Phobias In Children And Adolescents

January 31, 2023

A phobia, according to John Hopkins Medicine, is an uncontrollable, irrational, and lasting fear of a certain situation, object, or activity that poses no real danger. Phobias can be due to genetic or environmental factors and can cause sudden, intense fear that lasts for several minutes. With roughly 19 million Americans suffering from one or more phobias, it is important to understand the most common ones and their causes and characteristics. 

Phobias In Children And Adolescents

Many people are afraid of certain things, such as heights or spiders. However, phobias differ from normal fears depending on the degree of anxiety experienced when faced with a certain object or situation. Physical symptoms that can be caused by specific phobias may include increased heart rate, sweating, shaking or trembling, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, or a feeling of losing control. Here at Holly Springs Pediatrics, we’re here to help educate you on phobias in children and adolescents.

Specific Phobia

Specific phobias are categorized by an intense yet irrational fear that poses little to no actual harm or danger. Most adults understand their fears are irrational. However, children and adolescents may not be mentally developed enough to come to that conclusion, making being faced with the phobia an even more unpleasant experience. Some common phobias include blood, heights, flying, animals, and insects.   


Agoraphobia is the extreme and irrational fear of certain situations, such as crowded spaces, leaving one’s own home, or being in a situation or place that makes escape difficult. Some of these circumstances may include traveling, public transportation, shopping centers, or anywhere where crowds gather. When children or adolescents find themselves in a stressful situation, agoraphobia may present with symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, feeling hot and sweaty, or feeling sick.  

Panic Disorder

The National Institute of Mental Health defines panic disorder as unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms. Some of these symptoms include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, and gastrointestinal distress. An estimated 3 million Americans experience panic disorder in their life, often beginning during childhood or adolescence. Panic disorder can be debilitating in children. For more information about panic disorder, visit the National Institute of Mental Health’s website at or call 1-800-64-PANIC.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is a common type of phobia that is characterized by an intense fear of being judged by others during activities like public speaking, meeting new people, or answering a question in class. This disorder can make day-to-day activities feel extremely anxiety-provoking and distressing. People with social anxiety disorder may sweat, tremble, have a rapid heart rate, feel their mind going blank, find it difficult to make eye contact, or avoid places where there are crowds. 

Treatment For Phobias

Luckily, most phobias are treatable through one treatment type or a combination of different treatments. Some common treatments include 

  • Self-help techniques or mindfulness training 
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy
  • Medication

Some claim ERP therapy is the gold standard for treating phobias, as it involves exposing the patient directly to the anxiety source. In doing so, the individual finds ways to cope or overcome their anxiety and distress. 

Children who suffer from phobias experience heightened levels of anxiety that may interrupt and take away from their day-to-day lives. Holly Springs Pediatrics is committed to providing quality care to your kids at all times on a wide array of subjects. Do you have more questions on common phobias in children and adolescents? Call our Holly Springs, NC pediatric office at (919) 249-4700 to talk to a staff member.