My 8 Year Old Is Now Afraid of Everything...

Updated on April 30, 2010
D.G. asks from Jacksonville, FL
20 answers

I need help. My 8 year old son goes into panic at the sight of anyhing. I can understand maybe bees, dogs he doesn't know or dangerous things like that but he is afraid now of flies, butterflies, bees, fishes, those little teeny tiny bugs (gnats? I think?), going in the water. There is more but that's what comes to mind. He won't even play outside anymore. He wasn't like this before at all. This has been going on for about a couple of years now. I'm just now running out of patience. I have tried everything from talking to him about his fears to getting upset and punishing him. By the way,refuses to learn to tie his shoes because he says he can't do it and now he is even afraid of his bike! Can't ride his bike either. Will not try sports anymore. He did football for a couple of months but now is afraid of that too. Not to mention he now carries a rosary to protect himself and all of us. His pediatrician said that it was normal behavior for his age but I really don't think so. He will get worried if my 3 year old goes to the backyard to play and tries to scare him too. What is going on?

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So What Happened?

So just to keep you posted. I still haven't been able to find a therapist appt yet. (We're on Medicaid now). However, we had a breakthrough this weekend. I'm not saying the problem is fixed but at least it is a light at the end of the tunnel. Turns out there is this one kid in school that has been bullying him since last year. This goes to show you that no matter how well or in tune you are with your kids, you just never know. We talk ALL the time and when I would ask about school he would tell me everything that happened except his burden. He has hidden it very well until recently when even the teacher started noticing the differences in him.
Moms we have raised our son to have an awesome self-esteem and until recently it worked. Great grades, great friends, great kid but somehow he has decided in his mind to give this one other kid in his class all this power. No matter how much he is abused, he still follows him around. It is MY son who follows the bully around. I am still going to pursue professional help because something is triggering this behavior in him. I don't know where he gets it or why he thinks it is correct to hang around abusers. It is DEFINITELY not my family situation. He himself admitted that he loves his family and the fact that his mom and dad get along great. He just doesn't understand why he needs to be around this kid so badly. We're still working on it and I will keep you posted ofcourse in case this can help any other moms out there.

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answers from Chicago on

Please look into the PANDAS diagnosis. This sounds like how my daughter started out.

Does he have any tics, like sniffing or coughing, eye-blinking or finger flicking?

Any OCD behavior other than the fears- has to have things a certain way, sit in a certain spot, repeat a certain word or have you repeat a certain word or do things a certain way, or freak out with change in routine, etc?

Changes in bathroom behavior around the same time of onset- like wiping excessively or not wiping at all, bed or day wetting?

Any regression to babytalk?

History of strep OR unexplained tiredness or fevers, dark circles under eyes, enlarged pupils and "glazed over" look? Aches, especially in legs?

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or just want to chat.

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answers from Orlando on

I have a friend, she works with children using EFT (some people cal it tapping). She gets remarkable results. She is awesome. I see you are in Jacksonville. She is in Orlando, but it will be worth it. She can help to release the blockages that he is dealing with.

let me know if you would like more info.


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answers from Atlanta on

HI D.,

My daughter started this at age 6. She would even hide under the bed for no reason saying she was scared. Moths were the insects she would squeal at the most, lol. At age seven she was diagnosed with ADHD. I proceeded to try and work with her ADHD when my sister recommended detoxing my house.

Household chemicals are neurological stimuli/toxins and will mess with a little mind. When I detoxed my house, not only did the pediatrician remove her diagnosis at the next visit but I also notice her fears subsided. I remember when I was little there was one medicine that made me paranoid. Meds and household chemicals (bath and body, laundry stuff too) are all synthetic chemicals and can do all sorts of things to us and also contraindicate and make it even worse.

Detoxing can be simple and it can be inexpensive. This may not be your son's entire problem but I'm sure it would help. I know it wouldn't hurt. Let me know if you want more information. I'd be glad to help.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

Trust your gut. If he can't participate in life because of fear, it is a problem that requires treatment. I would not begin to give you a diagnosis, or tell you about my kid's diagnosis, because that would not help you today, but find out for sure what it is. From what you describe, I would start with a board certified Child psychiatrist, and go from there.

He is misserable; worry and anxiety are real and he can't fix it with out help.

As for the shoes, maybe he is not refusing, or maybe he is refusing for a reason. If you get his fear under control with treatment, and it was not just some fear of bugs, or something else that caused him to refuse to learn this skill, explore the issue more. Many kids with sensory processing issues know that they "can't" an so they are afraid to try, especially if they are afraid of everything else. Get the fear and anxiety under control first, and then see where he is.

