9 Year Old Daughter with Very Scary Thoughts

Updated on June 05, 2010
P.M. asks from Portland, OR
18 answers

About 6 months ago my 9 year old daughter started having scary thoughts about violent things, including suicide. She has been a little moody, and I do notice that the problem is worse when her schedule has been too busy or she is overtired. But her thoughts go to scarier places than I am comfortable feeling are within "the norm." She has had terrible feelings that someone might get into the house and hurt us or her. She cried uncontrolably one night about that fact that "M. and dad were going to get old and die someday." But the scariest part is that she has said many times that maybe going to heaven sooner would be better than living. She has said that sometimes she thinks of suicide so that she doesn't have have the troubles of adulthood. She has even said that a voice has told her to "do it" - meaning suicide. She just started seeing a therapist last week, and her school counselor is helping, and my husband and I are going to take a parenting class with a psychologist. So I feel like we are on the right professional track. And we have made some improvements to our schedules to keep things routine and getting good sleep. I guess I'd like to know if any of you had a young child go through violent, traumatic or sucidal thoughts and come back to their whole and happy selves. I am obviously desperately worried that life is never going to be the same, and that I am always going to wonder if those thoughts are in her mind. Any advice is welcome.

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So What Happened?

Another update (for encouragement to someone else who might go through this.) Things are going very well so far. My daughter went through just 4 counseling sessions (although, she and I had nightly conversations for weeks - that I'll admit were exhausting, but absolutely critical.) Her anxiousness has reduced because we are figuring out her stressors. And SHE is figuring out her stressors. She is not very assertive and when she starts to get "overrun" by the people she is with it stresses her badly. Also, her very sensitive spirit (she has alot of empathy towards others, and thinks about God, life and death) is more protected now. We have eliminated nightly news entirely, keep the newspaper out of sight, avoid movies and books with stressful themes, or violence - not that we watched anything over PG/PG-13 (but those vary greatly.) Alot of listening and reminding her that just because you have a thought does not mean it's going to happen. Taking our thoughts captive - through Jesus's power, through practice, talking with the people who love us. What is great is that we've been telling her to protect herself, that we will not always be there to turn off a movie, or know that a book she is reading might have a stressful storyline. She is learning to set boundaries for herself. I will not fool myself into thinking such a big issue is gone or might not still be lurking under the surface - rearing it's head with hormonal changes and whatever else will come our way. But to any other M. who had a young child who talks about suicide - don't label them or judge them as imbalanced. Our world holds alot of concerns and some kids take them very seriously. Start by understanding, shielding and empowering them. Reduce their schedule and take time for them. Make sure you are careful that they do not connect your attention every time with them being in an emergency. Daily, normal changes without fanfare. I believe only God's love, compassion, his Word, forgiveness and relationship with him will carry my daughter through. We may have more counseling help ahead, but our prayers are being heard. Thank you again for your letters, comments and emails - it has been amazing. Update so far - we have seen our counselor twice and both visits seemed pretty good. The counselor is not diagnosing her with anything, or giving her any medication at this time. My daughters severe anxious nights (with alot of crying and stress) have decreased signficantly. Serious conversations continue, though, as we have still spoken twice a week or so about her fears of "What if she did it (meaning suicide) if..." and she will put something behind that statement - worrying that if she fails at something maybe she would "do it." I am working on her diet - reducing sugar and am definately going to explore the vitamin D. We also did a church service project helping out a local organization together - making a difference in the world. She made the statement, "It feels so good to FINALLY help." So I am trying not to panic. Keeping things "level" in our home. And keeping my eyes wide open to what she may need as we keep going through counseling. I deeply appreciate some of your personal and careful answers to my question. I was truly encouraged and am using alot of the advice that you shared. Thank you, Moms!

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answers from Jacksonville on

Has she taken any medications lately? There are a lot of allergy medications on the market that have the potential for these kinds of side effects.

If she hasn't taken anything like that, and even if she has, really, then I'd say you are on the right track.

I have a good friend who has some mental health issues that require her to take meds. She is a happy, well adjusted grandma these days, who just celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary. So know that even if she has problems that require medication, it doesn't mean that she can't have a happy life.

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answers from Honolulu on

If it is a chemical imbalance... only a Psychiatrist, can prescribe anything.
But you are doing good, by getting her intervention and a school counselor and taking a class with a Psychologist.

Also, is anyone putting things into her head? Peers? Other kids? Any trouble at school?

