Newly diagnosed 7 year old with angry, out of control behavior

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    • #113643

      My son just turned 7 and is typically beautifully behaved — polite, friendly, funny, smart, etc. The teacher says most of the time he’s “the teacher’s pet” and takes the class to higher levels of learning and is everyone’s friend. He has had problems since preK with separation anxiety that sometimes led to emotional, anxious outbursts that might mean he would knock everything off the tables, etc. We took him to tons of psychologists and therapists and they all said he has some anxiety issues (but limited to school) and feels things strongly but they thought he would grow out of it. They gave us some tips for how to manage things. His K year and first semester of first grade were pretty decent and we thought he was growing out of the problems — occasional issues, but nothing extreme. Then this spring everything has fallen apart. He has escaped and run away from school, had outbursts where he totally destroyed his classroom or administrators’ offices, and started these behaviors at home — screaming, throwing things, kicking/hitting. Today he refused to go to school and then ended up running out the front door later and I had to chase him around the neighborhood and he threw a large piece of concrete at me.

      When he isn’t in one of these moments, he’s still essentially a dream child. All of my friends and family are astounded he has these problems because he is nothing like that most of the time. The psychiatrist we just started going to thinks it is anxiety and ADHD — he doesn’t seem to have much problem with attention, at least with school work (makes all As, finishes assignments), but he has the other symptoms. We started on VERY low dose Vyvanse on Saturday and clearly are not seeing an improvement yet. We are supposed to increase it tomorrow.

      I guess I partly just wanted to share this situation, and then wanted to know– is there anyone else out there with this kind of a situation? Where you have a kid who mostly is behaving great and doesn’t have attention issues really, but this aggression/anger suddenly explodes from seemingly nowhere after a period of improvement? If so, any suggestions on what we could or should be doing??

    • #113657

      Have you heard of the five love languages? Everyone have different things that make them feel loved. If they don’t feel loved, they may behave negatively and get very anxious.

      Mine are words of affirmation and acts of service (things people do), so I would feel very pressurized by high expectations of being a dream child and cornered by actions such as when people keep trying to ‘talk and fix’ issues. I think it’s the physical distance that scares me when they do that. I would beat myself up about not being in control of myself for certain issues that ‘doesn’t meet expectations’ by throwing, breaking things and yelling a lot. And feel worse after that so as a child I can become violent for a period of time if the issue isn’t solved.

      It’s contradicting, so it can also lead to a lot of anxiety. But sitting down and talking immediately doesn’t resolve it because I need to calm down first. Like your child, I behave normally most of the time and seem like the type who never gets angry. Angry outbursts may be from suppressed emotions over time and not suddenly angry bomb in the brain.

      If you noticed your child’s strong reaction – throwing something at you when you try to find him and go home together – sometimes your action seem threatening to him as it makes him feel cornered.

      Maybe he also feels like he has a split personality because he can be calm and also extremely volatile so it can make him anxious. I was scared when I suddenly started screaming and breaking things in my room in my twenties because I haven’t done that in ages and had things ‘under control’. I was also scared about the ‘sit down and fix it’ talks although people mean well. The more concerned questions, the more anxious I become. I don’t feel comfortable talking to people when I have issues because I feel like they are imposing solutions on me but not understanding how I feel. I would also wander outside for hours because I felt a lot of pressure from all these concerned people and live up to their expectations of being a dream child.

      Some suggestions :
      As your son is quite young, and don’t seem comfortable about talking about his anxieties or problems, don’t confront him. He is probably aware that he is facing some issues with things in life but too emotionally overwhelmed to fix it now.

      1) maybe when he is feeling OK, you can gently tell him short stories from picture books about how characters deal with difficult emotions like anxiety. I read a book about this little girl who wanted to live in a tree house. Her father built it for her but she eventually felt anxious and lonely, so it ended with him telling her if she needs warm soup, warm bed and a hug, she can always come home. Sometimes anxiety is also a very lonely feeling especially when you feel nobody understands. Speaking from a third person point of view on storytelling reduces the pressure on him.

      Don’t say: It’s OK to feel anger but not OK to hit people.

      Say: Do you know that I feel angry too and don’t want to talk about it to anyone? Let him ask you why and what you do about it. Maybe you read a book or watch cartoons that make you laugh. Ask him if he has a favorite cartoon character and what he/she does. Personally I like Robin from teen titans because he is calm when everyone else is panicking. But he does silly things himself sometimes.

