4- Phobias in Children


4- Phobias in Children

?What are phobias in children

A phobia is an excessive fear of an object or situation. It’s a fear that lasts for at least 6 months. It is a type of anxiety disorder

These are some different types of phobias

Specific phobia. A child has anxiety when exposed to a certain object or situation. He or she stays away from the object or situation, dreads it, or endures it with so much fear that it interferes with normal activities. Some common phobias are a fear of animals, insects, blood, heights, or flying

Panic disorder. A child feels an unpredictable, unexpected period of great fear or discomfort. He or she may have a panic attack. Symptoms include shortness of breath, dizziness, lightheadedness, shaking, fear of losing control, and a racing heartbeat. Symptoms can last for hours. But they often peak after 10 minutes

Phobias in Children
Phobias in Children

Agoraphobia. This is a fear of open spaces, such as being outside or leaving home alone. It is linked to one or more phobias or the fear of having a panic attack

Social anxiety disorder. A child is afraid of one or more social or performance situations with others of the same age group. Examples are acting in a school play or giving a speech in front of the class.

Separation anxiety disorder. A child fears being apart from an attachment figure, such as a mother or father. This condition interferes with daily activities

Selective mutism. A child can’t speak in some social situations

?What causes phobias in a child

The cause of a phobia may be both genetic and environmental. A child may develop a phobia if he or she has a fearful first encounter with an object or situation. But experts don’t know if this exposure leads to a phobia. The following may help lead to the development of phobias in children

Shyness or withdrawing from unfamiliar situations or people (behavioral inhibitions) as a child

Having negative or traumatic life events early in childhood

Mental health issues in family members

Certain physical health conditions (such as thyroid problems or heart arrhythmias), or certain substances or medicines. The physical health problems can produce anxiety symptoms, or make them worse

?What are the symptoms of phobias in a child

Each child may have different symptoms when exposed to a phobia. But these are the most common

Increased heart rate


Trembling or shaking

Shortness of breath

Feeling of choking

Chest pain or discomfort

Upset stomach

Feeling dizzy or faint

Fear of losing control or going crazy

Fear of dying


Chills or hot flashes

A child who has at least 4 of the symptoms may be having a panic attack. These symptoms may seem like other health problems. Have your child see his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis

?How are phobias diagnosed in a child

First any physical problems are ruled out. Then a child psychiatrist or other mental health provider will evaluate your child. If your child’s history and symptoms meet specific clinical criteria for a phobia, a diagnosis will be made

Panic disorder may be hard to diagnose. Your child may need many tests in different settings

?How are phobias treated in a child

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is

Phobias can be treated. Your child may need

Individual or cognitive behavioral therapy. A child learns new ways to control anxiety and panic attacks when or if they do happen

Family therapy. Parents play a vital role in any treatment process

School input. Meeting with the child’s school staff can be very helpful with the early diagnosis. It’s also helpful in creating a coordinated treatment plan

Medicines. Some children may feel better with medicines, such as those used to stop panic attacks. If medicine is prescribed, be certain to ask about side effects and the risks versus benefits of the medicine use

?How can I help prevent phobias in my child

Experts don’t know how to prevent phobias in children and teens. But finding and treating a phobia early can ease symptoms. It can help improve your child’s normal development. And it can also improve his or her quality of life

?How can I help my child live with phobias

All children have fears at some point in their life. When untreated, phobias can become a lifelong issue. So treatment is important

Here are things you can do to help your child

Be supportive and nonjudgmental. Help your child stick to the treatment plan. Be willing to listen to and advocate for your child if they have concerns about how treatment is going

Take part in family therapy

Keep all appointments with your child’s healthcare provider

Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about other providers who will be part of your child’s care. Your child may get care from a team that may include counselors, therapists, social workers, psychologists, school staff, and psychiatrists. The care team will depend on your child’s needs. And it will depend on how serious the anxiety disorder and phobia are

Tell others about your child’s phobia. Work with your child’s healthcare provider and schools to create a coordinated treatment plan

Reach out for support from local community services. Being in touch with other parents who have a child with an anxiety disorder and phobia may be helpful

Key points about phobias in children

A phobia is an excessive fear of an object or situation. It lasts for at least 6 months