I wish you the best,

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answers from Los Angeles on

I am the M. of 3 kids, and have been a teacher since 1984. Although I can give you examples of children I know who have been through similar phases, the best thing I can tell you is that you are on the right track. In no way is this a lifetime sentence to mental health problems, but it CAN be, and high-quality therapy and possibly medication is crucial at this age.

I have seen many kids who have come out of severe anxiety and depression with help, and gone on to lead normal teen and adult lives. There are some who live with bipolar tendencies their whole lives, but are able to control the symptoms. I've also seen a couple of kids who did not get better, and were eventually diagnosed as shizophrenic and unable to live "normally"- but this much rarer than you're probably imagining. As I said, you're doing all the right things.
The world is scary and big at this age. The realization that bad things happen, that people die, that she can't control so many things... and neither can Mommy or Daddy... all frighten even the most mellow child. In that respect, so much of what she's going through is normal. But, as you well know, the suicidal thoughts, the "voice", etc. make it critical that she receive help to handle these fears.

You may never know "for sure" that she's well and in a good place emotionally. But the truth is, none of us can ever be sure about the well-being of our children- we just HOPE. Trust your instincts, reach out for support (there are wonderful groups for families dealing with these things), and have faith that all will be well. Blessings!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on


I have heard that low vitamin D can play a role in mental illness. In spite of sun exposure and taking cod liver oil I learned this week that I am deficient in vitamin D which surprised me. You never know unless you are tested. I would suggest getting her levels tested and then if she is deficient research and start therapeutic dosages of D3 and see if this helps improve things. Of course I suggest doing this in addition to getting professional help from a mental health practitioner.

I would also suggest getting rid of cable (and don't watch the news with her!) There is a lot of violence and scary content that our kids are exposed to that we don’t even think about because our society has been so desensitized. Your daughter sounds very sensitive and could be easily affected by these things.

I also suggest praying with her and teaching her to pray for peaceful happy thoughts and relief from anxiety, worry and negative, violent or scarythoughts. I read a book for adults called God’s Plan for Lasting Peace of Mind: Breaking the Worry Habit… Forever By Elizabeth George and it helped me significantly with my worry/anxiety “habit.” There are similar books for children. Here is just one link:

Also google EFT. I've never tried it but have heard amazing things and if my child were in this state of mind I would try it. Can't hurt!

I copied a little bit of the information I found about vitamin D and mental illness below. The link to www.vitamindcouncil.org/mentalIllness.shtml may be helpful.
I’m sorry you are going through this and hope that some of these suggestions help.

Study: Vitamin D Deficiency, Mental Disorders
A recent study of 53 patients at a private psychiatric clinic—who suffered from bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or schizo-affective disorder—found that 60 percent were suffering from severe vitamin D deficiency, 11 percent were moderately deficient and, overall, the patients had vitamin D levels about 29 percent lower than a group with no mental illness.
The study has prompted researchers to wonder if vitamin D deficiency (which has long been linked to depression) may also contribute to psychiatric conditions such as personality disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Related Articles
Study: Link Between Low Vitamin D, Depression

Vitamin D and Mental Illness
We propose vitamin D plays a role in mental illness based on the following five reasons:
1. Epidemiological evidence shows an association between reduced sun exposure and mental illness.
2. Mental illness is associated with low 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] levels.
3. Mental illness shows a significant comorbidity with illnesses thought to be associated with vitamin D deficiency.
4. Theoretical models (in vitro or animal evidence) exist to explain how vitamin D deficiency may play a causative role in mental illness.
5. Studies indicate vitamin D improves mental illness.

My prayers are with your family!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

Dear Mama,

I don't have any answers for you, but I send lots of compassion and warm hugs your way. My eldest daughter began to have chronic pain as the result of a very routine surgery (adenoids/tonsils) at age 12. This took her already somewhat moody pre-adolescence into a tailspin and she also seems to have a highly sensitive, psychic, and deep personality--so she has been in a depressive and anxiety prone "funk" for the past 8 years.
You daughter seems to be exhibiting some signs of rather classic mental health issues, and so I'm sure the professionals you are working with may want to diagnose this and perhaps you will be offered medication management as part of her treatment.
What I will say about that is that, while it MAY help take the edge off for her, it also is a very inexact "science" (more like guesswork), especially for young children and preteens. It may be instead that your daughter is highly sensitive spiritually/psychologically, and entrained to the very real and very powerful hurts happening on her planet and in her society. This is not a "mental illness" so much as an "awakeness" that many in our society tend to think we should numb so we can all be "happy". It doesn't make it healthy for her, because of how it affects her mental state, but it does make it not an "illness" so much as an impact to your daughter, who may be a sensitive canary in the coal mine to all us more dull ones with better psychic boundaries.

