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Author Topic: How do I help my 8 year old with intrusive morbid thoughts  (Read 15713 times)

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Offline worriedmommy

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How do I help my 8 year old with intrusive morbid thoughts
« on: July 21, 2009, 10:22:14 PM »
This is a tough post to write but we are very concerned about our son who is 8 1/2 yrs old. He has always seemed a bit 'anxious' and the past year has become very concerned with anything he does 'wrong' and confesses everything to us each day (ie: i swore 3x at school, i kicked a boy by mistake, etc). We never really thought a lot about it = we just thought he was overly concerned with being a 'good boy'.

Recently my husband and I were away from our son for almost 5 wks while we completed an adoption overseas. Around week 4 he suddenly became very distressed at home and we would talk to him daily where he would cry and tell us how he was having 'bad thoughts' pop into his head. When we got home we quickly realized how serious his concerns and anxiety was about this. From the 'research' I've done online everything seems to point to "INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS" where he cannot control or manage the scary and bad images and thoughts that are coming into his head all day long. He exhibits no other OCD repetitive type actions but he cannot stop himself from thinking really bad things.

He shares some of his thoughts with me and they are alarming - about hurting people, making people bloody, hating the way people look, not feeling like he loves his family, all really scary stuff for a boy of 8 years old to be dealing with.

I would love to hear advice, experience or anything that may help us get him through this. He is the sweetest, most gentlest and loved son ever and it is killing me to see him so upset. He has even mentioned how if he hurt himself he wouldn't have to feel these horrible thoughts anymore.

What do we do to help him?

(ps: he is on a waiting list to see a counsellor but it looks like it will be a month before they will see him. I don't know how he will last a month without having some help whether that be someone to talk to, meds or a combination of both). It is hard to believe that things were fine 5 wks ago for him and now things seem so very confusing and sad and scary for him!

HELP.
A very worried mom who loves her son very much!
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Offline marc

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Re: How do I help my 8 year old with intrusive morbid thoughts
« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2009, 10:42:05 PM »
First of all, welcome to anxietyzone. You will find this site helpful as
you can talk to others that have similar issues like yours. What you are
going through must be very difficult. His symptoms seem to me like
classic OCD. If it was my child, I would give him as much attention as
possible and try to talk to him in such a way where he will feel more
comfortable with everything in general. I would not show him any signs of
how concerned you are with his thinking as this may make him more upset.
I would try to talk out his thoughts with him and help him know you are
with him all the way and still love him very much and care about him.
I think it is possible that your 5 week separation from him may have
triggered his sudden dormant OCD. (This is per my client/friend who
is a psychologist). His advice is to try to get him to therapy earlier,
even if you have to pay for it. Hope this answer helps.
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Offline shrublet

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Re: How do I help my 8 year old with intrusive morbid thoughts
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2009, 10:59:51 PM »
Hi WorriedMommy,

I was actually quite astounded when I read this as this is exactly the behavior I had when I was around his age. In fact, the wording is exactly the same. I used to have an uncontrollable compulsion to "confess" every single bad thing or bad thought that entered into my head over the course of a day, and I too referred to them as "bad thoughts." They were extremely upsetting at the time as I felt like I could not control the thoughts popping into my head. My thoughts also ran along the lines of violent ideas (which I would never act upon), "sexual things", and so on.

Looking back on it now, I do believe that the thoughts themselves are not the issue. All children can have "disturbing" thoughts (though, from an adult perspective, a lot of these thoughts aren't terribly disturbing. They can be upsetting to kids as they do not understand.) It's possible that your little boy is more upset by the feeling that he is unable to control the thoughts or stop them from happening. I don't believe it's important to stop the thoughts from happening, but it is important to stop the resultant ruminating over them because, of course, the mere act of worrying over a thought will keep it around. Sorta like that thing where someone challenges you to not think of a pink elephant, no matter what you do.

It's possible, too, that your boy doesn't understand that these thoughts are normal in people of all ages. Everyone can have violent, disturbing or strange thoughts once in a while. I know for me, I continually needed to 'confess my sins', as it were, because I was afraid that by thinking these things, there was the possibility I would do them. Confession also gave me a sense of relief. Oftentimes, OCD behavior is constrained to a single thing and other behavior can be entirely normal. I think that this behavior has less to do with wanting to be a "good boy," though that can certainly be part of it. When I think about how I felt at the time, the intense guilt came more from not confessing something rather than actually doing something... I never, ever had the desire to actually act upon the thoughts I had. The idea that you cannot control your thoughts can be very frightening. I do agree with Marc... it does sound akin to OCD behavior. In my case, I still have similar behavior as an adult and have both mild OCD and anxiety.

