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Teenage son with anxiety

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Casual scribe

Teenage son with anxiety



I am new to these forums but have started searching for like minded parents of teenagers with mental health issues.


My son is 14 now but has had anxiety his whole life.  It was never picked up on or diagnosed until the beginning of this year.  We have had zero luck with every medical professional we have seen.


He manifests his anxiety with stomach aches and nausea and extreme tiredness.  It is very lucky he has that as otherwise he is a seemingly well adjusted happy teen on the surface but sadly not on the inside.


I have taken him to two Emergency rooms, three different paediatricians, three X-ray facilities, one Gastroenterologist, one Cardiologist and 6 different GP's - all referred by the GP's we have seen.  He has had all the tests for why he is periodically nauseous and the diagnosis from the Gastro and the GP was to buy a Nutri Bullet and eat more vegies.  The extent of looking into a diagnosis of mental health issues was a "are you going ok at school?"  When he answered yes, the idea that it was an emotional cause was disregarded.


I was also told to give him daily enemas to help with his constipation which they thought was the cause of the illness.  To give a 12 year old boy daily enemas was very difficult for he and I.


So I finally figured it out that his attacks were from anxiety and had increased to one a week over the end of Year 8 to none at all over the summer holidays.  I got a referral to a Psychologist who was an absolute crack pot and got him to do meditation to his happy place and drink water slowly when he is ill and if he is struggling with a maths question, then leave it for the next one.  Total waste of time but I found an amazing mental health OT who has been fantastic.


My son has zero self worth and is numb inside and cannot identify emotions as he has blocked painful ones his whole life.  It will build up and become a stomach ache every once in awhile - lasting up to a week of not being able to keep even water down.


We are now going down the pathway of medication to help ease his mind so hopefully the counselling can start to help him.


It's been a long and painful journey to get to this point but the sheer uselessness of the medical profession has been what staggers me.  And of course the massive guilt that we as parents, didn't see the signs that he was struggling.


This is a long post and I am sorry for writing so much.  I guess I had no questions really but just wanted to get it out.  Although I would love to hear from any other parents whose children also got stomach aches and nausea from anxiety?


Many thanks if you read this

Prolific scribe

Re: Teenage son with anxiety

Hi there @Cameo i just wanted to welcome you to the forums, and also thank you for sharing you and your son's story. I am so glad to hear after all this time that you're finding some tools and supports that are effective in helping your son find his path to recovery. I'm sorry to hear that your experiences haven't been ideal with some of the professionals you encounter.


I'd love to know more about how you found the mental health OT. Would you feel like sharing some of the skills, tools or other things that they have worked on with you and your son?


Thank you again for sharing. I think this story will give others who are still looking for answers a lot of hope and encouragement to continue searching.


If there's anything we can do to support you, please do let us know.

Prolific scribe

Re: Teenage son with anxiety

Hi there,

My son also has anxiety issues. He used to get stomach aches alot and I knew he was trying to cover up the fact that school was making him anxious. He is the type of kid who doesnt like to draw attention to him and he is quite shy around people he doesnt know well. So he kind of says hes fine and everythings okay and if he was to see a psychologist, Im sure hed just tell them he was fine. Im wondering, have you had a chat with your son about what could be the cause of his anxiety? Is there something in particular happening at school? Workload? Is he worried about anything at home? Or is it just a constant anxious feeling with no real reason why...

Prolific scribe

Re: Teenage son with anxiety

Hi, @Cameo you are certainly doing all the right things and I agree the health system doesn't always have the answers.  It's very difficult as a parent to understand teenage behaviour especially when they aren't "the norm". I have a son who is now 18 and has been suffering anxiety since the age of 15.  He could not complete year 10 and not been back to school, and rarely leaves his room even now.  He spends his days on his computer and sleeping and seems fine with this routine.  We have tried professional help and this has failed.  We bought him a dog in the hope that this would help him engage.  Needless to say my husband looks after the dog now.   At the moment I do his washing and make sure every meal is nutritious.  From what I understand my son maybe getting everything he needs for now, he feels safe and comfortable.  Caring for someone with mental health issues is trikky and frustrating at times and listening to what they want and understanding their needs is really important.  Keep up the good work!

