I ran into a friend today who told me that her daughter was having a hard time adjusting to a new school. Her daughter went from a sheltered private school to a diverse charter school and felt like a fish out of water to say the least. Her outgoing, fun-loving daughter had turned into a nervous wreck. She couldn’t eat breakfast or lunch and she was not wanting to go back to school. Knowing what it was like to have an anxious child, I could understand my friends concern for her daughter.
When you have a child with anxiety it can be hard to know if they are just going through a phase or if they have serious condition that needs professional help. The symptoms can be ambiguous and a lot of parents are wary of medications. If your child is adjusting to a new environment your child most likely just needs time to meet new friends, or learn new rules. If your child developes a fear of a specific thing or situation out of the blue then your child might have a phobia and meeting with a therapist can be helpful. If your child is not eating at all you will need to see a doctor to make sure that your child is getting the right vitamins and if it goes on for longer than a few days you need to make an appointment with a therapist. If your child continues to feel so anxious that she/he can not eat you will need to see a psychiatrist to talk about starting your child on medications and/or vitamins. The bottom line is that if your child is not able to function like other children his/her age then you need to pay attention to your child and address that issue appropriately (through therapy or a psychiatrist).
There are medications that are specifically for anxiety and there are medications that are specifically for depression and there are medications to treat both anxiety and depression. I strongly recommend that you take your child to see a psychiatrist and not a primary care doctor because a psychiatrist is a specialist who treats mood disorders. A specialist knows all of the details about specific medications for specific symptoms. When you are trying medicine for your child you have to keep an open mind and remember that all children are different so sometimes you will have to try several different medications to get the right effect. Be patient and keep an open dialogue about medications and symptoms with your child. Some side effects are stomach aches, headaches, low blood pressure, dizziness. You want to pay attention to any symptoms that your child has and discuss those with the doctor.
Another possibility is alternative medicine. There is evidence that certain vitamins will help with moods. You will need to talk to your doctor about the dosages that are appropriate, but some vitamins that help lift moods are vitamin B12, vitamin D, SAME, and St. John’s Wort to name a few.
A lot of anxiety symptoms in children can be treated with therapy, but when that doesn’t help it’s time to seek other solutions to help your child feel better. A Child Psychiatrist is the best fit for this situation.