Overview of fears and phobias in children and adolescents
- Marilyn Augustyn, MD
Marilyn Augustyn, MD
- Section Editor — Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
- Associate Professor
- Boston University School of Medicine
All children have fears at some point in their lives . Children are particularly susceptible to learning fear from their parents. Most childhood fears are normal, temporary, and eventually outgrown. Some fears, however, may be symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Studies show that anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric disorders in childhood/adolescence.
Fears and anxiety are on a continuum, with phobias at the more severe end of the spectrum where symptoms are accompanied by functional impairment. Children with this presentation warrant additional evaluation for specific phobia or other anxiety disorders.
This topic describes the pathogenesis, clinical presentation, course, differential diagnosis, and initial management of fears in children and adolescents. The epidemiology, clinical manifestations, course, assessment, and diagnosis of anxiety disorders in children are discussed separately. Pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy for anxiety disorders in children are also discussed separately. (See "Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and course" and "Anxiety disorders in children: Assessment and diagnosis" and "Psychotherapy for anxiety disorders in children and adolescents" and "Pharmacotherapy for anxiety disorders in children and adolescents".)
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- Developmental factors
- Familial factors
- Environmental triggers
- CLINICAL PRESENTATION
- Fears versus phobias
- Assessment instruments
- DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS
- Normal fears
- Anxiety disorders
- Medical conditions
- MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
- Parental education
- Support strategies
- Mental health care
- SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS