A phobia is an identifiable and persistent fear that is excessive or unreasonable and is triggered by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation. Children and adolescents with one or more phobias consistently experience anxiety when exposed to the specific object or situation.
Common phobias include fear of animals, blood, heights, closed spaces or flying. In children and adolescents, the identified fear must last at least six months to be considered a phobia rather than a transient fear. Types of phobias seen in children and adolescents include:
- Specific phobia. Anxiety is associated with a specific object or situation. The phobic object or situation is avoided, anticipated with fear, or endured with extreme anxiety to the extent that it interferes with normal routines and activities.
- Panic disorder with or without agoraphobia. An unpredictable, unexpected period of intense fear or discomfort compounded by shortness of breath, dizziness, lightheadedness, shaking, fear of losing control, and an increased, racing heart beat (called a panic attack). Symptoms can last several hours, but usually peak after 10 minutes. Agoraphobia is defined as a fear of open spaces such as being outside or leaving home alone related to one or more phobias or the fear of having a panic attack.
- Social anxiety disorder. Also known as social phobia, it is fear of one or more social or performance situations in an age appropriate setting with others within the same age group (i.e., school play, recital, giving a speech or book report in front of the class).
- Selective mutism. The inability to speak in specific social situations in a child or adolescent who can and does speak in other situations.