Common phobias are a fear of animals, insects, blood, heights, or flying

Some things that may put a child at risk for a phobia include shyness, a traumatic event in early childhood, or mental health issues in family members

Symptoms include increased heart rate, sweating, shaking, a feeling of choking, and upset stomach

A mental health provider can diagnose a phobia

Treatment may include therapy and medicines

Phobias in Children

Phobias in Children

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider

Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen

Before your visit, write down questions you want answered

At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child

Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are

Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways

Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean

Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure

If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit

Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice

How to Help Your Child With Phobias

Phobias in children are an anxiety disorder that causes excess fear of things or situations that lasts for more than six months. If your child has a phobia, they may show a fear of things like height, some animals, insects, flying, blood, and more

car phobia

Types of Phobias in Children

There are different types of phobias that may affect your child. Some of them include

Specific phobias. This type of phobia is when your child gets anxious when they are around a particular thing. They may fear animals, heights, and blood so much so that these things affect their daily lives

Agoraphobia. This type of phobia involves fearing open spaces. Your child may not want to leave the house alone. It may occur together with other kinds of phobias

Panic disorder. Here, your child may experience a lot of unexpected fear. It may lead to shaking, a fast heartbeat, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and dizziness

Separation anxiety disorder. As the name suggests, your child may develop the fear of being away from someone they are attached to (i.e. a parent)

Social anxiety disorder. This involves fear of performing in front of other children of the same age group

Selective mutism. Selective mutism occurs when your child is unable to speak when exposed to a specific social setting

Normal Types of Fear

While phobias involve excessive anxiety, children might show some normal levels of fear

If your child is two years old and below, you may expect them to fear large objects, getting separated from a parent, unfamiliar faces, and loud noises. Children between three and six years old may fear darkness, strange sounds, sleeping alone, and even imaginary monsters or ghosts. Older kids between seven and sixteen years old may fear real things like injuries, poor performance in school, death, and illnesses

Causes of Phobias in Children

The unreasonable fear of situations and objects might occur genetically or due to environmental factors. If your child experiences a lot of fear the first time they come across something, they are likely to develop a phobia of that same thing.

Other factors that may lead to phobias in children include

Traumatic experiences early in life

Family history of mental health issues

Shyness in early childhood

Medical conditions linked to anxiety (i.e. thyroid and heart issues)

Some medications or substances

Symptoms of Phobias

Different children may experience various symptoms when they become anxious. Some common symptoms your child may exhibit when they have a phobia toward something are

A racing heart


A choking feeling


Fear of dying

Loss of breath


Stomach upset


Chest pains

Fear of going out of control



Consider seeking help from a professional after noticing any of the symptoms of phobia. The professional may examine the symptoms and take a thorough medical history. After that, they will make a precise diagnosis of your child’s condition. Your doctor might also order more tests in different settings to diagnose panic disorder

Treatment of Phobias in Children

Phobias may negatively affect your child’s quality of life. The good thing is that phobias are treatable. The treatment method may be determined by your child’s age, symptoms, and health condition. Treatments may include

Medications. Your child’s doctor may prescribe some medications to manage panic attacks and anxiety

Cognitive-behavioral therapy. This therapy aims to help children to manage anxiety and panic attacks

Family therapy. This type of therapy involves the parent during treatment

Tips to Help Your Child With Fears

It might be expected for your child to experience fear sometimes. The feeling may help them to stay cautious. In your child’s early days, you can expect them to be afraid of big, loud, or new things

If your child is showing symptoms of unreasonable or excessive fears, you can help them by

Comforting them through words and warm embraces

Assisting them to try new activities or things

Letting them meet new people while still holding them

Staying apart from your baby for some periods

Creating a comforting bedtime routine if they are afraid of darkness

Supporting them in slowly facing their fears

Avoiding watching scary shows or movies


There are no conclusive studies on how to prevent phobias in children. However, early detection of the condition might go a long way in solving the issue as early as possible

In general, phobias are pretty common. There should be no cause for alarm if your child’s fears do not interfere with their quality of life. However, you should consider consulting with a professional if the phobia is causing problems at school or in other social circles