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UNDERSTANDING GENERAL PHOBIAS IN TEENS

According to Merriam-Webster, a phobia as “an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation”.

This means that a teenager with a phobia will have an irrational or intense fear of something. In addition to all of the positive lessons that accompany a young person’s adolescence, part of adolescence is the accompaniment of stress, anxiety, exploration, boundary testing, and general discomforts. Many teenagers will experience bouts of extreme anxiety in relation to certain situations (i.e. getting a shot at the doctor’s office, or not having anyone to sit with at lunch). There is, however, a common anxiety disorder that is said to affect many teenagers, which goes by the name of Specific Phobia, also known as Simple Phobia. A specific phobia is more than just the average fear of random things that an adolescent may experience. Young people that struggle with this will go to extreme lengths to avoid being confronted with the source of their fear. Teenagers can develop a specific phobia of anything, at any time.

Common Phobias

While a teenager can have a specific phobia of anything, there are certain common phobias that seem to arise in young people. The following is a list of examples that are common phobias experienced by adolescents:

  • Claustrophobia—fear of confined spaces
  • Ophidiophobia—fear of snakes
  • Arachnophobia—fear of spiders, scorpions, and other arachnids
  • Acrophobia—fear of heights
  • Iatrophobia—fear of doctors
  • Tryphanophobia—fear of injections
  • Cynophobia—fear of dogs
  • Astraphobia—fear of storms
  • Homophobia—fear of blood
  • Aquaphobia—fear of water

Two types that are not included above are agoraphobia, the fear of public spaces, open areas and crowds, as well as social phobia both of which are considered to be classified as disorders and not as specific phobias. The above are examples of some of the common phobias, and it is important to note that the list does not include all of the possibilities.

Recognizing the Signs

There are several signs that a parent can look out for that may be exhibited in a teen that has a specific phobia. Some of them can include any combination of the following:

  • Extreme avoidance of the same situation, or thing.
  • The occurrence of regular panic attacks that manifest in direct relation to being confronted with the same situation, or thing.
  • A teen recognizing that the fears they are experiencing are irrational and/or excessive.
  • Exhibiting extreme worry and/or fear when simply thinking about the feared situation or thing.
  • Self-medicating through the use of drugs, alcohol and or nicotine.
  • Suicidal ideation

As a parent, it is important to always be aware of any significant shifts in your teen, whether they are personality changes, physical changes, and/or a change in your teen’s social group. Adolescence is a tricky stage of life, and as your child grows, matures, and changes, it is imperative to continue to provide ample emotional support.

If you are concerned that your young one may be struggling with a specific phobia, it may be helpful to connect with a mental health professional. There is no harm in arming yourself with adequate knowledge surrounding general phobias, as well as obtaining additional support in assisting your teen. At Pacific Teen Treatment, we create individualized treatment plans for each of our residents to help treat their specific phobias. With proper assistance and support, a teenager can overcome their phobia.

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact an individual for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.