Need advice/info on anxiety issues

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-28-2009
Need advice/info on anxiety issues
Tue, 10-02-2012 - 12:34am

Hi everyone,

I'm new here so I'll briefly introduce myself. My name is Sharon, and I have an 8-year-old son who has been struggling with separation anxiety for the past 18 months. He has always been a shy, somewhat anxious child, but we had been able to manage it with encouragement, positive reinforcement, and lots and lots of patience. He attended preschool just fine, but it was a small private preschool. Kindergarten was a bit harder, but he had a great teacher and was well engaged. Towards the end of first grade, he (for lack of a better phrase) just tanked. At first it was just asking me to stay a bit after drop off, then to come back and check on him, and finally it was an all out school refusal. I spent the last month in his classroom, just to get him to finish the year. Last year (second grade) was also a struggle, although we were finally able to get him back into school independently by the end of the year. Again, he had a great teacher who suffered from anxiety herself so she completely understood what he needed and what he was going through. We used systematic desensitization to help him reintegrate into school. This year he started school fine, but a week into the school year, he tanked again after he was mistakenly yelled at by a teacher. We have him in behavioral therapy (just started) and also working with an occupational therapist for Sensory Processing Disorder after we discovered that his sensory issues contribute greatly to his overall anxiety. Both have been helpful, but his dad and I are still at school everyday trying to navigate his anxiety. Despite his separation anxiety, he functions very well in most other areas. He excels at school and is in several different extracurricular activities, all of which he enjoys and does well in. He gets along with other kids and is well liked  though has a hard time making friends because of his anxiety. He is polilte, respectful, responsible, funny, charming, and overall a wonderful little guy.

His pediatrician, his therapist, and his OT all believe he should start medication - specifically Zoloft. Their reasoning is that he continues to have separation anxiety despite repeated interventions, no history of trauma, and a stable, loving homelife. I get it - I totally do. Before I spark up a debate, I just want to say I am not categorically against medication. I understand the biological component of anxiety and the usefulness of medication. But as a mother, I am having a very, very hard time consenting to medication. He functions so well in so many areas of his life that it just feels like if we could get a grasp on this school anxiety, we would be okay. We've discussed different schools and home schools, but he is determined to stay where he is.

I cannot find another parent whose child is on medication or who will admit to their child being on medication so I have no concept of what his being on medication would be like. He seems so young, but from what the professionals tell me, there are kids who are much younger on much stronger meds. Is there any brave soul out there who has been in a similar situation with their child and is willing to discuss their decision to medicate or not medicate? I am extremely open minded about this. I just want as much information as I can before I make a decision either way. I've read tons and asked the experts questions, but I'd really like to hear the opinions of other parents who've had to make this decision or whose child has struggled with anxiety. Any advice or information is appreciated. Thanks!

Community Leader
Registered: 10-22-2001
Sat, 10-27-2012 - 10:44pm

My son struggled and we decided against the "Medication" route.

About twelve years old and it was a decision we ALL agreed upon.

He has coping skills, cbt (cognitive behaviour theraphy) was very hard for him...he is a very smart young man.

My son is older but I am glad we didn't.

I have a daughter who also has "Anxiety" and she is on medication, for her it was a Life-Safer.

She was older around fifteen when that decision was made.

I have a niece who is on medication but my sister says now her daughter's school are thinking there is a problem...

I think you have to work together and do what's best for your child.

There is more than one medication and dosages are individually tweaked.

My son has been on none, my daughter several.

I don't know if this helped but I guess I wanted you to know you aren't ALONE.

There is no right or wrong.

I was so glad everybody listened to my son.

School was very difficult and he struggles still but I love him.

When we wanted to home-school no support and when I didn't yes I could home-school.

Very trying times.

It is just really hard for them, so glad your son has had some great and good teachers, it can make ALL the difference.

Both of mine had both good and bad experiences.

You could ALWAYS do it short-term, a trial period or run.

My daughter wanted medication and it helped her and helps her today but it is not a CURE-ALL.

Having support for both them and you.

I love NAMI.

It helped me immensely.

I went online for support.

My heart goes out to you.


iVillage Member
Registered: 08-04-2001
Wed, 10-03-2012 - 9:23am

I don't have much time, but yes - my child got on Zoloft at 9. After she was on a news show, the school and kids had some major discussions openly - and many kids are on meds.  I even wrote a book about our story - "It's Not Mental".  Years later when we got our daughter a service dog (look up psychiatric service dogs), we found that dog worked better than emergency benzodiazapines for anxiety.

A classmate of hers got on Zoloft, too. Both of them had some permanent side-effects from it. In my daughter's case (some minor color-vision loss) she said at the time it was worth it. In any case, she is fine now.. at least "mentally". 

I know you have a long hard road ahead.

www. It's Not Mental .com

Avatar for Cmmelissa
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-13-2008
Tue, 10-02-2012 - 2:49pm
Hi Sharon, I'm glad you found your way here. I'm not in quite the same situation, but my oldest boy is on medication. He is ADHD, inattentive, ODD and also has some anxiety issues as well. His medication is mainly to help him focus, although we are currently on one that is also supposed to reduce the facial tics he's developed. Anxiety can be hard to overcome, my son's tics just become so noticeable when he is very anxious about a situation. It just breaks my heart when I see them :smileysad:

I can understand your hesitation about having him on meds when he is struggling with just one area of his life, your mother's instinct would be against it. I'm not as familiar with Zoloft, but one thing to consider is how long it lasts in the system and it's side effects. Is it something you can just try for a few days at a low dose just to see how he responds?

I'm sure others will be along shortly to share their experiences with meds. It's not a decision to be taken lightly, so pat yourself on the back for being such a great mom! He really sounds like a very neat kid, and I'm sure that my youngest would find him to be a great playmate.