Another school year has come around and with it, the possibility of extreme fear and separation anxiety for some children. Although it’s normal for any kid to have a certain degree of back to school anxiety, there is a huge difference between a child who is nervous about the new school year and one whose anxiety is severe enough to seek professional care.
Kids often worry about things like fitting in or whether the teacher will pick on them, which increases their stress. In the week leading up to the beginning of the school year or in the last few days before the end of a school break, younger kids may show some separation anxiety by crying frequently, throwing temper tantrums, or being more clingy than usual. Older children’s school anxiety symptoms can include being moody or irritable, complaining of headaches or stomach aches, or withdrawing into themselves. So how can a parent tell if their child just has school jitters or if they truly have back to school anxiety?
Fears about new teachers, harder school work, and being away from their parents are common for kids and usually stop within a couple of weeks once the child settles into the routine of the new school year. For those children whose anxiety symptoms continue beyond the first four or five weeks of school or seem extreme or inappropriate for their developmental level, a consultation with a therapist may be in order.
If your child is worried about the new school year, these back to school anxiety tips can help
If your child is struggling with back to school anxiety, it may be time to seek help from a compassionate child psychologist at Children’s Center for Psychiatry, Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida. Contact us or call us for more information at (561) 223-6568.
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When a person feels strongly that they don’t identify with the biological gender they were born with, the American Psychiatric Association terms them as having gender dysphoria. Although children as young as age four may express gender nonconformity, many times gender dysphoria doesn’t become evident to the person until they reach puberty and realize they are not comfortable with the changes going on in their bodies. For a gender dysphoria diagnosis, the person must feel these symptoms for at least six months. Recently, however, some researchers have been exploring a new development in gender dysphoria that seems to occur very suddenly and without the child having expressed any prior distress with their physical gender. This is called Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD).
Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria is a term that has sprung up within the past couple of years. It is important to note that ROGD has not been established as a distinct syndrome. This dysphoria has been casually (not scientifically) observed.
In ROGD, an adolescent or young adult who has always identified as their physical (birth) gender suddenly starts to identify as another gender. Prior to this, the child would not have met the criteria for gender dysphoria nor would they have displayed any discomfort with their gender. Additionally, often multiple friends within the same peer group simultaneously identify with another gender and become gender dysphoric around the same time.
Recently a Brown University researcher published a study “to empirically describe teens and young adults who did not have symptoms of gender dysphoria during childhood but who were observed by their parents to rapidly develop gender dysphoria symptoms over days, weeks or months during or after puberty.” The study author was Lisa Littman, an assistant professor of the practice of behavioral and social sciences at Brown’s School of Public Health.
Littman surveyed over 250 parents whose children had suddenly developed gender dysphoria symptoms. Of the parents who answered the survey, about 45 percent reported that their child had increased their social media use and that the child had one or more friends who became transgender-identified around the same time as their child.
This led to Littman’s hypothesis that gender dysphoria could be at least partially spread by social contagion. She proposed that social media and a child’s peers could cause the child to embrace certain beliefs, such as the idea that feeling uneasy with the gender you were born with meant you were gender dysphoric. Because many RODG teens also push for medical transition to another gender, Littman suggested that this could actually be a harmful coping tool in the same way that drugs, alcohol or substance abuse are negative coping mechanisms.
Transgender advocates fiercely criticized Littman’s study, saying it was methodologically flawed because Littman only interviewed parents and not the transgender-identifying children themselves. They also called the study “antitransgender” and a denial of transgender affirmation while citing the fact that a person who is questioning their gender and seeking answers would naturally read up on the subject and spend time with supportive friends who may have similar thoughts and feelings. Advocates pointed out that a true gender dysphoria diagnosis requires evaluation by specialists, while Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria only required the parent’s perspective.
As a result of the criticism, Brown withdrew its press release about the study and wrote a statement explaining its decision to conduct a post-publication re-review. They worried that the study “could be used to discredit efforts to support transgender youth and invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community.”
Clearly, more research is needed in order to settle the question of whether Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria is real, however we know that gender dysphoria exists. Early diagnosis, gender-affirming approaches by parents, and individual and family counseling can help the transgender person and their loved ones deal with the emotional challenges of gender transition.
Many transgender people take action to be more in alignment with who they feel they are. They might change their name to one more suited to the gender they express or dress as that gender. Other options include taking puberty blockers, hormones to develop physical traits for the gender they identify with, or sex-reassignment surgery.
We know that people with gender dysphoria have higher rates of mental health conditions like depersonalization disorder, anxiety, depression and mood disorders, and increased substance abuse. They also experience higher suicide rates, therefore it is important for them to seek mental health treatment. The goal of treatment is not to change the person’s feelings about their gender, rather it is to give them a way to deal with the emotional issues that come with gender dysphoria.
