Anxiety Disorder and Child Phobias: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Anxiety disorder child victims often develop severe phobias that stay with them through life.  It is not uncommon to see child anxiety disorders ignored by parents, thinking they are just being moody or going through a phase.  In actual fact, these anxiety disorders tend to get worse with age if left untreated.

Many people don’t know they suffer from an anxiety disorder until the symptoms send them to the hospital or make their lives miserable as adults.  Had someone just been on the lookout for the warning signs, they could have been treated at a young age and been taught to deal with the problems in a healthy way.

Fears vs. Phobias

Everyone has fears – in fact it’s part of our genetic makeup to have a certain level of fear.  Without this fear our ancestors would have walked up to bears, jumped off cliffs and tried to hold fire.  The difference between a fear and phobia is that the latter is excessive and irrational.  

Phobias are more than just a higher level of fear; they can impair a person from doing everyday things.  It’s one thing to be fearful that, say, you may be involved in a car accident, but to never leave the house because you think a car accident will kill you is a phobia.  If you notice these symptoms in your child, then you should seek medical advice.

Symptoms include panic attacks and the sufferer will often take extreme action to avoid the situation causing the fear and anxiety.  If your child’s teachers or peers mention such behavior, it’s important to take note.

Causes

Although no specific causes for phobias have been identified, it seems that they are affected by genetics, culture and life experiences.

A child who has an immediate family member suffering from a phobia is much more likely to suffer from a phobia than someone who has no family history of it.

Traumatic events experienced earlier in life may also trigger phobias.  I know someone who experienced an very turbulent and distressing plane journey as a child.  He now refuses to travel by plane.  The fear of flying (aerophobia) is actually a very common phobia, as is the fear of visiting a dentist (dentophobia) and the fear of spiders (arachnophobia).  

Treatment

Unlike other anxiety disorders the front line of attack on phobias is not drugs.  While drugs may help relieve the extreme fear and the physical symptoms that are associated with anxiety, phobias can be dealt with through therapy.

Most people do not seek treatment for their phobias.  They simply ignore and avoid the situations that cause the anxiety and go about their lives. If your child’s phobia is getting in the way of living a normal life, then you may want to talk to a Professional about cognitive-behavioural therapy.

During this process a trained professional will use what is called “systematic desensitization”.  This involves exposure to the thing your child is afraid of for short periods of time.  Afterwards, the therapist helps them understand their reactions and feelings and gives them tools to deal with the anxiety.  As they begin to get a hold of the fear,  the exposure is prolonged.

By catching this early, you can help your child avoid a serious anxiety disorder and live a fuller and more complete life.