Very Anxious 12 Year Old Girl

Updated on March 15, 2011
S.G. asks from Citrus Heights, CA
15 answers

Hi moms,

I need some help please. I live in the Sacramento area and I'm looking for some options to help my extremely anxious 12 year old daughter. She is phobic of crowds, doesn't like change and worries about things (especially my safety). Her dad and I are divorced and she splits time between us (she has since she was 2). She is in tears nearly every time she has to leave me. It's especially bad if certain criteria aren't met (she sees me before she leaves, who's picking her up - father or step-mother, if I'm traveling anywhere while she's at her dads - she's very anxious about my safety, etc, etc). Once she's at her dad's she's usually ok, but I get several texts while she's gone that week. Also, I see her every morning before school (regardless of if she's at his house) and I'm the one to pick her up from school. So essentially she only doesn't see me every other weekend.

We had to move one small night stand out of her room the other day and she was almost in tears exclaiming she wouldn't even be able to sleep because it was different. The same thing happened when we painted her room and took everything off the walls and weren't able put them back up until the paint had dried one entire day.

She has been in counseling off and on for several years starting from about age 6. She's gone to a weekend forum to help build confidence, but I haven't seen any change. I still have to tuck her into bed, lay with her for a while, she has SEVERAL night lights and the dog has to sleep with her. It's just heart-breaking how worried and upset she gets about things.

Her 7th grade class is going on a 3-night field trip that is supposed to help build confidence. They are going to zip-line/camp at Westminster Woods. I've heard wonderful things about this place, but she doesn't want to go. She's in tears just talking about it. I talked her into going on last years field trip and apparently she cried the entire first day.

As a side note, I remember when my 21 year old niece was young, she was also very fearful and anxious. She now is on Prozac. My brother also has an 11 year old son who is very similar. I'm thinking it's something genetic.

So my questions are these: what can I do to help her? I get very frustrated sometimes because she's such a drama queen and often times I feel like she's the "girl that cried wolf". Is there a specialized therapy that deals with these sorts of anxieties? Is there something even homeopathic I could try. I would be open to medication, but I don't think her father would be.

Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciate!!!


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So What Happened?

Wow! I always know I'll get some good info when I reach out to you moms. Ok, I think I was having an especially frustrating day when I posted this because I failed to mention all the WONDERFUL things about my daughter. She is a VERY sensitive, but very caring, friendly, funny and entertaining delight as well. She moved to a new school last year and has made more friends than I could hope for. In her old school she was always voted the most caring. She is extremely funny and entertaining as long as she's comfortable. She always makes me laugh. That's what makes me the most sad. I see the wonderful little girl she is, but I feel she is going to miss out on so many things in life if we dont' get this under control. Fortunately, her father (and his wife) and I (and my husband) all have a great relationship and will work together to do whatever we need to do. In fact, my daughter often tells me how happy she is that "daddy and I are friends".

I've gotten some wonderful responses and I think I'm going to check out a couple of books that were recommended and see if we can make some adjustments through diet. Her father also is going to ask his life coach if she will meet with her. He thinks this will help with her confidence. Finally, I think I"m going to check into some therapists that specialize in these types of anxieties.

Thank you again to all and I'm looking forward to making some positive changes!


Featured Answers



answers from Redding on

She may have OCD. You might look up the symptoms. There is an online questionnarie you can answer to see if her behavior fits. SOunds like it to me. There are great meds for this.

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answers from San Francisco on

Hi S.,

I had an extremely sensitive child who cried all the time, and by the 4th grade she was making round-about allusions to suicide - very scary!

Someone turned me onto a book called "Potatoes Not Prozac" by Kathleen Des Maisons and I instantly recognized my daughter's symptoms in the book. Basically, her brain was very low in serotonin. Some relatively simple dietary changes did the trick. Some changes in her behavior were almost immediate, and others developed over a longer period. She's now 14 and is amazingly happy and self-confident, unless she stops eating the way she needs to. Then she becomes needy, whiny and insecure again. Fix the food and she's fine again.

You can see if your daughter might benefit from this program by going to or by checking this book out of the library.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

While my daughter isn't anxious to quite the degree of yours, we were recommended to read the book "The Highly Sensitive Child" by Elaine N. Aron. It has helped me a great deal in validating my daughter's concerns with things that seem simple and straightforward to me, as well as helping me to understand how she thinks. That has been a big help to us. There is also a list of resources in the back including temperament counselors, therapists & psychiatrists that are experts with highly sensitive kids. I'm not sure if this will be a complete solution for you, but it might help combined with other things suggested below. Best of luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Hi S.. I am so sorry you are going through this, as I really is heart breaking as a parent to see your child not enjoying just being a child.

My daughter is very anxious too. She worries a lot, and had the same issues with being away somewhere with out me. What has worked for me is putting her in softball and having many play dates and sleep overs with friends from the team. She is very happy now. Does she have a close friend that she feels safe with? We started to recongnize the friends that my daughter trusted and would make better efforts for them to be together outside of school doing fun activities.