If you or a loved one are distressed, anxious, or depressed about your gender identity, we can help. Contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry, Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida for more information or call us today at (561) 223-6568.
Imagine being a child who lives with severe food allergies. Ingesting even the tiniest amount of the allergen (or having it touch your skin) can be enough to trigger anaphylaxis, which can kill you. Your condition is so severe that you must extremely vigilant about your food and you carry an epinephrine injector everywhere you go in case your inadvertently miss something and begin having trouble breathing or your throat starts to close. Now imagine fellow students bullying you because of your life-threatening allergies or having a fellow student force you to touch or eat the food that might kill you. It sounds far-fetched in view of the danger, but that’s a real life scenario for approximately 31.5% of children with food allergies, according to a 2013 study reported in Pediatrics.
These children are being singled out for harassment and are more than twice as likely to be bullied specifically because their food allergies.
5.9 million kids in the U. S. have food allergies. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “among children aged 0–17 years, the prevalence of food allergies increased from 3.4% in 1997–1999 to 5.1% in 2009–2011”. That means about 1 child out of every 13 in a given classroom has a food allergy.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, food allergies occur “when your body’s natural defenses overreact to exposure to a particular substance, treating it as an invader and sending out chemicals to defend against it.”
A true food allergy isn’t the same as the more common food intolerances we think of when we avoid a certain food because it will negatively affect our body (for example: lactose intolerance). Instead, food allergies trigger a person’s immune system, sending it into overdrive. This overreaction can bring on symptoms ranging from mild (like hives, itchiness, or gastric problems) all the way up to anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.
Food allergy reactions can start in as little as two minutes and as long as two hours after eating or touching the food. The Mayo Clinic reports that the most common food allergy signs and symptoms include:
In some people, a food allergy can trigger a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This can cause life-threatening signs and symptoms, including:
Emergency treatment is critical for anaphylaxis. Untreated, anaphylaxis can cause a coma or even death.
Often, kids think it is funny to tease and bully kids who have food allergies. This may be because they don’t really understand what can happen to children who have severe food allergies, although older kids and teens clearly have an idea. A 2018 New York Times article reported that a parent stated on Twitter that his son was “taunted by ‘friends’ with a PB & J sandwich,” who said, “‘let’s see if he dies.’” In other cases, “children with food allergies have had milk poured over them, peanuts waved in their faces, cake thrown at them, and peanut butter smeared on them.”
This harassment and stress can cause allergic children to fear school, leading to school refusal, and can make them depressed or cause them to isolate themselves socially. Parental involvement can help keep down the attacks, but children only report the harassment to their parents about 52.1% of the time. Additionally, teachers often make insensitive remarks or single-out and exclude children with food allergies from certain activities or school functions, further contributing to the child’s feelings of isolation and anxiety.
Increasingly, there have been legal consequences for food allergy bullying. In 2017, a 13 year-old U. K. boy was arrested for attempted murder after flicking a piece of cheese into a fellow student’s mouth, causing an anaphylactic reaction that led to the victim’s death. That same year in the U. S., a Michigan student with a peanut allergy (who was unconscious due to a hazing incident) was smeared in the face with peanut butter, resulting in an anaphylactic reaction. Thankfully, he later recovered, but the perpetrator pleaded guilty to assault and battery charges.
It’s important to seek help as soon as possible if your child becomes the target of food allergy bullying. For more information about how a child psychologist at the Children’s Center can help your child stand up to bullying, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry, Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.
Everyone has moments of fear over their performance on things like college exams and projects or they worry whether they’ll please their boss or colleagues. For those who suffer from social anxiety, however, concerns like these may not only impact their ability to learn, they may also lead them to make different education or career choices than they would actually prefer.
Everyone looks forward to going off to college, right? High school graduates eagerly plan to meet new friends, enjoy parties, learn about their future degree field, and have the chance to live their own life without having to follow rigid rules at home. For most teens, college represents a rite of passage – it’s a symbol of adulthood and independence. For someone with social anxiety, though, the new world of being a college student is not so friendly. Instead, all they can see is an endless list of potential situations in which they will have to fight their physical anxiety symptoms and battle to manage their anxious thoughts.
Students with social anxiety often avoid or don’t participate in group projects or lectures in college due to embarrassment and self-consciousness, their fear of being criticized, or worrisome physical symptoms, such as sweating or stuttering. Research also indicates that socially anxious students judge their own competence poorly when participating in a seminar or presentation (Austin, 2004) and this worry continues regardless of whether or not the student performs well academically. In fact, social anxiety can make college life so terrifying that some studies have reported that students with social anxiety fail to complete school and drop out before they can graduate (Van Ameringen, et al, 2003).
