Specific Phobias in Children and Adolescents

Specific Phobias affect more than 1 in 10 adolescents. No one knows exactly what causes them, but they seem to run in families and are a little more common in girls than boys. Specific Phobias are characterized by intense, excessive fear of certain things or situations that have lasted for at least 6 months. In children and adolescents, the anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing, or clinging.

Common phobias include dogs, heights, escalators, elevators, tunnels, water, flying, injections, and injuries involving blood

Symptoms

  • Major symptoms include feelings of intense, excessive fear as a result of specific things or situations
  • Many teens describe their fear as irrational, believing that the intensity of the fear is much greater than the danger associated with the thing – however, younger children may not recognize that their fear is excessive or irrational
  • Although some kids are able to interact with the feared situation or object, many avoid any contact as a way of reducing their fear and worry
  • This avoidance may cause individuals to alter their lives (e.g. taking a different route to school to avoid walking by a certain dog, avoiding going to the doctor for a long time to prevent having to get a shot), which can keep them from enjoying things as much as possible