Also known as: fears, fear reaction, anxiety disorder.

What are phobias?

A phobia is an excessive, unreasonable, persistent (lasting for at least 6 months) fear of something, place or situation, that causes the child/adolescent (can affect all ages), to feel anxious when exposed to it. This anxiety disorder may be mild and just annoying, or severe when it may be quite disabling and interfere with daily living. Some phobias are “specific” like fear of a person, insect, graveyard, needle, riding an escalator or elevator or being alone in the dark. Others cause extreme intense fear- related bodily symptoms (“panic attacks”), or occur in social settings (“social anxiety disorder”), or if left alone or outside (“agoraphobia”), or occur when being separated from a parent (“separation anxiety disorder”) or, a child becomes so anxious that he/she cannot speak in certain social situations (“selective mutism”).

What causes phobias? 

Genetic/inherited (tends to run in families), biological and environmental factors (a traumatic experience like an illness or death in the family), have all been implicated as causes.

What are the symptoms of phobias? 

Potential symptoms of “specific” phobias can include avoiding the object or situation, fear with exposure, and in severe cases “panic” like symptoms including trembling/shaking, sweating, shortness of breath, a “choking feeling” panic, fear, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, a desire to run, an “upset stomach”. “Agoraphobia” may present with refusal to leave home. “Social phobia” presents with children refusing to be placed in situations that cause them anxiety.

What are phobias care options? 

Psychotherapy with or without medications are typical treatment options.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 3/23/2018 2:20:03 PM

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