I am really glad that you're doing all that you can to help your sweet little boy. When I look back on how I felt with my "bad thoughts," it breaks my heart. My mother also has experience with mental illness (not to say your boy has a mental illness, of course) and so she was very understanding. I should also mention that I am an only child and had a pretty picturesque childhood, so I do not think it is a question of bad parenting at all. Do you have any other children?

I am going to keep thinking about this because it makes me so sad to hear that your boy is having a tough time. I'll try to remember what finally solved it for me, if that would help.
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"We have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night." (Tombstone epitaph of two amateur astronomers)

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Offline worriedmommy

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Re: How do I help my 8 year old with intrusive morbid thoughts
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2009, 09:24:46 AM »
Thank you to both of you for your replies.
It was a tough night again. He seems to really suffer from it at bed time, i guess b/c he can't 'still his mind' and just go to sleep. Last night he seemed to have some panics and his body would go stiff for a couple seconds and he'd cry after and tell me more of his bad thoughts.
He thinks that b/c he keeps thinking the thoughts (about hurting people or stabbing someone, etc) that he maybe wants to do these things. He is so very confused and I feel completely helpless. The resources in our area suck and with summer here, everyone is on vacation all the time and the waiting list to see anyone seems endless. I feel sick about him having to wait to get some help.

Sometimes when he talks about his bad thoughts and says he feels like sometimes he might do the things he is impulsively thinking about... i wonder "could he?" or "would he?". i hate to think this but at what point do i worry that these are more than just thoughts. He seemed so distressed last night that the thoughts he was having over and over where things that maybe he will do and then he always cries and says "I hope i don't ever do it". He is so scared.

Shrublet: yes, we have 3 children. our son who is 8 and suffering right now, his sister is 6 and we just adopted his other sister and she is 7 months old. i don't know if a combination of the new baby in the house along with our 5 wks away from him (while we were adopting her) has triggered this. I have such guilt wondering if b/c we had to be away so long that I caused this.

I am so stressed out worrying about him.
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Offline shrublet

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Re: How do I help my 8 year old with intrusive morbid thoughts
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2009, 04:31:30 PM »
Hey WorriedMommy,

I'm so sorry to hear that this little guy is so distressed. I actually called my own mom to ask her what she did when I was in a similar situation. Her advice was to continue to be open with your son, and allow him to talk to you, or "confess", as much as he wants. And also to not make him feel like what he's going through is bad or wrong... it sounds like you're doing both of these things wonderfully. :yes: It sounds like it's something some kids just have to go through, especially if they're a bit prone to being anxious.

I also want to personally add that it might be helpful to communicate to him that it's totally normal to get thoughts like that. Maybe tell him that you've had thoughts like that too. And make it really clear to him that thinking about something is not the same as doing something or even wanting to do something. The fact that he's so upset about them pretty much shows that he would NEVER do anything like that. I think this is the most important thing to make clear to him because it sounds like he's so worried that he's going to lose control.

I'm sure you've come across it at some point that these kinds of intrusive and distressing thoughts are pretty characteristic about OCD, including the fear that one might actually carry out the thoughts. I came across this quote:

Quote
Another problem these sufferers seem to be burdened with is a nagging doubt that causes them to ask themselves," What kind of person am I that could think such thoughts? Why would I think these things if I didn't really want to do them.  I must be a psychopath or a pervert." Not being able to resolve this doubt obviously results in a lot of anxiety... It is important for sufferers to understand that the thoughts are just thoughts, and do not cause anxiety, but rather the anxiety is caused by the views sufferers take of the thoughts. They need to overcome the idea that, "If I think it, it must be real."  It should be noted that people who suffer from these thoughts have no history of violence, nor do they ever act out on their ideas or urges.  Although OCD can project extreme and bizarre thoughts into people's minds, it is not the thoughts or the anxiety, as much as people's solutions to having the thoughts that represents the real heart of the problem.

Normally I'd link you to the article but the treatment the author suggests doesn't seem like it'd do more harm than good with kids. I can still give you the link if you'd like it though. Maybe it'd be helpful to ask your son to think a little deeper and ask him what he's really scared of? I am not very experienced with kids at all so I don't want to give you too many suggestions... However, I can say with certainty that your little boy would never act upon these thoughts. I'd also like to mention that this kind of problem seems to be transient and not necessarily full-blown OCD, though I'd suggest having him talk to a counsellor, if possible and if he feels comfortable with it.  :yes:

It also makes sense that the stress he's under may have triggered these worries, but it's important not to blame yourself here, too. I remember that around the time I was having bad thoughts, my parents had just gotten divorced and my mother had met a man that I didn't get along with that well. Has he always been kind of a worrier or is this a brand-new thing for him?