      Don’t speak to him in a way that sounds like you are talking down to him (giving him orders) and judging him. The 7 year old kid I live with doesn’t like to be treated like a kid when I talk to her, but she likes other childish things like lollipops and playing with toys because she is still a child.

      2) Let him have an outlet for his frustration with time on his own. When I’m stressed, I may do badminton drills where I keep practicing smash shots or play soccer with my friends. I kick the ball really hard but not at them, I’m just kicking it across the field to score a goal. You can play sports with him as long as you don’t stick too close to him physically, show him how to do it safely and let him do it on his own while you sit at a bench.

      After a few hours, when I sit down with my friends, we may start talking about stuff. Giving people the freedom to choose when and what to talk to you about makes them more comfortable with talking to you as they don’t feel cornered.

      • #114038

        My 6 year old does this as well. He is adopted and has some trauma and abandonment issues. You did not mention this in your story, so likely not it. I took him to a neurologist after seeing several psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors and they all had something different to say. Several have thought ADHD and he is on very low doses of one Dynaval that helps a little (takes the edge off some), other types did not work at all. I too am thinking anxiety, but it may not be social, as he will do the same thing at home with just me (single father), so there isn’t a social situation. I do know one of his triggers at school as been certain types of projects as he has a super high IQ (97%) but a very low coding or processing speed score. This relates to processing what he knows in his head but cannot accomplish easily with his hands so he is easily frustrated. There have been times where he does wonderful for months at a time then has these behaviors at random for months at a time, so I have learned not to think (Great things are getting better!) just yet.

        I know for my son there are multiple issues going on and therefore looking for an easy answer that will fit all of his issues may not be realistic so we keep working on it and I keep learning about ideas and try them out. I know this may not help with a specific thing you can do to help him (other than rule out biological issues first as was already noted). Then just be observant, ask him what happened (once he is calmer). While at 6 my son usually says he doesn’t know, but I am hoping to help him continue to think about it so at some level of maturity he will begin to notice for himself and ideally this will also increase his ability to monitor himself and his needs where the coping skills he is learning can help him.

        Some have even though Asberger’s Syndrome but all the Dr’s seem to agree he doesn’t fit the Spectrum criteria related to Autism. I too would love to find something that would help him as I know he is miserable when in that space as is everyone around him at that moment.

    • #113981

      Hello, It was refreshing to read your post because I also have a son who exhibits similar behavior. He just turned 8. ADHD and Anxiety run heavily in our family but he doesn’t have any problem concentrating on school work and is advanced in his classes, getting top scores. It could be that he’s working terribly hard to keep it together and perform and then breaks down at home. But, we are still trying to figure things out. We did speak to a psychologist about his behavior and she feels that he has separation and school anxiety. We started bringing him to a therapist to learn some skills and tools. We are just in the preliminary phases of therapy so I wish I could offer more tips. The only thing we have set up so far is a ‘safe place’ where he can go to calm down. The hard part, as you know, is getting him to go to the safe place while he’s in an emotional fit. Our job is to try to find the triggers and get him there before he explodes. Our therapist suggested buying a dog bed, bean bag, or large fluffy pillows that are in a specific place for him to go and calm down. We set up a small, play teepee and fitted it with a thick, foam, dog bed, a stuffed animal that he brings back and forth to therapy and a blanket. He loves it! We also tried aromatherapy bracelets but he would break them while at school. The therapist saw this as a sign that he likes sensory stimulation so now he has squishies and other fidget tools to bring to school to help reorganize his brain when he’s feeling anxious. He’s also supposed to use 4,3,2,1, a common therapy tool, for calming down. However, when he’s in his emotional rage, it’s too late to use it, so again, using it before he blows up is key. My son also meets with the school counselor once a week. So far, this has helped him calm down at school tremedously. These are challenging and heartbreaking to watch as a parent and my son confides in me that he wants them to stop. We’re working on things together with compassion. I’m interested in learning more about your son being diagnosed with ADHD. Did he undergo all the testing for it?

