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 or adolescent, to feel anxious when exposed to it. It can affect people of all ages.
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 phobias cause extreme and intense fear-related bodily symptoms, known as panic attacks. Panic attacks can occur in social settings (social anxiety disorder), or if the child is left alone or outside (agoraphobia), they can also occur when being separated from a parent (separation anxiety disorder) or, a when a child or teen becomes so anxious that he/she cannot speak in certain social situations (selective mutism).
What causes phobias in children and teens?
Some phobias are 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:
- shortness of breath
- a choking feeling
- rapid heartbeat
- chest pain
- a desire to run
- 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: November 19, 2019 04:23 PM
Weekly Support Programs
8 week program. This group therapy program is designed for children ages 7 to 17 with behaviorial issues, including but not limited to ADHD. The weekly sessions teach innovative techniques to assist children with managing feelings, developing organization skills, maximizing their concentration abilities and socialization skills.
8 week program. Children and teens ages 7 to 17 are invited to join this small discussion group to learn how to make, cultivate and maintain friendships. Participants will learn basic conversational skills, and discuss the use of appropriate humor, how to electronically connect with others, and how to manage disagreements.
8 week program. Calm Kids is a weekly group therapy course designed to teach children strategies on how to take control over anxiety symptoms. Children will learn how to cope with fears and worries, identify anxiety triggers, how to relax the mind and body and maximize their self-confidence.
8 week program. This program is specifically designed to empower children ages 7-18 through complex sensory experiences. Each session is created to teach participants evidenced-based techniques to better manage pain and improve overall quality of life.
8 week program. This program is designed for teens ages 13-16 experiencing difficulties related to sleep, including daytime sleepiness, trouble waking in the morning, difficulty falling asleep and waking in the middle of the night. The goal of this group is to give teens the tools and strategies they need in order to get more sleep and better quality sleep.
Learn more about
Social Anxiety Disorder
Please see mood and anxiety disorders for further information.
Selective mutism is a complex childhood anxiety disorder in which the child will speak at certain times when in a comfortable secure and relaxed environment, but not necessarily in other situations.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
After a threatened or actual catastrophic incident children and adolescents may experience ongoing difficulties and symptoms which are called post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
Family and group therapy are both forms of psychological counseling that involve multiple participants and can take many forms. Families can all go to therapy together to improve communication and address conflicts.
Applied Behavioral Analysis
ABA Therapy is the use of science-based techniques and principles to produce meaningful and positive changes in behavior which can help children reach their full potential.