Good luck,

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answers from Houston on

Hi D.-

My son is also 8 and has Aspergers so he has been seeing a psychologist for some of his anxiety issues. The psychologist did mention that at this age they become more aware of the mortality of themselves as well as their loved ones so a certain amount of increased fear is normal, however your description seems over the top to me. My son is afraid of any stinging bugs so whenever anything like flies or gnats go by I have to reassure him that it isn't a stinging bug but I usually can calm him and he will stay outside. Since your son's anxieties are having a negative effect on his activities and daily life I would suggest seeing a child psychiatrist/psychologist to see if there is any type of therapy that might help him.

Good luck,

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answers from Portland on

I'm with Mimi on eliminating household chemicals. I'm extremely sensitive and experience profound mood changes when exposed to a number of different things, plus my sleep is disrupted, which does not help with long-term emotional health. I do reasonably well when I keep the total load low. I've also been in group testing situations where I've seen children go from chatting or coloring to tearful misery or screaming rages in a matter of minutes when a new chemical was placed under their tongues.

Please don't get mad at the little guy. Fear isn't chosen, it isn't rational, and it will not yield to reason, arguments, or punishment. Additional stress is only likely to add to his emotional burden. He really needs professional help.

Good luck.

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answers from Tampa on

Well, it seems as though your son may be insecure and have a slight self-esteem issue which is hard to take I'm sure. As a parent, you must be concerned, frustrated and really worried because there are so many life lessons being over looked by his fear, beautiful experiences. You mention the rosary. Perhaps, you can "read" a story or make one up about a boy who was protected by all things evil, all dangers when using the rosary. If this is his security "blanket" milk it! Let him know that the presence of God is always with him and the power of protection lies within the rosary (or other object). Children relate to things tangible easily. Also, mention that God is in those creatures. There is a Genesis book for children (the story of the creation of the World) that may begin to lead him to see God in all His creation, nture and all it's beauty. I'm a bit surprised about the age but every child is different. Remember that punishment and reprimands may aggravate the situation. The key here is teaching him to get a hold of his feelings and control the fear, not be punished for something he has no control over. Find stories about valiant heroes, brave children who end up succesful in their pursuits and see if he may become inspired. Good luck and pray together and thank God for some of the things he is scared of to see how meaningful they can be in the scheme of life (bees for pollinating the flowers, fish for feeding the hungry, spiders for eating flies, bikes for providing transportation for those who cannot afford cars, etc.

As for activities go, I suggest dabbling in music, it's an outlet for him that may seem safe and is more of an intellectual and sensitive art than sports. (I admit, I am a music teacher) But this does help children with learning disabilities, self-esteem issues, shyness and emotional distance, imagine what it can do for you may bring a sense of purpose or a sense of success that can trickle down to other aspects of his life.

Be patient, strong and supportive. Also, beware of what he is exposed to in the media. This may carry a bigger impact than anything else. If this situation continues and gets out of hand or you find yourself out of sorts, consult a therapist. There is no harm in this, even as support for you. You know what is best for your child.



answers from Tampa on

my best advice to you would be to find a children's therapist and get him into therapy. there is obviously something that is disturbing him and it would be best for him to be in a safe environment with a trained professional to help figure things out. perhaps it is just the age. were there any family events that may have triggered this around the time it started? a death, divorce, something like that? children are small but can be very deep thinkers. i know that my sister (now 32) was a very deep thinker as a child and often thought about death and things that are atypical for a youngster.

good luck.



answers from Miami on

A bit of fear of things is normal, but the degree that your son is showing doesn't seem normal. Perhaps you should find a child psychologist or counselor to talk to. If he were an adult I would say it was agoraphobia. (fear of going into the outside world)


answers from Lakeland on

Please do not punish your child for being afraid.



answers from Detroit on

this is not normal.. find a child psychologist.. my duaghter had a ton of fears at ages 2 and 3 but it has gotten better not worse.. I think fears should gradually go away in kids.. yes new ones pop up.. but not so much that they interfere with the childs daily activies..



answers from Miami on

Well, I think something has traumatized him in a major way. Has he had a friend or relative die? Has he known about someone getting hurt really bad, or gotten very sick? Sometimes a child's first encounter with death or illness can cause really serious fears. The fact that it has been going on for 2 years shows that whatever triggered the problem really affected him badly, and it's only going to get worse.

It doesn't sound like he's going to snap out of it, and punishing him and losing patience with him is only going to make the problem worse. On the other hand, you don't want to set up a situation where he uses his phobias to gain control of the entire family. This is way beyond just a phase.

