“She would do everything she could not to be involved, but if she was involved, what you would see is somebody very withdrawn, head down, not having eye contact, not wanting to participate,” her mother said.
After seeing Mayo doctors, Georgiann was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. The latter is an umbrella term that includes social phobias, general anxiety or fears of specific things such as enclosed spaces.
Georgiann started attending group therapy and participating in “exposure” therapy in which she was gradually exposed to things that made her anxious. To address her fear of engaging people, she would go into another room and call her therapist, or run to the coffee shop and work up the nerve to buy a cup.
One by one, her fears have started to melt.
Albano said parents often feel guilt, but shouldn’t harbor blame: “Some parents are very aware, especially for their older children, that they started giving in and accommodating the anxiety — letting the children sleep in their bed, letting their child take days off school. It was harmless in the moment, but then they do recognize the pattern that emerges. So parents do beat themselves up, but they’re not to blame.”
Her new book, “You and Your Anxious Child,” helps parents differentiate anxiety from everyday stress and spot warning signs even in toddlers.
“Take your toddlers into the Mall of America. If they’re not running off from you to the candy or the toy store, you need to ask yourself, ‘Why are they clinging to me?’” she said. “Take a note of it and then encourage them. ‘Let’s take a look at the rides. Do you want to go on (one)?’ There are different things parents can do that will help to encourage their kids before these things take hold.”