Anyways... I hope I haven't said anything upsetting.  :( Like I said, I'm not really familiar with kids... I'm just trying to think back to my own experiences (because it sounds so similar!) and try to remember how I felt and what may have helped me at the time.
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"We have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night." (Tombstone epitaph of two amateur astronomers)

"All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason." (Immanuel Kant)

Offline ocdengineer

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Re: How do I help my 8 year old with intrusive morbid thoughts
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2009, 08:06:15 PM »
WorriedMommie,

I also had the exact same problem at that age roughly.  I had thoughts of violence against people I loved and I also was very fearful of things I didn't understand.  I thought about life and death and the universe and how large it was.  This made me feel very fearful and also insignificant in general.  The thoughts are probably normal.  I think most kids have violant negative thoughts, but only some are aware of these thoughts.  The fact that he is aware is a sign of intelligence, so your child will probably turn out to be a very bright adult.  My parents also took the same approach of being there to listen to the thoughts.  Another thing you may want to do is research Pure O and help your son learn to recognize unhelpful thoughts from useful thoughts.  All humans have ridiculous amounts of thoughts run through their head every day.  Many of these thoughts are useless, nonsense, etc.  The problem is that some people, your son, myself, and others have, is that we latch onto a particular thoughts and ruminate about it.  I remember that it naturally went away on its own for me.  I started to read a lot of books and many of them were probably very advanced for my age, but it helped a lot.  I read "The Way of the Peaceful Warrior" and all kinds of other books that really put life in perspective.  I think my fear of death was what caused my anxiety.  I had stomach aches all the time from my anxiety.  I would miss a lot of school and also deal with intrusive thoughts before bed.  Many times I was very afraid when away from my parents that somehow they would get hurt and die, or that I would lose them somehow.  But when I was with them I was concerned that maybe I would hurt them in some way.  It was rough time, but I got through it and so will your son.

I want to add something that I think is very important.  I was not medicated and I hope you do not medicate your son.  The medications available for this type of issue are serious and there is very little evidence that they do anything at all.  The one thing that is very concerning is the increased incidences of child ******* when taking these meds.  I don't believe these meds should be used on any children.  Their brains are still developing and will continue through high school, so any medication like this could cause damage to the development of their brains.  This will probably come back later in life like it did for myself and shrublet, but we have both managed to manage our disorder without meds as a child.  

Do some reading and help him to understand what is really going on.  Pure O is probably theissue and the sooner you can teach him to cope the better.

I wish you and your son all the luck int he world.  I know this is a tough time for everyone.  Just love him and it will work itself out.

Take care,
OE
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Offline ocdengineer

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Re: How do I help my 8 year old with intrusive morbid thoughts
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2009, 08:06:56 PM »
Check out my blog.  It has a lot of info on me and OCD.  Oh yea, and to alleviate your fears of a rough life for your son.  It may not be easy, but I am now married with two little girls of my own.  I am an Aerospace Engineer and working on my Masters degree in management.  I think your son will be fine with some TLC from his parents and maybe some coping techniques.

Take care,
OE
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Offline laura124

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Re: How do I help my 8 year old with intrusive morbid thoughts
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2009, 10:29:59 PM »
I think you have been given excellent advice by everyone.  I would try to calm your son's fears of the thoughts by telling him that everyone gets those kind of thoughts sometimes and that they really don't mean that you would actually act on them......and that he is being very honest by sharing those thoughts with you. 

Can I add that, although you may be a little freaked out and perhaps scared a bit with all this, do not convey that fear at all to your son.  In fact, I would basically undermine the whole thing and make it no big deal.  Talk to your husband about it in private, when you know your son cannot hear you.  Make light of the thoughts.  Keep your concerns to yourself.

I'm saying this because you want to make sure that your son is not using the thoughts to gain extra attention--especially in light of the fact that you have just adopted another child.  Perhaps the anxiety caused by the recent separation and the addition of another child triggered some of the thoughts, he shared the thoughts and got an overwhelming response with tons of attention on him and didn't really mind it at all.  Then it would make sense that he would continue with more thoughts......  This is only hypothetical, I don't know your son or family or anything and I'm only hypothesizing.

I would think that the important thing here, before your son can receive counseling, is to do your best to alleviate any fears your son may have with the thoughts. Its like the negative thoughts feed off the fear, you know?  That's all I can think of saying because everyone else before me has given you stellar advice. 
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Offline worriedmommy

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Re: How do I help my 8 year old with intrusive morbid thoughts
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2009, 08:13:07 PM »
Thank you for all the helpful advice. Things are by no means better but my son seems to be coping a bit better with the thoughts.
We were able to get him a rush appointment to see a 'behavioural pediatrician'. That was this past week and he spoke with our son alone for about 10 minutes before we went in and joined. He explained the obsessive thoughts and his theory behind them and discussed with our son how fearing and worrying about the thoughts only brings them back more and more - like someone said: the thoughts feed off of his fear of them.