Casual scribe

Re: Teenage son with anxiety

Wow thanks so much everyone.  It is really good to offload all these thoughts to people who understand and don't judge.


I have felt such sadness reading people's stories for the pain they and their kids are going through but it's so great that they all have support and understanding.


We have found the mental health OT to be particularily useful for a teenage boy who WON'T open up to anyone.  The OT uses methods to deal with stress and anxiety rather than trying to get to the bottom of it.  At this stage, after 6 sessions, he can finally tell his OT that he doesn't understand something rather than going "fine" like many kids here.


He has had generalised anxiety I think his whole life but he finds camps and being away from home hardest.  Last years camp resulted in him being picked up after one night and then being sick the whole week with a trip to the ED for Zofran.  We didn't make that mistake again!


He is socially completely fine and on the surface looks like a confident happy boy who is very well liked which is why diagnosis took so long.  It staggers me though that not one health professional delved deeper into that.


He saw the same GP about Sleeplessness and not wanting to be away from us at night at age 10, Fainting and dizzy spells at age 11 and then the stomach issues which were ongoing.  She told us to get a dreamcatcher, sent us to a Heart specialist and told us to eat more vegies respectively for all the issues.  How the hell could she not connect the dots?  How did we not either really?  The fainting was early panic attacks I believe now.


It's a very tough place to be but there's more and more understanding around Mental health now which is a step forward.


Thank you all for listening.

Super star contributor

Re: Teenage son with anxiety

Hi @Cameo, I'm so glad you found the forum and are feeling supported. Never be sorry for a long post!


Your son sounds like a lovely young man, and I'm so sorry you've had so many problems getting a diagnosis and finding help. Occupational therapy sounds like it's bringing results which is fantastic. 


I'm astounded at some of the things that have been suggested to you by medical professionals. My daughter has been diagnosed with anxiety, and all your son's symptoms mirrored my daughter's, but I must say her other diagnoses brought the focus to her mental health, so we were lucky in that regard.


My daughter used to soil her undies every day. It was acute anxiety and she wouldn't go to the toilet which ended up in both constipation and liquid - faecal impaction.  It was awful, but I'm so glad enemas weren't suggested. That must've been awful for you both. 


These days she has developed problems going anywhere in the car and becomes sick. She doesn't get out a lot, and I think it's anxiety going anywhere out of her comfort zone. I've found natural ginger tablets help with her nausea. 


You sound like very loving and supportive parents which really gives your son a solid foundation to work from which is so beneficial for him. You've obviously worked hard and not given up in your efforts to find him help. I so hope the OT continues to help him open up.


Prolific scribe

Re: Teenage son with anxiety

Hi @Cameo,


Your post touched a nerve with me, because we too have had a lot of difficulty getting good medical help. It started with a Psychiatrist who did superficial, 15 minute consultations and refused to prescribed any medication (which prompted the G.P. to exclaim "what good is a psychiatrist who won't prescribe!"). The psychiatrist encouraged us to see another psychiatrist at a public hospital. Luckily he did prescribe for us, but when I told the original psychiatrist that I considered the new psychiatrist to be the "main psychiatrist" she asked us to leave the service (a public funded outpatient service). That service was providing not just psych, but psychology for my son, and family counselling. We lost access to all of that.


My son took that rejection hard, and started harming himself. I was disgusted and told the service I thought they were negligent. It set us back 6 months.


We then had problems with two school counsellors, both apparently professional psychologists. They decided the best way to "see" my sons symptoms was to put him under stress. It took a while for us to realise what was going on, but a pattern emerged: my son would go to school in a reasonable mood; there would be an incident at school that would stress him and he would decide he needed a time-out and go to counselling, perhaps aiming just to sit quietly; one of the counsellors would call him in and start to question him. The last time it happened I got to school quickly and found him in an office with both counsellors questioning him - it was an interrogation. It looks to us that the counsellors were probing for a violent response.  


After a number of false starts we now seem to have a good team in place, but it was much harder to achieve that than I ever would have dreamed.


