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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Anxiety Over Safety of Children

07/14/2005

Question:

I am a 34 year old mother of 5 children, youngest being 19 months old and oldest being 16 years old. I also am an RN so I do have some educational background in medicine obviously, but helping others is easy compared to helping yourself. My problem is, I have become so "fearful" lately of something "bad happening" to my children, particularly my 3 youngest. These fears have always been there, but have been consuming me for the last 2 years. I have gone overboard with safety precautions in the home, I only work very part time and at night because I feel only "I" can protect them the "best" so to speak, my husband is great, but not even he can satisfy my obsessions with "watching" them, making sure they are safe, no wondering too far or out of sight etc..I have horrible pictures/visions of "things" happening to them, to the point that i can vividly "picture" one of them floating face down in our pool, or seeing them in a "casket" then I start to panic more when these visions enter my head, I will see news clips of terrible things happeing to children and I picture that being my children and feel like I am actually grieving "like the real parents" would be. I feel guilty if I have to leave my kids, actually more like paranoid, I can`t shake the "what if`s" anymore. It literally is consuming me and I`m so paranoid of something bad happening to them. I do have these fears with other family members but not at all to this extent. I am having crying episodes at night because I can`t shake the horrible feelings of "doom" and the pictures/visions in my head, it`s like I feel I have to be on guard 24/7 just in case something is going to happen. Obviously I am going to seek help from a professional, I know I have some serious issues going on here, I actually even KNOW how irrational I`m being, I know this is abnormal, but what I"m wondering is if this sounds more like atypical anxiety disorder or am I more on the lines of OCD or flat out paranoid. I do want to mention though that I do go out of the home and do still lead a semi-normal life, but do not go out without the children (unless for work) I do not trust anyone to watch them, so obviously this had lead to a "boring" relationship with the husband as we have no social life, not even a couple times a year. Please help.......I also am wondering about medications? what are the most successful meds for this type of "anxiety" (I of course am worried about the weight gain factor being 20lbs overweight to begin with, I surely don`t need to fall into depression with more weight problems) Thank you very much......

Answer:

You are describing classic symptoms of an anxiety disorder.  Generalized anxiety, panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive disorders all exist on a spectrum of anxiety, and frequently there is overlap.  For example, generalized anxiety, an overwhelming worry about many things (often leading to worrying about the worrying) can be associated with occasional feelings of panic, or lead to the need to perform certain tasks in a certain manner (for example, checking locked doors in order three times each night) that become compulsive acts.

I encourage you to check out the weblinks about anxiety, but most importantly, you need to get yourself to your primary care doctor or a mental health care specialist for evaluation.  The good news about anxiety is that excellent treatments exist.  Both medications (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like prozac, zoloft, paxil and others are generally used as first line) and counseling (especially a technique called cognitive-behavioral therapy) can decrease or alleviate symptoms in significant numbers of anxiety sufferers.  The therapy takes time, however, usually several months, but your disorder developed over several years and won't go away overnight.

I encourage you to get help right away.  You have some good insight into your problems, but need expert medical help to combat this illness.

Good luck.

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Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati