What Is Causing Your Child’s Anxiety?

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

A recent study shows that 20% of teenage girls have experienced major bouts with depression. But where do these feelings begin? In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discuss the role that anxiety plays in a child’s upbringing.


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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warriors Way Podcast. I'm Doctor Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here, we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warriors Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment, and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information visit amenclinics.com.

Tana Amen: The Brain Warriors Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information visit brainmdhealth.com. Welcome to the Brain Warriors Way Podcast. And stay tuned for a special code for a discount to Amen Clinics for a full evaluation, as well as any of our supplements at brainmdhealth.com.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Thank you so much for continuing with us on the Brain Warriors Way, You're in a War. 20% of teenage girls meet the criteria for major depression.

Tana Amen: That's very scary.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And we actually had a very interesting incident happen with our eight-year-old niece, who I adore, who's so cute.

So, we've been telling you a little bit about this family that we love and we're caring for, Tana's sister, who got her kids taken away, and then reunited last Mother's Day. And then, at the end of October, middle of October they came down to Southern California where we live. And we've been shepherding them. I think that's a good word. Tamara's been doing what she's supposed to do. She's-

Tana Amen: Yeah, amazing actually.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... got a job.

Tana Amen: Two jobs.

Dr. Daniel Amen: She actually has two jobs at the moment. But one of her jobs is, she works at night.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And when she wouldn't be home, the eight-year-old, Amelie's older sister, who's very responsible, and they have a very good relationship, would watch her and put her to bed. But Amelie wouldn't go to sleep. And she would-

Tana Amen: Well, you can imagine there's a lot of fear there and a lot of anxiety because of what had happened. So, where a lot of kids, it might not be a rational fear, thinking that their parents aren't coming home, for her, it was a rational fear to some degree.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It was a rational fear-

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... because they'd been taken-

Tana Amen: Right, and they didn't see their mom for a very long time.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And the act of being taken was traumatizing for everyone, both of the kids, for the mom, and so on. So, when I heard about the, she would cry, she wouldn't go to sleep, when Mom got home and it's 10:30 at night, and she has school the next day, and she's crying, and still can't go to sleep 'cause she's so upset, that I'm like, "Oh. We have to help her with that."

Tana Amen: So, this actually took me way back, because a very traumatic time in my life was when I was nine years old, so one year older that Amelie. And very similar experience. I was never taken away from my mom, but I had a very, very chaotic childhood. Very, sort of-

Dr. Daniel Amen: And you were a latch-key kid.

Tana Amen: Yeah, latch-key. I was a take-care-of-myself. So, from the time I was very, very little, I'd have to walk home, lock the doors, wait for someone to get home, which was often very late. So, you know-

Dr. Daniel Amen: How old were you when that started?

Tana Amen: I was either five or six. So, very young.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Wow.

Tana Amen: But we didn't have a choice. When you're poor, I mean, it's easy to say that that's not safe and that's not responsible. And It's not. But what do you do when you're a very poor parent and you don't have resources? And it was just really hard.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, so the laws are about 11.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right?

Tana Amen: But we were poor and we were not in a position, at times, to be able to do certain things. So anyways, that's what was going on. So, my mom, at one point, she got a job working very late at night. She was working as a bartender, it was her third job. So, she was working three jobs. I mean, my mom's an amazing human being, as far as, she is not a quitter. And she's actually, today now, very successful. But at the time, we were struggling. And she was working her third job, which was the bartending job, and so, she would not get off until 2:00 a.m.

And so, I could not sleep, and like clockwork, I would wake up ... Bam, wide awake. And so, she would sometimes, thinking that I'm asleep and that I would not know the difference, go out to breakfast with some of the people that she worked with. And if my mom didn't get home right when she was supposed to get home, I would go into a full-blown panic.

Now, to take you back to how long ago this was, I would go through the phone book, calling every single 24-hour restaurant there was, and have her paged. And I'd be throwing up by the time she got home, couldn't go to school the next day, complete hysteria.

