Anxiety in Children


What is a Phobia?

A specific phobia is an irrational fear of particular things or situations. Common fears in childhood include thunderstorms, dogs, spiders, darkness, needles, heights, elevators and enclosed spaces, or costumed characters like clowns. Exposure to these situations/objects typically results in an excessive anxiety response that is deemed age-inappropriate (e.g., screaming, crying, clinging), with physical symptoms (e.g., increased heart rate, sweating, shortness of breath, stomach discomfort, sweating), and marked avoidance of the feared stimuli. Like many childhood anxieties, children often grow out of these fears. However, if your child’s fear is interfering with their daily life, goes on for longer than six months, or is greater than that of same-aged peers, it is best to seek professional help. Phobic disorders typically emerge early in life, around seven years of age, and are one the most common anxiety disorders in children.

Symptoms Checklist

Does your child experience

  • Does your child experience excessive fear of a particular object or situation greater than that of same-aged peers?
  • Does your child display anticipatory dread, anxiety or panic attacks in response to a particular object or situation?
  • Does your child cry in response to the feared object/situation or have temper tantrums to avoid what they fear?

Treatment for Specific Phobia

Through psychotherapy, Specific Phobia are highly treatable. Medication is not often prescribed in the treatment of Specific Phobias, and the gold standard treatment is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Therapy. CBT is a short-term, focused approach that aims to bring about changes in a child’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Additionally, children are also taught effective coping skills for when they encounter their feared object in a safe, gradual fashion, under the guidance of a trained health professional.

Sources & Useful Resources