      • This reply was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by AstorMama.
    • #113986

      The same happens to my 7 year old here. He usually gets better with magnesium supplement prescribed by a nutritionist, but this time it is not working 100%, although it is helping to diminish the number of outbursts he was having.
      While searching on information about his aggressive behavior, I found an interesting link about allergies and behavior as well. It is interesting because he is allergic to a few tree polens and it seems that his aggression periods coincide with spring time. It could also be food allergy/intolerance.

    • #113988

      Hi, I know exactly what your going through. I thought my sons angry outburst were from his adhd. Everyone told me that was part of it. He kicked in my navigation system, he hit me, he threw major tantrums before going to school. It wasnt until he threw a tantrum on the way to go to his best friends birthday party that it came to me. His anger was related to social anxiety. He didnt want to go to school but i brushed it off, he didnt want to go to his friends party and I brushed it off. Who wouldnt want to go to a cool party at a fun place with all their friends. It was after that party that I talked to his dr and got zoloft for his anxiety. The Anger didnt go completely away but it went down alot. He was throwing fits cause no one was listening to him about not wanting to be around people. Life has gotten a little easier. Try and figure out what is causing the fits to occur, and this wont be easy cause your son may not even realize what is causing it. Hang in there!

    • #114017

      I practiced as a Social Worker, Counselor, and School Psychologist for more than 30 years, spending more than 40 years working with children and families in a host of professional positions. This pattern of behavior can be associated with a history of Traumatic Brain Injury. I am always appalled that this possibility is too often overlooked. If there has been any possible history of head injury, please make sure it is thoroughly checked out. It is easy to slap the ADHD label on a child, but because of the depth of assessment required, TBI is too often dismissed. I have watched children suffer unnecessarily with brain based emotional management issues, and behavior programs applied and failed, with the failure resting on the child. Clean house diagnostically, and then assure the most effective methods are applied. Best wishes to this family and this child!

    • #114044

      I have 13 y/o girl diagnoses with ADHD when she was 5. While symptoms have been easily controlled especially with regards to school & grades, as she has gotten older she has become more angry, moody & isolated. While some of this may be due to hormonal changes, I have always felt electronic were an issue. I recently started reading the attached book & have greatly reduced screen time. In just 1 week the difference is amazing. I can’t wait to get her on a complete fast. We’re taking it slow as I get my husband on board & set up parental monitoring programs. It’s a lot of work, but well worth the outcome.

      href=”″ rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>Reset Your Child’s Brain

    • #114117

      My daughter was 5 when we started moving toward diagnosis. And for awhile she had totally out-of-character fits of rage: throwing toys, slamming her bedroom door, etc. There were many things we could have chalked it up to, new baby brother, new school, growth spurt, whatever. What it turned out to be, however, was totally something we should have seen coming, because her dad has it too. FOOD SENSITIVITIES.

      I would very strongly urge you to get your son tested for food sensitivities. People with ADHD and/or autism spectrum diagnoses tend to be more likely to also have food sensitivities the effects of which are behavioral in nature.

      My husband is sensitive to eggs, and our daughter is sensitive to eggs and dairy. The effects are not at all like an allergic reaction. For my husband, who is a very easy-going, non-confrontational personality, he becomes grumpy, short-tempered, and eventually will slump over and fall asleep. He says he is actually aware of his surroundings when “asleep”, but he can’t totally wake himself up. For my daughter, dairy made her impulsivity ratchet way up into high gear, and it also made her more likely to experience frustration and rage, inconsistent with her personality.

      When we were testing/discovering this, we had to pay out of pocket, because the gut-brain connection was still not very well understood, and allergists did not believe in this (something we still have to educate them about sometimes). Now there are insurance-covered tests you can ask for at your pediatrician visit. Again, I’d urge you to give it a try. Once you identify the culprit food, the difference to the person is remarkable.

    • #114118

      Coming back to respond directly to the outbursts you described. When our daughter was 5, she aged out of her Montessori program and started a new school. We were overseas and we put her into a small music conservatory kinder/elementary. It was on a fenced in campus, and they had wild rabbits that lived and roamed freely on the campus. Our daughter would often disappear from the building, and they’d find her hiding out on the campus, tucked in a playground tunnel, or large rabbit warren. She would freak out when they lined up to go from one classroom to another–the kids were all supposed to put their hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them to stay together. She thought the boy behind her was being aggressive (he wasn’t, at all) and she turned around and shoved him to the ground. And the yelling, throwing, slamming at home as well.

