As the old adage goes “anything in excess is opposed to nature.” The same stands for human fear. Fear has kept our ancestors alive and forced them to be smarter. Just like the innate fears; fear of falling down and fear of loud sounds protects a child as young as 6 months from falling off the bed, fear keeps us safe but when in excess, it inhibits our rational thinking ability.
Phobia is categorized under anxiety disorder and is defined as an extreme, irrational and persistent fear of presence or anticipation of a particular object or situation. Though these fears seem to be irrational, most of the times they stem out of some experience from a very young age. For example, if a person has aquaphobia; extreme fear of water, it might probably be due to a near-drowning experience as a child.
Phobia in children:
One needs to be alarmed when they notice their child is putting in all effort in just avoiding a certain object or situation with all the stress that these situations bring along. Under such situations you may also notice a rise in the heart rate, sweating, trembling or feeling dizzy. You can handle such situations better if you will understand various types of phobias;
Specific Phobia: Children with this type of phobia exhibit excessive fear of a particular thing, person or situation.
Separation anxiety disorder: This is a fairly well-known phobia. Toddlers experience this fear. They become extremely scared when their parent leaves them even for a short while. They will start crying and will want to cling to their parent.
Agoraphobia: Does your child prefer staying at home and gets extremely out of control when you try to take him out? There is a chance that he might be agoraphobic. This type of phobia is mostly seen in adolescents, where they experience extreme fear of the outside world.
Selective Mutism: Selective mutism is the lack of speech in certain situations or around certain people. Selective mutism might begin in a child as old as 5 years of age but is only diagnosed later when they start going to school.
Social anxiety disorder: This is a common fear in teenagers. They are constantly under the fear of being judged by everyone in social situations. Immediate reactions to such situations would be blushing, tantrums, Panic attacks, crying or freezing altogether. If this anxiety is not noticed and addressed early on this will become a hindrance in the future growth of the child.
Parents usually dismiss their child’s tantrums by saying things like he/she is mischief, mama’s boy, saying something like he will learn as he gets older or much worse, resort to corporal punishments. There is more to a child’s behaviour than meets the eye. It is the responsibility of the parent to notice the change in behaviours, support and talk to them and if needed seek professional guidance to help your child overcome his fears and mould them into a stronger person.