As a family, we also made sure we never made this into a bigger issue than it seemed. We talked openly about it and how we all have anxiety and worry. We never wanted her to feel as if she was "different" or something was "wrong" with her. She did go to counseling a couple times, but they told me I needed to display more confidence and how important it is for her to face her fears. The faster she does it, the faster the worry goes away. That along with deep breathing, positive visualization, and role playing. :)

I am not sure if I helped at all...but I just want to send you a cyber hug and let you know you are not alone, and it will get better. Keep things light hearted and don't let the emotional outburst that they may have effect you. Sometimes when they see you are not going to react, they realize it's just not worth making things such a big deal.

Take care...

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on


I agree with those who have posted before me who are advocating a non-medicated approach. I don't think we have enough information to create a label (diagnosis) here as we have not talked with her, nor observed directly her behavior. She does seem to be having, from what you have expressed, difficulty adjusting to her current circumstances.

I would strongly echo the mother who advocated changing the diet. In my work with adolescent children in the school system, often times we are quick to medicate and ask questions later. Many times taking sugars out of the diet, or adjusting the diet to the specific "type" (yes, we don't all need the same foods!) of a child produces miraculous results. I would also have her hormones tested. There are so many hormones in foods these days that your daughter's own system could be thrown out of whack.

Medications should be used as a last resort. Other modifications, such as adjusting the diet, which may take more time and work should be considered first. Many times we are so quick to medicate without understanding the sensitivities of children who are being born at this time. They are very different than what you or I may have experienced growing up.

I would also get her some counseling looking for someone who has experience working with adolescents and uses a behavior modification approach.

There are also many energetic therapies such as EFT, hypnosis, etc. that can help give your daughter a sense of control without medication that are highly beneficial. These are terrific alternatives as long as she isn't a threat to herself or others, If there is absolutely no progress after these other methods have been tried, then medicate if you must.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Dear S.,
I can completelly understand your dillema.

It took us 4 years before we decided to put our, now 10 year old daughter on medication. We have tried all the therapists and therapies under the sun, both us and our baby spent hours in different offices and waiting rooms. It was helpful usually for short periods of time, and then, it would again get worse…
We have just started her on medication and what a huge difference it has been! I think we were very lucky with the child psychiatrist: there is a new doctor in the Linder Psychiatric Group, works at both locations: Roseville and Folsom. She is patient, listens, does things very gradually, and thoroughly and patiently explains both effects and side effects. Her name is Dr Svetlana Anic and she is in transition from Los Angeles. Although she is not taking any insurance, had we discovered her years ago she would have saved us not only money, but time, effort, pain and suffering…

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Hi S.,

I experienced anxiety as a child and later as an adult. My anxiety stemmed from a chaotic family life. I craved control and structure. Because my life was out of control, I CLUNG to things I could control like organization of my room or my appearance and diet. Routine became my best friend and my safe haven. During this time, I had a science camp trip that I was terrified of attending and pleaded with my parents to let me stay home. In the end, my parents pushed me to go, but did something that helped. They sent me to camp with a letter giving me permission to call them ANYTIME during the trip and with the promise if I decided I wanted to go home after 3 days, they would pick me up no questions asked. It was my own personal guarantee and it helped. I stayed the entire week and had a blast. Be patient, seek counseling for yourself and your daughter, validate her feelings and continue to reassure her.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Topeka on

I really don't have any concrete ideas for need to see a psychiatrist who specializes in dealing with children...and make it plain to them that you really need for medication to be the last resort. So many doctors just seem to shove pills at patients, until they get the right combination. (I work at a pharmacy so maybe I just SEE more of it than I used to!!).
Do you and your ex have an amicable relationship and does she get along with her stepmother?
How do you all react when she is having these issues? You mentioned that you wondered if she was just being a "drama queen" I wonder if you are somehow "rewarding" the behavior.
Have you considered that she might have a touch of OCD? The needing everything to be the same all of the time...I don't know if that is a possibility or not.
I don't think any of us here really qualified to give you meaningful advice about this need to rely upon the professionals.
Good luck to you

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Have you had her evaluated by a doctor? Her reactions to the world sound as if she might have Asberger's. Before you get upset, please be aware that people with Asberger's are almost always extremely brilliant people, but they have a lot of trouble with change of any kind -- furniture moves, schedule changes, etc. They will be much more attached to one parent than another (which is hard on the other parent), they have many "unreasonable" fears; even though they have the intelligence to know that their fears aren't logical, they're still there. Please have her evaluated -- if she does have Asberger's you may learn a lot of things that will help both of you. Good luck to both of you.