      The thing that we were doing differently that did not dawn on us until after she tested positive for dairy and egg sensitivity, was that we were packing her a high protein lunch every day (supposed to be good for ADHD kids!) with cheese, drinking yogurt, hard boiled eggs… Essentially we had totally set her up to be out of control. Once we identified the dairy and eggs, and removed them from her diet, we had our adventurous, easy-going girl back.

    • #114231
      Terri Ward

      I would highly recommend having your son tested for autism. We had the exact same profile our daughter. She was “stubborn and opinionated” then had impulsively ADHD before the accurate high functioning autism diagnos came following the dangerous behavior you’re describing. I would also Highly recommend a full Occupational/sensory evaluation by a licensed occupational therapist. Your child’s school otters all of these evaluations s that no cost to families as part of federal law. You may not agree with the results, but at least you can get started there. the appropriate diagnoses open access to services in public schools, as well as protections from discrimination your child could face without them.
      Regardless of the diagnosis, you should consult a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA). These therapists address dangerous behavior through a formal process to help you, and other caregivers to your child, know what to do not only during a crisis moment (elopement), but also to figure out why the behavior is happening and how to curtail it. my daughter masked her ASD until she was almost 9. She’s now almost 11. 2 years into therapy for a diagnosis She’s doing better than I could’ve expected, and our family is no longer in crisis and controlled by her behavior. that Should’ve been caught by the time she was 7 but we didn’t know c what we do now. You’ll never regret ruling it out, only not knowing for too long.

    • #114362

      Wow, I posted and then got distracted with all of the appointments, etc. and came back to so many replies. Thank you!! First, it is just comforting to know that other people have had this experience — with a kid who is mostly great, compliant, happy, etc. and then unexpectedly has these outbursts that do not fit at all with who he normally is.

      To address a few responses:

      (1) Nikc: Thank you so much for offering your perspective on what this might feel like for him. I do think he does not want to talk about it and he probably does feel “cornered” when we try to talk and fix it. I don’t think (I could be wrong) that he feels pressured to be a “dream child” — he typically is that way, but we don’t pressure him to be perfrect other than obviously when he acts out we respond and he definitely knows that is not ok. I like your suggestions of presenting to him chances to initiate the conversation and prompts about how I don’t like to talk to people about my feelings when I am anxious (which I actually don’t, so I get that). Thank you for those ideas.

      (2) Many of the rest of you have raised social anxiety or autism spectrum as something to investigate. I would be shocked if it is social anxiety — he is VERY social and loves talking to people and seems to show no anxiety talking to people unless it certain authority figures about his behavior or feelings. He has seen tons of psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists and none have ever thought he was anywhere on the autism spectrum. I did complete a form at the formal testing he is having now that seemed pretty clearly to be aimed at autism screening and none of the questions fit him at all. But I am not ruling anything entirely out.

      (3) Other people rised trauma or TBI. We have no evidence of either of those things, and the psychiatrist said that since some aspects of the behavior started years ago then there is no reason to believe there is a recent trauma. The only thing along those lines that we can see is that we put our house on the market and, after he initially seemed excited, he then started saying he didn’t want to move and was really upset about it. We finally decided Friday to take it off the market.

      (4) We have had similar experiences to some of you in that we have had literally months and months with virtually no problems, and then suddenly this escalates. So, like toys ourc, it is kind of one of those scenarios where just when we think things are better they suddenly fall apart again. He had almost a year of very few big issues, which seems amazing if he has some serious issue. But clearly something is up. We are actually just wrapping up the formal ADHD type testing — he had REALLY poor rapport with the psychologist testing him (which is surprising because he is kind of everyone’s buddy and all his psychologists, therapists, etc. have loved him), so I am a little worried about the results — whether they will reflect his discomfort with her more than anything else. But nothing to do but wait.

      So far the medication hasn’t caused any improvement. But the psychiatrist said we should increase the dosage one more time and see if it is just the dose that’s too low or the medication won’t work.

      Food allergies — we had him tested a couple of years ago because he randomly gets hives sometimes. He had some mildly elevated results, but nothing that classified as a clear allergy other than dust mites.

