To be afraid of a thing, place, or person is one thing, but to experience excessive anxiety that is persistent and irrational about that object, person, or place is another. Sure, anxiety will be a part of the adolescent experience. When you reflect on all the changes – emotionally, psychologically, and physically – that a teen goes through, it’s natural that anxiety might accompany those processes of change.
However, teen phobias are an entirely different form of anxiety. It’s considered to be a disorder, categorized under anxiety disorders. What defines anxiety as a disorder, whether it’s a specific phobia or not, is when it is excessive and unrealistic. Having worry or anxiety before a major life event, prior to an exam, or right before asking a girl out, is normal. When anxiety and fear become excessive, it’s considered abnormal.
To make more of a distinction, there are certain fears that tend to naturally develop at certain ages and are also considered normal. For instance, children under two years old may be afraid of loud noises, strangers, or separation from their parents. Toddlers might be afraid of ghosts, monsters, sleeping alone, or strange noises; and adolescents might fear bodily injury, illness, school performance, death, and natural disasters.
However, when fear or anxiety becomes extreme, it might be an indication that an anxiety disorder is present. A symptom of some anxiety disorders is free-floating anxiety, which is anxiety that is unrelated to a realistic, known source. However, a phobia is a persistent and irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation. There is a particular related source to the fear or anxiety that an adolescent might experience.
The list of types of teen phobias is long. Essentially, there could be any number of things or places that might stimulate excessive fear and worry. Yet, common phobias include fear of animals, such as fear of spiders, dogs, or snakes; fear of environmental circumstances, such as heights, water, or the dark; and fear of specific situations, such as enclosed spaces, flying, or bridges.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Of course, one phobia that might emerge in adolescence is social phobia, sometimes termed Social Anxiety Disorder. It’s an illness in which the fear of social situations, specifically fearing judgment and embarrassment in those situations, is excessive. A teen might be excessively worried about how he or she looks or will behave and might even avoid those situations to escape the anxiety, rather than enjoying that experience. Social phobia tends to also come within an extreme feeling of self-consciousness and a fear of humiliating oneself.
In addition to Social Phobia, the following is a list of teen phobias that might be present in adolescence:
- Agoraphobia – Fear of Open Spaces
- Claustrophobia – Fear of Enclosed Spaces
- Acrophobia – Fear of Heights
- Zoophobia – Fear of Animals
- Trypanophobia – Fear of Injections or Medical Needles
- Nosophobia – Fear of Having a Disease
- Homophobia – Fear of Homosexuality
- Monophobia – Fear of Being Alone
Aside from those listed above, there are many phobias that are possible to experience. However, these include a few of the most common for teens.
Some individuals, including teens, can embellish their experiences and communicate they have a phobia when there isn’t one. A phobia is a mental illness with symptoms that can cause severe distress. For this reason, the second part of this three part series will review those symptoms; and the third article in this series will explore how phobias are commonly treated.