Dear Mesmerizing Meg: We have an 8th trader, no learning disabilities, good grades, sociable and has a pretty good friend group. She states there is no bullying of any kind as well. No drug, alcohol or nicotine use either. Her peer group is 14 year olds so feeling safe enough to be vulnerable is still lacking, but she overall has a good group. She began having panic attacks a few months ago and now can’t attend almost any of her classes. Our psychologists vary in advisement between ‘keep on facing the fears and showing up…. I dont know of any panic disordered middle schooler who online schools and then successfully transitions to high school’…..(verbatim). Or online school and allow for a reset so that the fight/ flight response is able to recalibrate. The hardest part of this is seeing the shame that goes with having panic and anxiety. She is so fearful of a panic attack, the anticipatory anxiety is the most prohibitive. We are in good hands in terms of our support systems but would like opinions from others who may have had a similar experience–personally or with a child.
Kind querent: If there’s no cause for her anxiety (and I’m glad there isn’t), I’d recommend giving her some supplements she can swallow throughout the school day. There are a lot of anti-anxiety supplements available. Is it an ideal solution? No, but I hate to see her switch to online school without giving everything a good attempt first. There’s L-Theanine, which is the active ingredient in green tea that makes you feel woozy when you drink it. And just about any supplement used in the treatment of insomnia (except melatonin) could be used also for anxiety. (Melatonin affects your hormones, so I’d really only use it for sleep.) You should research some options and find one that fits for her. Tryptophan, valerian, who knows what else? Keep in mind that supplements differ from prescription medications in that they can lose their efficacy, so have her take as little as possible so she doesn’t build up a tolerance. And have her experiment over the weekend so she doesn’t fall asleep in class (although it’s hard to imagine that happening, since she’s so anxious). The benefits here are that you don’t even need to put her on medication. It would also give her a feeling of control, because she could be in charge of meting them out during the day. Make sure she keeps them in a labeled bottle so no one thinks she’s using.