Specific Phobias

Avoiding a specific object or situation – or enduring it with extreme anxiety or discomfort – characterizes a Specific Phobia. Persistent fears of animals, elevators, heights, flying, needles and thunder and lightning are common phobias among children. Depending on the phobic stimulus, the impairment caused by the phobia may vary. For example, a fear of elevators may cause more distress than a fear of flying if a child must ride an elevator in his or her apartment building every day but flies on an airplane only occasionally.

Specific Phobias versus Normal Childhood Fears

There is a big difference between normal childhood fears and Specific Phobias. According to the Child Anxiety Network (www.childanxiety.net), some research shows that 90 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 14 have at least one specific fear. Not all fears interfere with daily functioning. Nor do they necessarily merit psychological treatment. Some examples of normal childhood and early adolescent fears include:

  • Infants/Toddlers (up to 2 years old): loud noises, strangers, separation from parents and large objects
  • Preschoolers (3 to 6 years old): imaginary figures (such as ghosts, monsters and supernatural beings), the dark, noises, sleeping alone, thunder and floods
  • School-aged children and adolescents (7 to 16 years old): physical injury, health, school performance, death, thunderstorms, earthquakes and floods


For more information on Specific Phobias, Learn More

Recommended treatment is Acceptance and Mindfulness with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.