Take Terror Out of Childhood


I felt terribly alone and helpless at age 10, suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, thinking no one  could possibly be as terrified as I in my bed late at night, night after night.   I wish I’d known then that chronic anxiety is a problem for many adolescents, and that education about the causes and treatment is the key to overcoming the problem early. As it was, I spent much of my childhood and adult life trapped in Panic Prison.

You could possibly save a child from experiencing a long life of anxiety by staying tuned to the kids in your circle.    I was embarrassed to talk to my folks about my panicky feelings.  My father was kind of macho and not good at compassionate communication. My young mother reached out to the family Matriarch, Aunt Edna, who said, “If you think you’re crazy, you’re not.”  Somehow that didn’t convince me.

Knowing what anxiety looks like and feels like, makes one an expert at spotting it.  When you spot it, there are several ways to take action. If you’re the parent, read on.  If you’re a friend or relative, ask the parents about the apparent behaviors and express your willingness to help.

Recognition is critical to treating childhood anxiety.  I suffered needlessly for decades because no one around me, including the medical community, was able to explain the basic brain chemistry that creates anxiety and panic attacks.   Had that happened, and had I learned how to overcome the problem I’m convinced I could have re-wired my panic control system early in life .…  which is why I’m writing this.

If the youngster is someone you are close to, start a conversation. My advice is to be upfront right away.  You could say something like, “I have had experiences with anxiety, and can kind of sense when somebody is feeling that way. I know how tough it can be.  I hope you won’t mind me asking if you’re having problems with anxiety and maybe tell me how you’re feeling.” After you get the ball rolling, help in some way to connect the child with not only family support but school counselors or child therapists and appropriate medical professionals as well.

Children suffering from chronic anxiety need to hear that someone knows what they are experiencing and can help them get out of the scary trap they’re in.  My anxiety was the result of panic attacks, but there can be many causes for an ongoing sense of danger.  I advise you to search-engine “anxiety and the amygdala” to do the research necessary to create a level of explanation that a child can understand.  Please emphasize that the system can be re-wired to eliminate the problem. Hope is a great motivator.

I created a schedule of activities and projects in “Un-Agoraphobic” designed to change the communication between the reaction part of the brain and the thinking part of the brain.  In essence, a panic attack or other frightening experience alerts the amygdala to become hyper- vigilant about danger.  Neural activity increases dramatically in the twin, almond shaped glands in the center of the brain, and that is what we call “ANXIETY.”

Recovery is a process of the thinking brain telling the reacting, reptilian brain that there is no longer any danger.  Day after day you have to send messages that you are quite safe.  After time the amygdala will reduce the force of soldiers at the gate and return to its real job of alerting you to actual speeding cars or saber- toothed tigers or whatever the case may be.  Talk therapy is the best option for a child with ongoing panicky feelings, but love, support and understanding provide the safety net.

Please reach out if you know in your heart that doing so will help a kid have smiley dreams at night.

I urge you to read the linked article below for an overall view of the whole anxiety thing by another author with personal experience.  Barbara Graham reveals her long struggle with anxiety and what can be done about it in this piece for Mindful magazine.




3 thoughts on “Take Terror Out of Childhood

  1. I don’t know if this is the right section to ask this but I’ll take my chances anyway.
    Hi All, I just want to ask if you ever tried using cannabis for anxiety? I am 35 years old now and been battling anxiety and panic attacks for almost half of my life. I have read many articles about medical marijuana and how it can help you in terms of pain management, anxiety disorders and panic attacks, inflamation, even cancer and a lot more. Like this review on a certain strain called fire og from http://www.ilovegrowingmarijuana.com/fire-og/. Cbd and thc are also new to me and I don’t even smoke. If this is true I cant find any solid conclusive evidence that speaks to its efficacy. Any personal experience or testimonial would be highly appreciated. Thanks

    • Hi Daniel – The few times I smoked marijuana during my high anxiety times I suffered horrible and long lasting panic attacks. Some people experience panic attacks for the first time while smoking pot. I finally started to pretend to suck on joints being passed around. I’m pro-pot but would advise you not to look to cannabis to control anxiety. Put your energy into establishing a personal recovery program. I and many others have totally recovered from panic disorder and agoraphobia by taking steps to change your brain’s neural wiring. Start studying brain science as it relates to anxiety so you can understand the mechanics making you an anxious person. Science has proven we can change neural patterns by thoughts and actions.

      The Un-Agoraphobic recovery program is designed to take you step by step through a process with which you can become a person who no longer fears panic attacks and is not controlled by anxiety. You can become calm and content….. but only if you work hard at it. Start doing research today on brain science and the value of mindfulness, and take notes like a college student. Begin a journal so you can track what you’re working on and measure your progress. Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques will work for you. You can put the techniques to practice without a therapist if you need to. Best wishes. Write if you have questions. You can do this….. anxiety is one of the mental illnesses that can be completely cured.

      • Thanks for this Mathew I really appreciate it. By the way smoking cannabis is no longer in my list of option. Thanks again for enlightening me with this.

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