Thursday, July 22, 2010

Terrified Toddlers

Did you know that 5 out of every 100 people in the United States suffer from one or more phobia? Often times people think that phobias are something only affects adults, but phobias can start when children are as young as toddlers. Understanding a phobia can help parents understand their child a little better and possibly get professional help for their children.

What is a phobia?
A phobia is more than just a fear; it is a psychological and at times physical problem that doesn’t just “go away”. When a person experiences a scary situation a tiny brain structure called the amygdale registers this experiences and logs down that strong emotion felt during that particular moment. When certain things or situations trigger an emotion, the amygdale warns the person by triggering a fear reaction every time he/she encounters that particular situation. A phobia is a response the brain has learned to attempt to protect the person. Having a phobia is something a person cannot help, but they  can get help for it.

What are the signs?
Often times children (and adults) can experience things like shaking, sweating, chest pains, feeling dizzy, heart pounding, or the inability to breath when they have a panic attack or when they have a phobia of something. It is completely normal for all children to be afraid of things, but phobias are different that just being afraid. Phobias do not go away like a normal fear. “Kids who have a phobia will be afraid of something every time they see or experience it.” 

Different kinds of phobias?
Below is a list of the most common phobias kids suffer from.

Social Phobia- This is when a child is too afraid of talking to a teacher, coach, peers, etc. Sometimes people can mistake the child for being shy, but this is not the same thing. A child might even be too afraid of walking in front of a class room or even talking to a teacher when he/she needs to use the restroom. A phobia such as a social phobia can be very limiting and could make it nearly impossible for a child to socialize with other individuals. Some people may think the child is just shy, but if you watch for signs of a panic attack and this problem persists, please be sure to contact a specialist.  

Agoraphobia- This causes someone to worry about having a panic attack in a place where leaving would be hard or embarrassing. Often times the fear of the panic is so strong that these people will avoid places like crowds, highways, or a busy store.

Claustrophobia- the fear of being in an enclosed space (eg: elevators, tunnels, or airplanes)

Arachnophobia- fear of spiders

Ablutophobia-  fear of washing oneself.

Is there help?
A phobia is something a person has very little control over. They can’t help it but then can get help for themselves. Kids who have phobias should go and see a doctor. Many times the doctor will refer them to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist. Some people take medication for help them with their phobias, other people learn ways of dealing with their phobia, like performing relaxation exercises. No matter what you decided to do, remember that everyone is different and it is best to try and find out what works for that specific person.

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