Having a phobia
means being extremely afraid of a certain object or situation. Phobias are very
different from everyday worry or stress. Children with phobias have so much
fear that it's hard for them to do normal activities.
Your child may feel great stress about being near an object or in a situation.
To show this stress, he or she may cry, have tantrums, freeze up, or
cling to someone else. Your child may also have physical symptoms. He or she may sweat, tremble, or feel nauseated. Your child will try to avoid what he or she is scared of.
Compared with teens or adults, children have more animal phobias,
natural-environment phobias (such as fearing storms or lightning), and phobias
about blood or getting a shot. Other phobias in children include the fear of
loud noises and fear of characters in costumes, such as clowns. Some children
and teens have school phobias. They fear school and may often try to avoid
Unlike adults, children usually do not understand that the amount
of fear and worry they feel is more than the actual danger of being hurt by the
object or situation.
Treatment depends on:
Phobias can be treated
with a type of counselling called cognitive-behavioural
therapy. This includes exposure therapy.
In exposure therapy, a
counsellor helps your child imagine or actually get close to the feared object
or situation. A series of steps may be used to help your child gradually get closer to what he or she is afraid of.
This therapy should only be done with help from a counsellor or
If your child's phobias are severe, your doctor may recommend
medicines to help your child with anxiety. Talk to your
doctor if your child has a phobia that interferes with daily activities, such
as going to school.
Some children have a lot of fear about going to school. They may
refuse to go. Or they may say they are sick. These reactions may be related to the anxiety.
If your child often says he or she feels sick before school, talk
to your doctor. Your doctor can rule out any serious illness. Ask your doctor
about ways to encourage your child to attend school.
With severe school phobias, you may need to ease your child back into school. For example, your child may go to school for one or two
classes a day, then a half-day, and then return to full
Work closely with the school staff. Make sure the principal, nurse, and teachers know about your child's phobia. Tell them how you are managing it.
Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed
Enter J991 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Phobias in Children."
Current as of:
July 26, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Christine R. Maldonado, PhD - Behavioral Health
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