I would suggest working with her on a spiritual level--I'm not talking religion here, but with indigenous shamanic people who understand the deep connection between thought, interacting spiritual forces, our own electromagnetic signals from our brain (that IS how our nervous system functions, and as an electrical engineer, I can confirm that these signals interact with one another--from one person to another,etc), and our physical bodies. Your daughter would most likely benefit from learning strong grounding techniques and how to set up her psychic boundaries so that when she wishes to open herself to these kinds of thoughts--perhaps so she can work on the solutions to problems she sees in the world--she can, but when she needs a rest, she can also close it off and not have it impact her constantly.

Help her see herself as here on the planet to do something important one day, she may not even know what, but that her high sensitivity is one of her tools to help her do that. It can be controlled, with practice.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

It's impossible to diagnose your daughter online. It is quite possible that she has a depressive disorder. Going to a therapist can definetely help with this IF it is the right therapist for your daughter. There are many theories and methodologies and different people respond differently to the various treatments. Any treatment, however, is better than none. That is pertaining to the depression. As for "hearing a voice"- that is not depression. There is no amount of talk therapy that will hep her with auditory hallucinations. If she is telling you that she is hearing voices please take it very seriously. She will need to see a psychiatrist in order to be prescribed an antipsychotic.

I don't want to scare you- I just want to prepare you. You are already moving in the right direction and I admire you for getting her some help. Even if she is diagnosed as schizophrenic that does not mean that she is in for a life sentence. She is in a rough patch right now, but early intervention is the key. I am certain that she still has many happy times ahead of her.

Find solace in your love for one another in your family. The concern for your child will have its effects on you and your husband as well. Take care of each other. There is hope.

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answers from Seattle on

First of all I want to say how sorry I am that you are having to go through this-I have a 9 yr. old daughter and I can only imagine how painful it must be for you to have to see her suffer so.

I've skimmed the other posts and didn't see anything in there about diet. I am an "HSP" (Highly Sensitive person" check out http://www.hsperson.com/) and although I've (thankfully) never been suicidal, I have struggled with depression throughout my life. One of the things I now understand is that I have to be VERY careful about what I eat. If I indulge in sugar more than just a little bit occassionally, a few days later I have huge mood swings.I know of kids who have violent emotional/rage reactions to food allergies. You may want to work with a naturopath or holistic nutritionist to get a clear picture of any food sensitivities your daughter may have. Food additives/colorings/chemicals could be culprits as well.One thing you can do is keep a food diary for a week or so (a pretty big job) and note her moods. Look at the patterns (esp. 2 to 3 days after eating foods). Also "The Mood Cure" by Julia Ross has some good information on supplements that can help. Some did, others didn't for me but the ones that do I've stuck with. You may want to look into 5-HTP (even in conjunction w/ antidepressant).
The last thought I have is about balancing blood sugar and hormones. I learned a lot about this because of menopause but 9 yr. olds are going through a lot of hormone surges as well. My source was geared to menopause, author Ann Louise Gittelman, which you could read or find other info. The main thing is to make sure that each meal/snack includes the right balance of protein, good fat (coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, flax seed oil, etc.) carbohydrates. It's not as tricky as it sounds and it helps me tremendously when remember to do it. I find it's so easy to overdo carbs (because they're so easy and plentiful) and if I add some protein, I feel much better.

Good luck and hope this helps!

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answers from Dallas on

This sounds to me like the same thing I've been dealing with since I was a child.

I want to first commend you for taking the effort of getting her some professional help. My parents never did that, and so I carried my depression well into my adulthood.

I am medicated now and have two little girls and a happy marriage, so most people with depressive disorders can and will have a normal life!

I would definitely not shy away from medication if she needs it. I know that she is young but it sounds like she will need it.

anyway- I'm not a psychiatrist so I just wanted to say good luck and with a mother like you to be there for her supporting her, I'm sure she will be fine!

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answers from Las Vegas on

Sounds like chemical imbalance/schizophrenia. Schizophrenia often comes out in early adulthood, but can take place sooner. It can be a lifetime deal or sometimes it is just a phase in life. There are a few things that may help, but the therapy will be a plus in her life. As well, she may need medication. As for the natural things, you can google natural remedies for depression. You will find there are vitamins that help with this, sunshine, & plenty of water.

As well google schizophrenia, you will find there are some famous people who suffer from this imbalance and manage to live normal lives.