answers from Sacramento on

I am sad to say, but it sounds like your splitting with your husband at a young age for your daugther has done a real number on her. My heart aches hearing your story of what she has been through with her anxiety and worry. A big change I would consider Mom is changing the custody arrangements of your daughter if that is acceptable with your husband. THe split time thing is so hard on kids, especially tweens when they are going thru so many changes at this age and in their teens. She needs a Mom FT now more than ever. I think if you can talk to your ex confidentially and see if he will agree to changing the majority of her time to being spent with you, I think she would benefit greatly. First I would talk to her counselor and her Pediatrician and ask if they think this would help your daughter then ask your daughter if she would like to try this too after you have confidentially spoken to Dad , Dr and counsleor about it. Something that may help in the interim is getting her involved in any type of team sports If she is not interested in team sports maybe karate or taekwondo would be good for her to boost her confidence and help provide her with good, regular, exercise. What does your Pediatrician say about her anxiety and worry and what he/she suggests to help. One thing I know would be good is regular exercise. It is a proven remedy to relieve stress in all ages. Regular daily exercise for 30 minutes minumum will help her anxiety a great deal and make her feel better about herself too. THere are so many team sports she could try out for at school or even on her own, tennis, golf or even yoga. The breathing and exercise of yoga would be great for her anxiety.When our daughter when she was young she was not very athletic, but she expressed interest in participating in sports at a young age. She began in a youth taekwondo class at age, 5 and it was great for her, in many ways. She continued on for 5 yrs to get her black belt and now has been playing rec girls softball for the last 5 yrs and really enjoys it Volunteering in another idea, help her find a cause she is interested in get her involved in it. THis will help her focus less on herself and more on others. Does she have any hobbies or interests like art, theater, etc. If she does have a hobby or interest I help her follow it with lessons. I hope you consider the custody change thing, if not I am very concerned for her in the future, sounds like she may be easily influenced in her teen years if this problem is not resolved. I wish her the best



answers from San Francisco on

If you have tried Cognitive Behavior Therapy without success, the next step is to try medication. Prozac and similar medications can be quite helpful in children and adults. Don't be afraid to medicate your child. There is a lot of misinformation out there, particularly on the internet. It would be a gift to your daughter to help alleviate the pain she is in. Her development has gone off track - she can't do the things children her age do, and that she probably wants to do. Childhood anxiety disorders, if left untreated, often become lifelong. Contact the medical school in Davis for a recommendation for either CBT therapists, or a good child psychiatrist to evaluate your daughter. I am a child psychiatrist, in practice 16 years, and have seen how very much these medications can help. Good luck.


answers from Modesto on

You should make an appointment for yourself at a recommended Pschiatric office and discuss with the doctor the situation, get their opinion. Gives you a doc to vent to in order find out if she needs further testing for bipolar or ocd.
12 yr olds can be pretty "weird". Just because there are other cases in your family try not to judge her too quickly..... hopefully she has never heard you compare her to the others in the family that have afflictions. Sometimes we don't realize how we mold a child's psyche when we talk about them like they arent in the room when they are.
In the mean time while you are figuring it out, try helping her do things that are for relaxation....Like a long bath with lavendar sent. You might want to put some lavendar potpourri in her room as it has been said the aroma is supposed to be relaxing. Maybe get her a Yoga vid, it might help her "center" herself when she's feeling anxious. Decorate her room with relaxing pictures and posters.
You didnt mention if you are a family of faith. Sometimes the church youth groups are a great crowd of kids to hang out with.
Is it possible for you to go on the up and coming field trip? It might be a good idea to join her so she can see you having fun and getting on with others.... she might just need to be taught social skills by example.



answers from San Francisco on

Definitely have her see a psychiatrist! I would be willing to bet that she has OCD, and it can be terrible thing to deal with (for you and for her) if it is left untreated. She absolutely should be in regular counseling to deal with her fears and feelings, but medication may also help tremendously if she does in fact have OCD, severe anxiety or another chemical imbalance that's causing her to have particularly debilitating "drama queen" tendencies. Mental illness can be genetic, so your hunch is right about that.



answers from Philadelphia on

I read the other answers and just want to add one short thing. You may be able to build her confidence by vaildating her feelings. At least consider the reassurance she could feel if you said (for example) " We changed your room around and that is very hard for you. We want your room to be nice for you, can you help us decide now what to do to make it so that you would like it?". However hokey that may sound, it includes vaildation and that may be something she really needs to help her move through her strong feelings. To hear you say "drama queen" or "girl that cried wolf", it sounds like you don't even trust her feelings, but feelings are just that, feelings, and if you can help her label them (like emotion coaching), maybe that could help the both of you cope with her very strong anxiety.

It does sound heartbreaking what she is going through and I hope you find a good professional to help.



answers from San Francisco on

You have gotten some great ideas, for non-medication solutions to try.
But if none of them work, I would talk to her doctor and have a serious talk with Dad about trying medication. Your daughter sounds miserable, and I am against meds when they are not absolutely necessary, but in this case her anxiety is really affecting the quality of her life.
If all else fails, and Dad is not cooperative, you can get some for her anyway, and just not tell him. A doctor only needs one parent to consent, not two.

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