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Phobias in children and teenagers

A phobia is a persistent, excessive and unreasonable fear of an object or situation. It is thought 5% of children and 16% of teenagers have a phobia in the UK.

Phobias are different from normal fears as they normally become more severe with age. Children and teenagers with phobias can feel huge shame about their fears, often because messages from others may be that they are being silly or overreacting.

What are the symptoms of a phobia?

Whilst we all have objects or situations that we don’t like and will positively try to avoid (spiders and snakes are the most common), those with a phobia have a very severe reaction that they simply can’t control.

Young children can scream, cry, vomit or lash out violently if faced with their fear. Equally they may become paralysed with fear and even faint. Powerful feelings of anxiety, such as a fast heartbeat, feeling sick and jittery and being overcome with a debilitating fear can be common symptoms for older children and teenagers struggling with a phobia.

If you are worried that your child or teenager is struggling with a phobia, then call 0203 761 7026 or request a call back. You can speak to one of our clinical advisors who will help advise you.

Why do some children develop phobias?

It is thought that phobias developed as an automatic reaction stemming back to a survival technique early humans developed to temper their natural curiosity.

Phobias arise for different reasons but a bad experience in early years can trigger a pattern of thoughts that result in a powerful fear of a situation.

Phobias can limit a child’s quality of life

Having a child with a phobia can be hugely distressing as often it can be quite hard to calm them down and if the thing they are afraid of is unavoidable, for instance dogs or the dark, they can severely impact on the family’s lifestyle (for instance not being able to visit family).

As children grow older, certain phobias can severely impact on their quality of life and ability to partake in activities. For instance, social phobias can prevent children from participating in school events and a fear of the dark can stop your child from staying with friends. Often children with phobias find it hard to join in with normal school life and may find it hard to make friends.

Girls are more commonly affected than boys with phobias and children aged 12-15 seem to struggle with phobias more than other ages.

What can be done to help?

CBT and other talking therapies can be really helpful for children and teenagers with a phobia in addressing their thought patterns and helping them formulate healthier coping mechanisms.

Exposure technique can be incredibly useful to help overcome the fear a child or teenager may have, but it needs to be carefully administered by an expert, as if done incorrectly can make the situation and lot worse and damage the child’s ability to trust.

Clinical Partners help hundreds of families, like yours, every year in overcoming phobias and disorders. Call 0203 761 7026 to speak to someone today about how we can help.

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