Sunday, February 13, 2011

Questioner: Melissa

Subject: Toddler with extreme fear and anxiety

Question: I am becoming increasingly concerned about my 2 year-old daughter. She seems to be on track developmentally and socially. However, she is demonstrating extreme anxiety and fear. For example, we were at a birthday party for her 1 year old cousin. He of course dug into his cake and had frosting all over his face and hands. My daughter panicked. I mean, she really panicked--very different from a tantrum--she was shaking uncontrollably and screaming. She was terrified!

 I don't know if she thought he was being hurt, or what she was so afraid of. That's just one example; it's been happening a lot. She was trying to carry 3 golf balls in her hands, and one of them kept dropping on the ground. She just panicked....she was screaming like she was in pain. These instances are so different from a toddler tantrum. My family members who have observed this behavior are concerned as well-because it just isn't normal toddler behavior. She also is waking up 3-5 times a night just in sheer panic.

As for her environment...I am a stay-at-home mom. My husband and I are both very loving parents. We are fairly "middle-of-the-road" as far as discipline goes-I wouldn't really consider us strict or permissive...just fairly balanced in the middle. As a family we don't allow scary or suggestive TV or movie watching...and the only things she sees are age-appropriate preschooler shows.

I don't know if this additional information is helpful-but my daughter has had some health problems--she has had severe reflux, and food allergies (dairy, soy, and watermelon). Could her behavior be tied to food allergies somehow? I've been slowly re-introducing dairy.

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much!

Answer: Dear Melissa:

Phobias and fears are very common with toddlers. Mostly due to their change in development. As they gather more information about their world it often does not line up with what they see or experience. If you are greatly concerned and it sounds like you are, I would suggest consulting first your family doctor and requesting an evaluation by a infant mental health specialist.

Best Wishes,

M Kay Keller

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