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answers from Eugene on

Good for you for getting so much help for your daughter. The earlier you treat depression and other mental health issues the better. Your daughter is a lucky girl! I just wanted to add how important it is for you to get support for what you're going through. It is hard work supporting and nurturing our children. It is important that you have caring and warm people supporting and listening to you and your feelings. I imagine your daughter's struggles are bringing up your own difficult thoughts and feelings and worries. Having a friend or counselor to talk to about how hard it is for you can help you support your daughter better. I highly recommend Hand in Hand Parenting as a support for parents and children. Check out the parenting articles under the "Parenting in a Challenging World" section. http://www.handinhandparenting.org/articles I hope things turn around for you soon! Keep reaching out for the support you need!

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answers from Miami on

I also wanted to commend you for loving your daughter so much and seeking help. She is lucky to have you. I am not an expert so I will ditto what Nikki and SH say.

Sending a supportive hug.

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answers from Eugene on

The nine year old son of a client of mine was in the same phase. It turned out that he too needed a lot less prescheduling. She bought him a horse which changed his attitude and to top it off she got involved with him in the ecology movement. He needed to have some influence over what was happening in the world.
He grew up and is still an activist.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

My brother commited suicide when he was 18. So when my son starting saying this things when he was 7, it totally freaked me out. At first, I thought he was just mad at me and would say these things to express his feelings. I wondered if his friends or non-friends were saying something to him (no one was). I finally figured out it was much worse than him being angry with me. I didn't know what to do . I talked to the school counselor but he was no help at all. I struggled with what to do about it. About the time I was going to get him into counseling, and get him to the doctor, he worked it out for himself. If he ever happens again, I will get him into the doctor to see if he needs meds for the depression and into a counselor. It sounds like you are doing all you can do. Many people need meds and some come off them are just fine and some don't. There is hope. This is more common than some might think. It will take some time, just be patient and loving,and continue doing what you're doing.

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answers from Portland on

I'm very glad to hear you have her in counseling. My M. has suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts, or as she described them to me "feeling like she just wanted to cease to exist" as long as she can remember, even as a child. She suffered in silence until her 50's, hiding it so well even I didn't know the extent of it until I was an adult. She finally got treatment, including anti-depressants (not the best option for a 9 yr old, I know) and it has improved her life 100%. She recently watched a program on PBS about this type of depression and suicidal thoughts and realized she was not alone, that many many people suffer from this but it is SO stigmatized that they suffer in silence for the most part. Anyway, I just wanted you to know that while not exactly "normal", it is something that many people experience and don't have the support and carring that your daughter obviously has. Your daughter having someone she trusts who she can talk to without judgement is SO important!

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answers from Joplin on

My son has been through it, we have tried medications, some seemed to help, some were too strong, through it all he saw a therapist ( weekly) he ended up in the ER last year due to a suicidal threat with intent to follow through...he was in a mental facility for a week. All of this just happened a year ago and yet I can say it seems very far away now, he has made so much progress...he is off all meds now, and we just discontinued weekly therapy. He is 14 and well adjusted now, I think he comes by it naturally, I have suffered with clinical depression on and off my entire life. I have had medication and therapy, medication and no therapy, and therapy no medication...I can say without a doubt that there are times when medication is necessary, but I could not have got through without the therapy...having someone to listen objectively is key. I think you are doing all you can for your daughter. Keep a good line of communication open, continue to see the therapist, be your child's best advocate, if you disagree with the therapist look for another one, sometimes it takes a while to find a perfect fit. Please continue to take it seriously and just one more word of advice, don't make your daughter feel like its "not ok" to have those thoughts, she is feeling them, so it is real to her...if you make her feel uncomfortable sharing how she feels she will just stop telling you...I know this from experience.
I know as a parent we want to "fix" everything, we can't...the best we can do is love and support them, it sounds like you are doing an awesome job.

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answers from Portland on

You are on the right track, already. Good work!!! Maybe a balance of down-time, quiet time and some (1) activity of her choice, get her thinking outside herself, but no increase of stress. And limit her access to news, media. And, again, good work getting her started with the professionals and you two going in for parental learning, too! WOOT, WOOT, to you both!

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answers from Columbus on

I would go ahead and see a child psychiatrist. That kind of thinking needs professional attention. I have children who need this kind of care, and it is a question our doctor asks them each and every time they see him, they know how to tease out what is of concern, and what is not and I would take no chances.


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answers from Portland on

Take her to a therapist school counselors don't have time enough to give the one on one attention she needs and many don't have the training. She needs to see a professional

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