My Son’s Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis: Learning As We go

Posted June 14, 2011 by

Last week I was sitting in the auditorium of our town’s high school, listening to my son play saxophone in the 5th and 6th grade All City Band Concert. As I was enjoying my “proud mother moment” two things stood out to me: one was how great they all sounded for eleven- and twelve-year-olds. The second was how far we have come as a family in the last three years.

About three years ago, my son was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. When he was diagnosed I finally had the answers I needed as to why there were aggressive outbursts and why he was impulsive in school as well as when we had guests over. We finally knew why daily life with him had become such a battle. With his diagnosis, it was as if I finally had the key to a door that had remained locked within him. At last I was able to communicate with him more effectively as I began to understand more about why he would get so angry. I was able to manage his triggers, but also withdraw from him if that was what he needed. I was starting to see my son return to me. But one thing I failed to do was recognize how having a diagnosis would affect him and how he would feel about himself going forward.

He recently turned eleven and is now in the “tweens.” Image and acceptance is everything. Currently the “in” thing at my son’s school is rubber band-like bracelets. My son told me about this type of “energy bands” that are supposed to be good for your health. When we went to the mall to look at the bands, the salesperson listed anxiety as something aided by wearing these “energy bands.” On the way home from the mall, my son asked, “Do you think she knew I have a disability?” I wanted to correct him and his perception that his anxiety disorder is a disability because to me it is not. Instead I asked him if he really did think of it that way. When my son said that he did, I recalled that the only times that he’s ever mentioned having an anxiety disorder have been in moments of defeat, after escalation, on his bedroom floor in tears wondering aloud why he has to have anxiety. Or in frustration, trying to justify a trigger to my husband: “I wish I could sleep in my bed by myself, but I just can’t tonight.”

I realized I never had the conversation with my son that his being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder is only that – a diagnosis, and that it doesn’t necessarily have to define who he is as a person. We had that talk as I was writing this post and I apologized for being selfish three years ago and never considering his perspective and exploring what having a diagnosis could mean for his life. Later, he asked me if he I thought it would be “safe” to tell his friends that he has a diagnosis. I replied that if they judged or disliked him because of it then they weren’t real friends to begin with, and he would be better off without them. I once again, and without fail, did not consider his perspective! But this time I was able to recognize my mistake a lot sooner, and then told him if he felt comfortable telling his closest friends, then he should. Our friends are our friends for a reason, and it’s OK to trust them. Each day he has been letting me know that he has told another friend. He will happily say something like, “I told Chris today!” No one else in the family will know what he told Chris, but I will, and from the tone of his voice I know that Chris is a true friend.


Suzz is married with two children. She loves working and writing and her favorite thing to do is spend time with her family.

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  1. D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor (Edit) Report

    To “Nicki”: Thank you for sharing your story and asking some great questions. It is really difficult to watch our children struggle. I can hear how much you want to help your son deal with his anxiety. We would recommend you bring your questions and concerns to your son’s doctor. While there are medications and types of counseling that are beneficial for dealing with anxiety, your son’s doctor is going to know which ones will best suit your son and his particular needs. There is also the 2-1-1 National Helpline that may be able to put you into contact with other local resources. You can reach the helpline by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging on to We wish you luck as you and your family work towards a solution. Take care.

  2. Nicki (Edit) Report


    My son is 11 as well. He was diagnosed with ADD & Generalized Anxiety Disorder when he was 8. He takes Buspar which is supposed to help him with his anxiety. It seemed to help for a while but lately, it doesn’t seem to be helping at all. I don’t like pills but I’m tempted to see if there’s a different one that would help him. It breaks my heart to see him worrying & stressing about things that other 11 year olds wouldn’t even think twice about. I was wondering if you knew of anything that I could do to help him other than medicine? Did you read certain books? Did you take him to counseling? My husband, his stepfather, while being supportive, just doesn’t understand it & has no idea how to handle it. We are at our wit’s end & don’t know what else to say to him. I love him more than life itself & just want him to be happy & be a kid.

    Thanks for any insight you may have.

  3. momof2greatkids (Edit) Report

    Wondering how moms are handling anxiety with oppositional defiant disorder out there…have 2 children with TBI and both are stress/anxiety kids 90% of time but son is hitting top of chart with odd these days as well as screeching and hitting, very very independent also. just want happy kids to enjoy their childhood and each other…any ideas are appreciated from your vast experience!

  4. Suzz Malone (Edit) Report

    Hello mommieof5,
    I would dare say my son was born with his anxiety disorder. I remember being in the hospital and not even being able to put him down. Everyone tells you at that stage to “let him cry it out.” he never would and would continue to cry and cry. You could hear the fear in his voice, even then. Anxiety runs in my family as well. My son would also, especially in second grade, display attenion and focus challenges. It was eventually traced back to his anxiety. We discovered that he felt safe at school due to the structured schedule and because of that the relief from not feeling the anxiety made him almost euphoric. I give you every encouragment as I know where we were compared to where we are now. We still have challenging days, but I know how to handle them in a way that works for everyone. Be strong, it does get better.

  5. mommieof5 (Edit) Report

    when did you notice his anxiety, or has it always been there? I have a 7 year old, that we will soon be taking in for neuropsych testing. They think there is possibly ADHD to deal with also and medication seems like the only answer, with his pediatrician. He is such a sweet boy and very, very sensitive. I just don’t know anyone that has had to deal with anxieties, like his. In my senior year of highschool I had pretty severe anxiety for about 2 years, as my father battled for his life, from cancer. I was the one to talk myself out of the attacks that plagued me daily. I know what it is to feel that way, and it is truly a bad feeling, but my son is much younger than I was and being a male makes things a little different, also. Reading this has made me hopeful that he can function a little better, as time goes on. Thank you for sharing.



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