I said, get her further evaluated and try to get to the core of it.

I wish you the best.



answers from Dallas on

While I do not have a child with the same issue, I MYSELF suffer from the same exact phobia. I am 28 years old and the phobia started right around the age of 10 or 11 from what i can remember. It was off and on until now. I think i have it just a tad less severe now than when I was younger but it is still very troublesome for me. I have tried counseling,researching the phobia,and a few other things and the only comfort i have received came from my prayers. It didnt comfort me completely though. I have always associated cold winter weather with becoming ill which associates with vomitting, so needless to say, I am having a difficult time right now. I was soooo affected by this while pregnant. Especially for the first trimester because I had severe MS and I was miserable. Im not sure what helps,I would honestly just pray about it. Also, i try to think to myself "EVERYONE VOMITS" not just me". I also look at my young nieces and nephews and they vomit with EASE it seems (lol) and dont cry,panic, or throw a fit like I do. So, I say, if they can do it, i definitely can do it!! I know I wasnt much help but maybe sharing my story will bring some kind of comfort knowing that she is not alone in this. I hope you find something that will help her.


answers from Sacramento on

Have you had her checked by a medical doctor? When I had panic attacks I finally discovered they were triggered by respiratory problems. I was diagnosed with asthma as a child, and thought that has not been severe, I developed a chronic sinus infection as an adult too. Between those, I was not getting enough oxegyn, and that was worse at night when I was lying down. Once I learned how to irrigate my sinuses and get rid of that infection, I found my panic attacks disappeared. This may not be your daughter's problem, but it's worth having checked out at least.



answers from Bakersfield on

As a counseling psychologist and as a person who has suffered with anxiety all my life I beg you to take her to the doctor. Not just your primary doctor (unless he/she has experience in dealing w/psych issues) take her to a psychiatrist or a doctor who has training and experiencing in dealing with these issues.
Anxiety, as many psychiatric disorders, definately has a genetic component. Also, once a person has a "panic" attack the more prone they are to have more. Think of it like an elastic waist band. When you first put it on it's tight and snug. After each use it gets easier to put on an looser, and over time it won't stay up on it's own at all. Anxiety works this way. Behavioral techniques help, but medication help more. I'm generally one to not want to use meds, only as a last option. But with anxiety, meds are almost always one of the best options.
Please take her to the doctor.



answers from Chicago on

My daughter experienced something similar. Different things would trigger an episode where she would get very upset, hyperventilate and gag and/or vomit.
I recommend you find a therapist or board certified hypnotherapist who knows EFT. Emotional Freedom Techniques has been described as acupuncture without needles. Its a simple yet powerful tool also known as energy tapping because you tap with your own fingertips on certain energy points. You and your daughter will learn to calm yourself anywhere at anytime within minutes. See the website for more info, case histories and a basic instruction video.

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