A phobia is an excessive or unreasonable fear that can be identified. It is triggered by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation. Children and teens with one or more phobias have consistent anxiety when exposed to the object or situation. Fear of animals, blood, heights, closed spaces or flying are common phobias. In children and teens, the fear must last at least six months to be called a phobia rather than a passing (transient) fear.

Types of phobias seen in children and teens include:

  • Specific phobia. Anxiety linked to a specific object or situation. The object or situation is avoided, anticipated with fear, or endured with extreme anxiety. This causes problems with normal routines and activities.
  • Panic disorder with or without agoraphobia. A period of intense fear or discomfort that is hard to expect or predict. The person feels short of breath, dizzy, light headed, and shaky. They feel like they are losing control, and have an increased, racing heart beat. This is called a panic attack. Symptoms can last hours, but most often peak after 10 minutes. Agoraphobia is a fear of open spaces (such as being outside or leaving home alone) linked to one or more phobias or the fear of having a panic attack.
  • Social anxiety disorderThis is also known as social phobia. It is the fear of one or more social or performance situations. These situations are normal for the person’s age and occur with others from their age group (like a school play, recital, or giving a speech or book report in front of the class).
  • Selective mutism. The person is not able to speak in specific social situations, but they can and do speak in other situations.