4yo Anxiety Issues, Compulsive Behavior... Teachers think he is OK/fine


New Member
Hi everyone! I could use another opinion. In a nutshell, our just-turned-4yo has always been a little anxious (nervous around people he doesn't know, won't do things other kids enjoy - like sports, birthday parties, play houses, etc.) and that seems to have been compounded since we had our baby, about 7 months ago. Right after baby was born, 4yo had a major sleep regression (totally normal, however...). Then, he started repeating the same four random phrases at bedtime, demanding that we respond to him in a very particular way, and he repeats the phrases over and over for about an hour. I noticed he would repeat these phrases whenever we are somewhere that makes him anxious (like the doctor's office or in any new place). If we don't respond to the phrases in the way he wants us to (we have to answer in very specific ways, in a certain tone as well), he has a panic attack, can't breathe, and one time slammed himself against his bedroom door repeatedly. He will also get out of bed 4 to 6 times at night and we have to go through the whole "phrase repeating rigmarole" all over again. We took him to the pediatrician who saw the "phrase issue" as a red flag and recommended we find a psychologist. I couldn't find a psychologist who had openings, but was able to find a wonderful play therapist who agrees, based on what we've told her, that 4yo has an anxiety issue, possibly Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

I had a parent teacher conference yesterday and when I explained that we have been taking 4yo to see a therapist and that we believe he has an anxiety issue, his teachers told me they think his behavior in and out of the classroom is completely normal: "it's common for 4yo's to get out of bed a lot at night, he is probably manipulating you / stalling by repeating phrases", etc. He also does not exhibit any anxiety at school (although is extremely active and gets in trouble A LOT for hitting, biting, acting out) and I explained that some children with anxiety will act normal at school because they may not emotionally trust their teachers enough to be emotional in front of them; they will often harbor their anxiety and then let it out when they get home from school (yep - our kid acts fine at school, but become emotional, whiny, needy, cries a lot at home). We have been showering him with attention and as much love as we can....poor thing.

Anyway, does anyone have any opinions about:
(A) Should I get a 2nd opinion from another therapist or psychologist regarding whether or not he seems to have an anxiety problem... or is he just too young and I should wait? Both mom and dad sides of his family have histories of anxiety, depression, ADHD/learning disorders, so part of me is concerned that I may be projecting issues onto something that isn't even a problem.
(B) How do I handle teachers who are so dismissive? I did not even have a chance to talk to them about our therapist's recommendation to rephrase their "control your body" directive because it is too confusing to a 4yo... or teach them breathing techniques we use at home.


Well-Known Member
I would go to a neuro psychologist (psychologist with extra trsining in the brain). The behaviors sound very much like my son who has high functioning autism and it took us ten years to get the rigjt diagnosis. But he is now almost 24 and doing great. But it took very specific interventions to get him there. He was a lot like your daughter. He did not adjust well to even minor chsnge. Unfamiliar.people werr not his thing. He was overly sensitive, had high anxiety and meltdowns and repeated what he heard. He was constantly misdiagnosed with ADHD, ODD,bipolar...lots of medications he didnt need.

Teachers are edicators, not experts in childhood disorders. Therapists who talk to kids also do not have the training to diagnose. Go with high level diagnosticians that know hiw to test or ypu could miss simething very important.

Good luck.
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New Member
Found your post! Yes, I think you should continue to look into it, talk to people, but be open to concluding that it's not serious. The repeating phrases stuff seems like it must be something. One trick I use with doctors is to suggest I don't do anything further, as in, "I might not get that x-ray." and see how they react. If they are like, "You should really get that x-ray!" then I will get it, but if they are like, "Okay, let's just wait and see and call me if you have any further problems." then I conclude that the x-ray is probably overkill. I could see doing the same with a child therapist.

You're right that a lot of what you describe (though not the phrases) is similar to my daughter. She had social anxiety up until about 4.25 years. She still has it in new situations. We actually switched her to a smaller preschool where they had really loving teachers. This improved the situation A LOT. Her old school was bigger and the teachers were more like gung-ho camp counselors than loving parent-types. I think she needed the loving atmosphere to feel more at home. Unlike your son, she did show her anxiety at school by withdrawing, but she also showed it at home by being an emotional mess. She would bottle it up at school and then unleash it on us at home.

If possible, you might want to try changing to a smaller or more loving school, or try limiting his hours more at school - if possible. You could try a babysitter instead of school in the afternoons or several days a week. Some kids just can't handle that much school at that age. I know though that arrangements like that are often hard to put together. But we were helped a lot by going Mon-Wed-Fri rather than the whole week.