Children may experience specific phobias, which are intense, irrational
fears of certain things or situations, (e.g., dogs, bees, injections,
the dark, escalators, tunnels, flying, etc.). Children may not realize
that fear of such objects are unreasonable. Typically, children or adolescents
will become extremely distressed when confronted with the feared object
Children’s avoidance or distress re: the feared object results in significant
disruption in the child’s routine, school functioning, or family functioning,
or social relationships. In children, the anxiety felt may be expressed
by crying, tantrums, freezing, or clinging. In addition, children may
experience rapid heart rate, dizziness, sweaty palms, etc. when confronted
with the feared object or situation.
Cognitive behavioral treatment packages have also been successfully employed
in the treatment of specific phobias, such as fears of dogs, spiders,
the dark, needles, etc. Techniques commonly used include relaxation training,
use of imagery techniques, token reinforcements implemented by parents
(e.g., praise, sticker charts), and children’s and parent’s careful monitoring
of the child’s positive behaviors. In addition, children are taught to
change their anxious thoughts and replace them with positive, coping thoughts.
Children are also taught, through the process of exposure therapy, ways
to gradually enter situations that they formerly avoided due to fear.
Again, this therapy should be implemented by a trained therapist.
© 2001 The Child Anxiety Network. All Rights Reserved.
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