I think it's clear that you need to get him some help before you get into a situation where he won't go to school, bathe, or eat, either. Get him some psychological help to find out what the root cause is, and then the psychologist can tell you ways to help him reconnect with life.

Don't wait any longer. This level of fear isn't going to go away by itself, and you don't want to have him traumatized any further.




answers from Miami on

It sounds like your child has had something set off fearful, hyper-protective thinking patterns... the pediatrician is not accurate in saying it's normal, it's something that the child needs to be able to communicate about and be guided in learning to change those thoughts and release the fears - therapy that uses cognitive-behavioral approaches and stress reduction methods could help him. Punishments won't likely do any good and he may need someone else to speak about the fears with him to help him release them.



answers from Tallahassee on

I find it interesting that you mention he's carrying a rosary. I agree that you should consult a psychiatrist because this is not "normal", but you might investigate if he we told something in Sunday school that could have set this off. Lay persons and even clergy teaching religious matters can often be well intentioned but the effects can be detrimental.

- A.



answers from Casper on

There is a book by Dr. Amen I have recommended to many parents: "A magnificent mind at any age" look for it, follow the nutrition guidelines, and get your son to a clinic that does brain scans. I think this could literally change your son's life, and forego a lot of the troubles you are having in the future. Best of luck.



answers from Tampa on

Yoka Reeder will be here the end of May. You will be able to ask her directly and her answers are practical, and work well. We have learned to trust her, as the results have been quick to see.

I'd be very careful about taking a child to a psych- there have been alot of very scary things I have seen about those folks lately. Just be careful.

best ,k



answers from Sarasota on

My son is the same way. Is he in the autistic spectrum? You could always find an online therapist and ask them... or go to one.m My son is in the spectrum.



answers from Sarasota on

I know this is late, but I was very similar to your child at that age. I've since been told by a therapist that I may have been "born anxious" (I found that not helpful, but she would not go into detail on what she meant or why she thought I was that way). Anyway, I was always in gifted classes and very imaginative, so I had thoughts that I really couldn't explain.

For example, I remember hearing that an alligator had escaped the local zoo and been recaptured in the pond where I had swim lessons. The water was murky and I HATED going to lessons after that because I was sure the alligator had laid eggs and there were alligators in the water where I couldn't see. But I couldn't explain that to my parents or teacher for some reason.

Also, I hoarded rosaries and crosses. My dad thought it was funny to tell me vampire stories, and he would never, ever, ever admit they were made up. My mom didn't know this, so she tried to "cure" my fear of the dark by making me go upstairs without a light, etc. Again, I couldn't explain for some reason.

Or my grandfather said if I swallowed an appleseed, a tree would grow in my stomach. Yeah, i worried about that too!

I also just didn't like certain smells or textures. For example, I still really don't like to touch flower petals. No idea why! It took me a year to learn to ride my bike--I just didn't like the way it felt.

A lot of this just fell by the wayside--I outgrew it, or the circumstances causing it changed, or I learned to manage it.

I don't think it would hurt to have your son evaluated, but please make sure he doesn't feel like there's something wrong with him. I know a lot of my inability to communicate was because I felt it was shameful or lacking or wrong to be worried about things. Also, the more patient and supportive you are, the more you listen at his pace/level, the more likely you are to find out if something's going on--like someone telling him stories or being hypercritical or bullying him.

Also, there is a great book called Raising Your Spirited Child that talks about how some children are just more sensitive than others. I'm actually not a huge fan of parenting books, but this one is really common sense and even with all that I went through, I find it really helps me with my daughter, who is (surprise!) similar. We just went through a year of anxiety about her beloved lava lamp because another kid told her it would explode and send lava all over her room.....

I hope this helps. I know i baffled my mom, but I know that with love and patience and maybe a few professional tips, he will be fine!



answers from Miami on

A couple things come to mind......the Fear Paralysis Reflex has been activated which can be integrated again and disappear with tapping. The other thing is strep infection called PANDAS.pediatric autoimmune neurological disorder associated with strep. There MUST be a blood test to rule it out. Great book called Saving Sammy.



answers from Tampa on

Sounds like he has been watching way to much news, scary movies and creepy cartoons. What a child watches influences them more than anything else they do. But to be afraid of flying insects is a normal thing for some children. My daughter is 24 and still freaks out when she sees a bee or spider. but to be afraid of as much things as you list I would say he needs professional help right away. I would say this is not normal. Also consider the possibility that someone is abusing him. A lot of abused children respond in this manner. I am not saying he is being abused but I for sure would keep my eyes open and check into it. But get him help before he gets any worse.

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