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Anxiety and Stress Disorders (Children)

Anxiety and Separation Problems in my Seven Year Old

02/08/2008

Question:

My 7 year old was recently threatened at school by a girl in her class. The girl told her she was going to "kill her if she wore her hair that way again!" This had happened in the past, but my daughter was able to blow it off without problems. Well this time really upset her. I spoke with teachers and school officials and things were taken care of. The girl and her are again friends, but I explained to her this may happen again. During the ordeal she started to hate going to school and cried, having to be pulled off of me to go to class by her teacher. Now we are still having problems with her crying. She is fine once she is at school, but getting there is a huge ordeal. She has made herself throw up and her stomach hurts all the time. She had a dream that I was killed during the early stages of the problem and has always had night terrors. She has lost weight, about 7 lbs, and is not wanting to be with anyone without me. She won`t stay with her best friend who I could not separate her from before this. She won`t stay with Dad, Grandparents or anyone, just MOM! I have had her talk to the counselor at school but she says she doesn`t know what is wrong. What should I do to get her back to loving school and having a normal childhood? Is there something else she may be suffering from that I need to take her to a doctor or psychologist or something?

Thank you.

Answer:

It sounds like your child has developed or reinitiated separation anxiety problems, a common but troublesome anxiety disorder which in this case is associated with “school phobia.” While this sounds problematic, the treatment is quite simple and can be accomplished by a trained mental health professional. I would urge you to seek qualified help for this problem before too many absences from school make this more difficult.

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Response by:

Floyd R Sallee, MD
Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati