Specific Phobias in Children and Adolescents 

A phobia is a fear of something specific. Children may have a fear of a person, a person, places, animals, bugs or situations. An event or object is often what triggers them to be anxious. All children fear the same things but it's how much they fear and the amount of anxiety they are feeling that makes these fears problematic. 

Children with phobias feel fear so strongly  that it can disrupt their routine, often times impede their ability to concentrate or enjoy activities. These children will cling to their parents, cry and be very fearful. 

There are several common phobias children may have like bloodwork, spiders, bugs, having someone they love get sick, heights,  thunder and lightening, flying or travel away from home, enclosed spaces or animals. 

It can be very difficult for some children because they struggle with fears and anxieties, especially when it comes to specific phobias. According to the American Psychiatric Association, a specific phobia is an excessive and irrational fear of a particular object or situation. This fear is so severe that it interferes with a child’s life and can cause extreme distress.

Specific phobias can affect up to 5% of children. It is so important for parents to understand the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for specific phobias in children to help their child overcome their fears. Children with specific phobias may show a lot  to little symptoms, they can experience mild or severe symptoms. It can be different for every child. 

Specific phobias can be treated in children and early intervention is so important to preventing the fear from getting bigger and bigger as the child ages and gets older. The most effective therapy for specific phobias is exposure therapy. This involves gradually exposing the child to the feared object or situation in a safe environment. 

A therapist can assist the child to learn to face their fear and cope with their anxiety without avoiding the phobia. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on changing the child’s thoughts and behaviors related to their fear. The therapist works with the child to identify and challenge their thoughts and replace them with more realistic and positive ones.

Specific Phobia 
- anxiety when exposed to a certain object
- powerless to control fears 
- dizziness
- intense sweating
- difficulties breathing
- intense and immediate reaction
- panic in particular situations 
- upset stomach
- avoids the feared location or object 
- common phobias are a fear of animals, insects, dark or bloodwork (shots) 

Specific phobias can be common in children and they may feel embarrassed or ashamed of their fears and want to hide them from their parents. This makes it so important for parents to know the symptoms of specific phobias in children and speak to their child's doctor with their concerns. 

Specific phobias can impact a child’s significantly. Children can learn to manage their fears without feeling anxious because of their phobias. 

DISCLAIMER: I am not an Occupational Therapist. I am an adult who has Sensory Processing Disorder, a sensory parent and a Grandma. The information on this website is not medical advice and does not replace the information that your child's therapists gives you. These are just ideas and information that I have learned myself over the years of being a parent and an adult living with SPD. If you are concerned for your child, please always seek medical attention through a family doctor, pediatrician or therapist. This website is for suggestions and informational purposes only. Each child is different and what works for one child may not for another because all children have different needs. Please always consult with a professional.

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