      • #114572

        Food allergies — we had him tested a couple of years ago because he randomly gets hives sometimes. He had some mildly elevated results, but nothing that classified as a clear allergy other than dust mites.

        Food allergy testing will not identify food sensitivities. It is an entirely different mechanism. You would want to ask for testing for IgG-mediated food intolerance sensitivities.

        Allergies cause an immune response like hives and anaphylaxis.

        Sensitivities cause more behavioral and physiological responses like impulsive behavior, anger, rage, frustration, tiredness, even narcolepsy-like falling asleep. The top culprits are dairy, eggs, soy, corn, gluten. It’s very easy to test for, and eliminating the offending food can be life changing!

    • #114365
      Terri Ward

      You’re a great mom to keep investigating until you find the pieces of the puzzle! Your son is so lucky to have you.

    • #116206

      Can you tell me….in regards to the food issues… can you track the food intake on a day to behavior the same or next day? I’m wondering if we also try an elimination diet, we might be able to narrow in on something? I didn’t know if the response would be that quick, or if you have to eliminate eggs, for example, for a full week to notice anything. Thanks!

      • #117275

        Hi, there,

        I’m sorry for the delayed response! Yes, you can absolutely see the behavior happen same day and into next day. My daughter, who is 17 and has known for a long time that she needs to avoid dairy and eggs, stole the last of my dinner, which had lots of dairy and one or two eggs in it. Later that evening she came unglued about her brother using the computer to do his homework when she needed to use it for hers (normally they both have school-issued computers, but tech had taken them back and they had to share the home computer). Frustrated, shouting, crying, you name it. And it starts because it makes her brain foggy, so she just couldn’t think her way through anything.

        If you try an elimination diet, you’ll really need to give it a few weeks to see the symptoms subside, because your child has probably had the reactive food in his system for so long it will take time to clear it out and feel better. Usually they recommend 6 weeks before reintroducing foods. Ideally, you would want to eliminate the big ones: Dairy, eggs, gluten, soy, corn, and food additives. Stick to whole, nutritious foods like fresh vegetables, fruits, fish (really good for ADHD brains!). If you see improvements, and are ready to try reintroducing foods, do it one at a time and take note of behaviors, and ask teachers to give you feedback on behaviors at school. Elimination diets are definitely the harder way to go, but it’s free.

        Alternately, most insurances are now covering a food sensitivity panel. It’s different from an allergy panel. If you can get that done, it will do part of your work for you by identifying the foods your child reacts to, and you can eliminate those and observe.

        You may not have any choice but to try an elimination diet, unless you are working with a physician who understands how foods and diet specifically affect ADHD and Autism spectrum people. Conventional allergists won’t do it, they don’t believe in it. The science is finally beginning to catch up on this with the discovery of the gut-brain connection. ADHD/AS tend to have more porous guts, so larger molecules “leak” through the porous gut into the bloodstream and can cause reactions. Sometimes physical, like diarrhea or loose bowels, sometimes behavioral, like rage or out of control impulsivity.

        A word about dairy: After having done a lot of reading over the years, we learned that ADHD and autism spectrum can be reactive to casein, which is the protein in milk. Then we learned about the difference between A1 cattle and A2 cattle (it’s a genetic divergence that happened thousands of years ago, and affects the casein. Jerseys and Guernseys are A2 cows, and Holsteins are A1. Most of the dairy cattle in the US are A1 (Holsteins and others) because of high yield. A2 cows are lower producers, but the milk is creamier. This is now becoming more mainstream, and you can find A2/A2 milk and dairy in regular grocery stores, and more products in Whole Foods. Most people tolerate the A2/A2 (which just means that it’s not a hybrid cow, but both parents of the cow are A2). We were able to really test this the first time when we went to Iceland on a family vacation. Their entire herd is A2/A2, and the country has laws about introducing any other genetics. My husband and daughter ate butter, skyr, drank milk, ate cheese, and even ice cream–with no negative effects, whatsoever!! It’s been a revelation! And now we can easily buy A2 milk, cream, cheese here in the US, we make our own yogurt with it, and I buy imported Icelandic butter for not much more than local butter. And it doesn’t bother them!

        Give it a try. In general a whole food diet without the big offenders (dairy, eggs, corn, soy, gluten) is the best diet for ADHD/AS, so you really have nothing to lose!

        Good luck!!

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