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.
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:
Each child may have different symptoms when exposed to a phobia. But these are the most common:
A child who has at least four 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.
At Children’s National Hospital, child psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals may interview the child or adolescent and his or her parents. We may have the patient and family fill out questionnaires about different aspects of the child’s or adolescent’s life, including physical health concerns, difficulties at school or behavior with friends and family.
Following a full assessment, a member of the Children’s National care team will discuss treatment options with the child or adolescent and his or her family. Both cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) and certain types of medicines are effective in treating general anxiety disorder in youth.
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.
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:
The Anxiety Disorders Program is a specialized treatment clinic devoted to carefully assessing and effectively treating a wide range of anxiety disorders common among children and adolescents. Discover more about the treatments we offer.
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The Anxiety Disorders Program at Children's National Hospital is a specialized treatment clinic devoted to carefully assessing and effectively treating a wide range of anxiety disorders common among children and adolescents.