I was interested in your reference to a mental health OT. I had to google what that meant (Occupational Therapist). I've never heard of that, perhaps it is worth starting a separate thread on that topic....or maybe there is a Reach Out fact sheet on it that I haven't been bothered to read Smiley Wink I'd like to learn more about that.


My 14 y.o. son has depression and anxiety, and like your boy it is difficult for him to talk to a therapist. I'm going to guess it is common for lots of 14 y.o. boys! It takes months for him to build a relationship with a counsellor.


I missed my sons depression symptoms too, until the point where he really had to go to hospital. I still feel guilty about that, even though I know the guilt doesn't help. I tell myself that teenagers are moody and difficult to read at the best of times....but I still feel guilty.


Thanks for your post


Casual scribe

Re: Teenage son with anxiety

Wow thank you so much everyone.  I really appreciate all of the replies and sharing of stories.  I find it heartbreaking that some kids (and familiies) have to go through so much.


And Schooner your story is so sad with yours son's funding being taken away.  How spiteful and awful.  I am so sorry for you both.


How can the general medical community become more aware of mental health issues in teen's?  I cannot understand how they can't see certain issues and flag them for mental health?  My last GP was still nagging at me to see a Paed again even when all signs pointed to anxiety?


I have found also that acupuncture has helped.  In fact I will take him back to see the acupuncturist as he has been one of the most helpful people we have seen.  My son had a panic attack this year and I didn't realise what it was and he went home from school himself (I was working) and it was only after his acupuncturist described the symptoms of a panic attack that my son was able to say that was what happened to me.  Of course more masses of guilt for me. Onwards and upwards though, I can't keep feeling so guilty.


The mental health OT is left of centre for sure but it has worked so well.  As I said he is not one to sit and talk so been given strategies to deal with what he is going through and more importantly, understanding the emotions going on in his body and mind, is vital.  His OT and the Psych at the clinic both said that men often cannot identify emotions other than happiness and anger which has the downside of having other negative emotions that they feel get transferred into anger.  ie: shame into anger, guilt into anger etc.  So more work needs to done with young boys to identify their emotions to help them deal with it.


If anyone has other questions about the OT please fire away.  He has been so helpful for us.


Thank you all again for listening

Super star contributor

Re: Teenage son with anxiety

Hi @Cameo, I for one would love to know more about your experiences with Occupational Therapy. Would you mind starting a new thread specifically about it? I'm having a blank, there's another parent here who uses it too who could add their experiences as well. It'll come to me later.


It's fantastic that acupuncture is helping. And that your acupuncturist is so switched on! Guilt is a really tough one as a parent. I had no idea how intertwined with having kids it is. I know how easy it is for me to say this, but maybe another way to look at it is that we can't know what we don't know. You're an awesome mum because you've done all you can to help your son since you learnt what was happening for him. And you're learning as well. To me, that's a what a perfect parent is. 


I love what you say about boy's/men's emotions, it really strikes true. I have a daughter and she used to express herself with anger and aggression until we did a lot of work around naming emotions. We still have a mood chart on our fridge, with a magnet each, to place over our current emotion. It helped my daughter learn names of emotions and helped her identify what emotion it was she was feeling. I found it to be an awesome tool for us. If you google 'mood chart', there are many different ones to choose from if you think it might be worth trying. 




Re: Teenage son with anxiety

Hi all, I have been reading this thread , and I too am  very much interested in the techniques the OT used to help your  son @Cameo .  So sorry to hear the lengths you had to go to and what you had to endure before you found some practical help !  Anxiety expresses its self very differently in different individuals and can be so hard to pinpoint . Don't beat yourself up about it ! My son suffers from it too . He used to have stomach aches and will not sleep over ANYWHERE not even his Nanna's house !  I remember being angry with him and almost dragging him to school when he  refused to go and I feel so guilty now that I know he has a tendency towards anxiety and he was suffering not being stubborn and difficult . My heart aches when I remember my poor responses ! We are not perfect and we are always learning , you did the best you could with the knowledge you had at the time . You can do no more than that !