He did not pull out his prescription pad or even mention the idea of medications which was a big relief for my husband and I. He will be seeing our son on a bi-weekly basis and teaching him different coping mechanism's. This past week he taught him a breathing/meditation exercise which involved deep thoughtful breathing and visualizing lying by the river under a tree in the fall - each time a leaf falls down into the river it carries away any thoughts that come to our son. Our son says it does help relax him and he has fallen asleep a few times while my husband talked the meditation through with him.

Bed time is the worst and last night he told me he wished i would chain him to the bed because he is afraid he will do one of his thoughts. That broke my heart: he is putting these thoughts on to himself and thinking badly of himself as a person. All we want is a happy healthy life for him and I hope we can do all we have to, to help him through this.

His behavioural pediatrician suggested 2 books for us  (the parents) to read and then we are signed up to take an intensive course in 'cognitive behavioural therapy'  - basically learning the tools we'll need to get our son through this and help him. I've read that cognitive behavioural therapy is the a good thing for OCD/obsessional thoughts so I hope we are approaching this the right way. his therapist/pediatrician will also continue to teach him coping mechanism's each appt.

He (the doctor) stressed that we not give our son extra attention when these episodes arrive and try and act completely unaffected when he talks about them. Listen but continue to dismiss the thoughts as normal thoughts that lots of children have and for him not to be fearful or concerned with them too much.
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Offline MissDaisy

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Re: How do I help my 8 year old with intrusive morbid thoughts
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2009, 12:44:56 PM »
I think it is good news that you will learn about cognitive-behavioral therapy. It works wonders on people with OCD (like me!!).  I am really impressed with the way you are dealing with this.  I am sure everything will work out just fine because you really love your son and he feels it so it will help him go through this.  The fact that he sees you care about him and that you don't make a big deal out of this will surely help him.

Keep coming back to let us know how it goes.

Love to you and your family.

MissDaisy
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Offline ocdengineer

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Re: How do I help my 8 year old with intrusive morbid thoughts
« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2009, 06:58:10 PM »
From what you just said, it sounds like you have found one hell of a doctor!  That is rare and I encourage everything he said.  It is good to see good advice from a doctor rather than 10 minutes and a prescription.  Keep him around!  Take care of that kid and listen to your doctor!

Later,
OE
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Offline mfs

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Re: How do I help my 8 year old with intrusive morbid thoughts
« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2009, 05:43:14 PM »
Hi. My daughter is 5 1/2 years old and she just started having these intrusive thoughts and it sounds like you are going through exactly what I am going through. Please give me any advise that you may have, it seems as though you have been dealing with this a bit longer than I have. When she first started having these "thoughts" they were sexual in nature and my husband and I took her to see a sexual abuse doctor with the fear that something had happened to her. They felt sure there wasn't any form of sexual abuse, but mentioned getting counseling with the problem continued because they would be more concerned that she had an obsessive compulsive disorder. She got better for about a month, but then started "confessing" everything to me, even "I took an extra cracker in the cafeteria today". Now, she has thoughts about killing herself, or me or other loved ones. She does not perform any ritualistic behavior that I am aware of yet. It was really nice to hear other responses from you guys who have suffered from this form of anxiety and have made great lives for yourselves. As a parent, I'm so worried about her quality of life and happiness and I just want to make sure we are doing everything we can (without medicine) to ensure that we are doing the best we can for here. We saw a psychologist last week who was great, but we are waiting on a counseling session to be set up. I'm so worried for her, she gets so frustrated and I can tell she feels so helpless!
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Offline ocdengineer

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Re: How do I help my 8 year old with intrusive morbid thoughts
« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2009, 10:09:37 PM »
Again, this is identical to my experience, but she is a bit younger than I was.  Read my blog.  The first post is my story from onset (2nd grade) to present.  I think it will help you a bit.  Sounds like the start of Pure O, but it is really too early to tell.  Stay away from meds!  Kids should never be taking any medication in my opinion.  The long term damage is just not worth the short term benefit.  Almost always, the young child will be fine for years with no meds after the childhood onset and then it comes back in young adulthood.  I hope all is well.  I can only imagine what it must be like.  I have two little girls and my big fear is that one or both of them have to deal with this.

Take care,
OE
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Offline monkey

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Re: How do I help my 8 year old with intrusive morbid thoughts
« Reply #13 on: November 09, 2009, 12:03:06 AM »
aw, poor guy. when i was little i would lay in bed and make my mom lay with me and then id make her 'guess' what i was nervous about because i was too scared to say it, because if i said it, it would be 'real' or more likely to happen. i had an issue with thinking i could *****. i would be scared to sit by an electrical socket because i thought i would stick something in it. i was scared to be home alone. i felt bad for my parents because it wasnt something id act out on, it was i thought about it all the time. i was also always trying to always be a good girl.

as of now its good he can verbally tell you his thoughts instead of just keeping them to himself, it will help him get better. keep us updated. ill be thinking about him!
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