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 going.
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 doctor.
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 days.
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.
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Current as of: May 12, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Christine R. Maldonado, PhD - Behavioral Health
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