So, I can relate to this story that my niece is going through. It's heartbreaking. And I still remember that panic, going through that. It's hard.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I wish I would have known you then.

Tana Amen: I know. It was really hard.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I'm not sure I would have known what to do.

So, when I heard about this, Amelie and I had actually read Captain Snout and the Super Power Questions, which is the book that I released in September. I love this book. It's about how to not believe every stupid thought you have. And so, I'm thinking to myself, "You need to reread this book with her and talk her through what her thoughts are and what her feelings are." And so, almost immediately, after I heard this was going on, I'm over at their house, and we're on the couch, and we're reading Captain Snout.

And Captain Snout is about how to eliminate the ANTS, the Automatic Negative Thoughts that steal your happiness, and in her case, that were actually driving her panic attacks and her anxiety. And as we were going through, we're not just reading, we're also talking about each of the pages. And when I read the fortune- telling ANT, that's where you arbitrarily predict things are gonna turn out badly even though you don't have evidence for it. She looked at me, in her little, high, soft voice, and said, "That's my ANT."

Tana Amen: Aww.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And so, we talked about Mommy won't come home, Mommy will die, we'll be all alone, something bad will happen.

Tana Amen: We'll go into foster care.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And we've got Captain Snout to address each of the ANTS ... "Is that true? Is that 100% true? You actually have my phone number. You're never going back to foster care."

And it was the act of going through the thoughts that were stealing her mind.

Tana Amen: By the way, you are a good man.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That's another funny story we'll tell you someday. "Cause I've had the opposite be told to me, "You are not a good man."

Tana Amen: By the same person, by the same four-year-old.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The same four-year-old. Anyways, after that night, she's not had a panic attack.

Tana Amen: It's amazing, yeah.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right? What were your thoughts?

Tana Amen: But, I don't know if you heard the follow-up. So, my sister ... this is her daughter we're talking about ... she told me two days ago, she said, "Every single night now, Amelie insists on her reading that book with her so that she can reinforce killing the ANTS." So, they have to do that every night now.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Wow.

Tana Amen: That's her routine, is she needs to reinforce killing the ANT.

Dr. Daniel Amen: She needs to develop new pathways in her brain.

Tana Amen: But she insists on it, like, it's her routine, is to do that.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I love that. See, that's good routine rather than screaming and crying and not sleeping, which is another routine that is just damaging.

So, when you were nine, what were the thoughts going through your head?

Tana Amen: Well, I had grown up in a very chaotic home. These girls grew up in a very chaotic environment.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, I would think they're sort of similar.

Tana Amen: Very similar. I mean, my mom ... yeah, there were some differences. But in a lot of ways there were a lot of parallels. And so, my mother, even though she was gone a lot because she was so busy working, she was the only person in my life who I didn't think was crazy, who, she adored me, who, she worked so hard ... Yes, she was gone a lot, but I knew that she-

Dr. Daniel Amen: What were the thoughts?

Tana Amen: ... loved me. Same thing. She wasn't going to come home. In my case, where would I go? There was no one else. I mean, my dad and I, I didn't even see him, I didn't talk to him. So, there was really no other stability other than my mom. So, that was really it. So, if something happened to her, I had no idea what would happen. And just that huge amount of uncertainty was overwhelming. It was terrifying. And everyone else in my life ... Forget the idea of not knowing where I was going. I'd rather not know where I was going than to ever think that I was going with any one of them. So, it was terrifying. So, it was really scary.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So, if you have a child in your life who is anxious or depressed, Captain Snout is just such a great book. I mean, the idea is, whenever you feel sad, or mad, or nervous, or anxious, or out of control, write down what you're thinking. And then, ask yourself, "Is it true? Is it 100% true?" And then, Captain Snout would go through a number of different ANTS, fortune-telling, mind-reading, all-or-nothing, blaming ANTS. And it's just so powerful. Please don't believe every stupid thought you have.