When it comes to careers, social anxiety can negatively impact career choices and occupational functioning. According to a study by Himle, et al (2014), people with social anxiety “have significantly different career aspirations than job-seekers without social anxiety.” Carnevale, et al (2010), reported that job sectors requiring strong workplace-based social capabilities (for example: healthcare or hospitality) “are among the most active in the current economy, yet people with social anxiety routinely avoid jobs requiring social interaction”.
As far as occupational functioning, a study done by Stein and Kean (2000) suggests that approximately 20% of people with social anxiety disorder reported declining a job offer or a promotion due to social fears.
People with social anxiety who want to get past their fears in order to have a wider choice of jobs or to find jobs with a more social aspect can benefit from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy.
Additionally, a study by Beidel, et al (2014), suggests that people with social anxiety can be helped even more effectively through a combination of CBT/exposure therapy and social skills training.
During the Beidel, et al, study, participants used modeling, behavior rehearsal, and feedback to learn such things as basic conversational skills, assertiveness training, and effective public speaking. They also went through exposure sessions consisting of scenes designed to address each person’s unique fears. At the conclusion of the study, 67% of the people treated with the combination of social skills training and CBT no longer met the diagnostic criteria for social anxiety disorder.
The National Social Anxiety Center is a national association of regional clinics with certified cognitive therapists specializing in social anxiety and anxiety-related problems. We have compassionate therapists who can help you to reduce social anxiety. Currently, we have regional clinics in San Francisco, District of Columbia, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, New York City, Chicago, Newport Beach / Orange County, Houston / Sugar Land, St. Louis, Phoenix, South Florida, Silicon Valley / Sacramento Valley, and Dallas. Contact our national headquarters at (202) 656-8566 or visit our Regional Clinics contact page to find help in your local area.
Article written by:
Austin, B.D. (2004). Social anxiety disorder, shyness, and perceived social self-efficacy in college students. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 64 (7-B), 31–83.
Beidel, Deborah C. et al. “The Impact of Social Skills Training For Social Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of anxiety disorders 28.8 (2014): 908–918. PMC. Web. 28 June 2018.
Carnevale AP, Smith N, Strohl J. Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirement through 2018. Washington, DC.: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce; 2010.
Himle, Joseph A et al. “A Comparison of Unemployed Job-Seekers with and without Social Anxiety.” Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.) 65.7 (2014): 924–930. PMC. Web. 24 June 2018.
Stein MB, Kean YM. Disability and quality of life in social phobia: Epidemiologic findings. American Journal of Psychiatry. 2000;157:1606–3.
Van Ameringen, M., Mancini, C. & Farvolden, P. (2003). The impact of anxiety disorders on educational achievement. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 17(5), 561–571.
A hypochondriac is someone who lives with the fear that they have a serious, but undiagnosed medical condition, even though diagnostic tests show there is nothing wrong with them. Hypochondriacs experience extreme anxiety from the bodily responses most people take for granted. For example, they may be convinced that something as simple as a sneeze is the sign they have a horrible disease.
Hypochondria accounts for about five percent of outpatient medical care annually. More than 200,000 people are diagnosed with hypochondria (also known as health anxiety or illness anxiety disorder) each year. While health anxiety generally begins in early adulthood, children can also experience hypochondria.
True hypochondria is a mental health disorder. Hypochondria may show up in a child after they or someone they know has gone through an illness or a serious medical condition. Its symptoms can vary, depending on factors such as stress, age, and whether the person is already an extreme worrier.
In children, hypochondriac symptoms may include:
· Regularly checking themselves for any sign of illness
· Telling you about a new physical complaint almost every day
· Fearing that anything from a runny nose to a gurgle in their gut is the sign of a serious illness
· Frequently asking their parent to take them to the doctor
· Asking to have their temperature taken daily (or more than once per day)
· Talking excessively about their health
· Happily wearing bandages like badges of honor, has one on almost constantly
· May focus excessively on things most children typically don’t: a certain disease (example: cancer) or a certain body part (example: worrying about a brain tumor if they have a headache)
· Having frequent pains or finds lumps that no one else can feel
· Fearing being around people who are sick
Health anxiety can actually have its own symptoms because it’s possible for the child to have stomachaches, dizziness, or pain as a result of their overwhelming anxiety. In fact, illness anxiety can take over a hypochondriac’s life to the point that worrying and living in fear are so stressful, the child refuses to go to school or participate in outside activities.
You may be wondering what triggers hypochondria. Although there really isn’t an exact cause, we do know that people with illness anxiety are more likely to have a family member who is also a hypochondriac. The child with health anxiety may have gone through a serious illness and fear that their bad experience may be repeated. Or, they may already be suffering from a mental health condition and their hypochondria may be part of it.
Self-help for child hypochondria can include:
Professional treatments for hypochondria include:
Being a hypochondriac negatively affects the lives of the child who suffers from it. The child psychologists at the Children’s Center for Psychiatry, Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida are experienced in helping those with illness anxiety. For more information, contact us or call us today at (561) 223-6568.