Typical Teen Phobias and What To Do About Them

Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease. A phobia is a type of anxiety, a type of fear related to an immanent event or even related to an uncertain outcome. For example, if you’ve lost your job, you might feel fearful about the unknown – where your money might come from or where you might find another job. This is normal for most adolescents and adults. However, when anxiety becomes excessive and unrealistic, an anxiety disorder, including a phobia, might be present.

Phobia is an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to some person, place or thing. There are phobias that are typical for teens, those that are associated with adolescence. 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.

Phobias are marked by a consistent fear when faced with an object or particular circumstance. The cause of teen phobias is not yet determined, though some believe that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to phobias.  Phobias can be present in very young children as well as teens and adolescents. Examples of specific phobias can include fear of animals, air travel, being outside, social situations, blood, or being separated from a loved one. Those afflicted will often react with extreme terror whenever they are faced with a trigger that stimulates their fear, such as being in a certain place or around a certain person or even when in circumstances that are similar to a past situation in which trauma might have occurred.

The phobia triggers a number of physiological effects, such as increased heart rate, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, sweaty palms, feeling cold, loss of the ability to think reasonably, and other symptoms. It’s as though someone is experiencing genuine panic,

Of course, one phobia that commonly emerges in adolescence, a time when feeling accepted by their peers is highly important, is social phobia, sometimes diagnosed as 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 extremely 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.

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.

Phobias vs Anxiety: What’s the difference?

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.

Anxiety 

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 Phobia

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.

Other types of 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
  • Didaskaleinophobia: Fear of Going to School

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.

Panic and Phobias

These emotional and physical symptoms are not too different from those of a panic attack, which is an unexpected wave of great panic or fear.  One type of phobia that is associated with panic attacks is Agoraphobia, the fear of enclosed spaces. The two are related when panic attacks worsen and agoraphobia develops as a result. For instance, if an adolescent experiences a panic attack in class, that teen might also feel incredible anxious about having another panic attack in a social setting, thus strengthening a fear of being in public settings, particularly a fear of not being able to escape or not being able to access emergency services if needed.

Phobia Treatment

Treatment of teen phobias can be difficult. Some believe in immersion therapy, also known as exposure therapy, wherein an adolescent is slowly introduced to the thing or situation that they fear most. Behavioral therapy can also be helpful in identifying the root cause of a particular phobia, which can be vital to the recovery process. Sometimes medication is prescribed when a teen phobia is particularly severe. It is important to consult a qualified therapist when determining the best course of action for treatment. Every teen is different, and what works in one case may not work in another.

Learning how to relax is another way to work with phobias. Breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, and meditation can facilitate a sense of ease when fear and panic feel like they are going to take over. For instance, feeling fear is usually accompanied by shallow breathing. If an adolescent were to become conscious of his or her breathing right in the middle of feeling panic, making the breath long and deep, this could shift his or her physiological state.

If phobia is interfering in a teen’s life, know that there are a variety of supportive tools to use. Between medication, therapy, and relaxation techniques, you can heal from anxiety and not let a phobia come between you and your well-being.

With Trypanophobia and other types of phobia, it would be important to seek treatment when symptoms become a major disruption in life and impairs functioning at school, home, or work. For example, if a teen has an excessive fear of bridges and there are no bridges in the community where he or she lives, then there may be no need to treat this phobia. However, if that adolescent needed to cross a bridge every morning to get to school and truancy develops as a result of avoiding the travel to school, treatment would be is necessary.

It would be best to consider treatment if a phobia causes an adolescent intense fear, anxiety, or panic. If that anxiety or fear is excessive and unreasonable and it impairs functioning, then seeking the help of a mental health professional would also be applicable. Finally, a phobia lasting for 6 months or more would also be a reason to seek treatment.

Conclusion 

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.

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Typical Teen Phobias and What To Do About Them

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Lucy Nguyen

Lucy Nguyen, LMFT
Medical Reviewer

Lucy Nguyen is the Executive Director at Paradigm Treatment, overseeing all clinical treatment programs across the organization's southwestern region. Her extensive experience includes working with young adults in private practice, serving as a therapist for children and teens with emotional and behavioral needs, and acting as a behavior interventionist for teens with developmental disorders. Lucy integrates cognitive-behavioral approaches with mindfulness and compassion in her work, and she is also EMDR-trained. She holds a Master of Science in Counseling from California State University, Fullerton, and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Social Behavior from the University of California, Irvine.

Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease. A phobia is a type of anxiety, a type of fear related to an immanent event or even related to an uncertain outcome. For example, if you’ve lost your job, you might feel fearful about the unknown – where your money might come from or where you might find another job. This is normal for most adolescents and adults. However, when anxiety becomes excessive and unrealistic, an anxiety disorder, including a phobia, might be present.

Phobia is an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to some person, place or thing. There are phobias that are typical for teens, those that are associated with adolescence. 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.

Phobias are marked by a consistent fear when faced with an object or particular circumstance. The cause of teen phobias is not yet determined, though some believe that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to phobias.  Phobias can be present in very young children as well as teens and adolescents. Examples of specific phobias can include fear of animals, air travel, being outside, social situations, blood, or being separated from a loved one. Those afflicted will often react with extreme terror whenever they are faced with a trigger that stimulates their fear, such as being in a certain place or around a certain person or even when in circumstances that are similar to a past situation in which trauma might have occurred.

The phobia triggers a number of physiological effects, such as increased heart rate, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, sweaty palms, feeling cold, loss of the ability to think reasonably, and other symptoms. It’s as though someone is experiencing genuine panic,

Of course, one phobia that commonly emerges in adolescence, a time when feeling accepted by their peers is highly important, is social phobia, sometimes diagnosed as 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 extremely 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.

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.

Phobias vs Anxiety: What's the difference?

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.

Anxiety 

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 Phobia

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.

Other types of 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
  • Didaskaleinophobia: Fear of Going to School

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.

Panic and Phobias

These emotional and physical symptoms are not too different from those of a panic attack, which is an unexpected wave of great panic or fear.  One type of phobia that is associated with panic attacks is Agoraphobia, the fear of enclosed spaces. The two are related when panic attacks worsen and agoraphobia develops as a result. For instance, if an adolescent experiences a panic attack in class, that teen might also feel incredible anxious about having another panic attack in a social setting, thus strengthening a fear of being in public settings, particularly a fear of not being able to escape or not being able to access emergency services if needed.

Phobia Treatment

Treatment of teen phobias can be difficult. Some believe in immersion therapy, also known as exposure therapy, wherein an adolescent is slowly introduced to the thing or situation that they fear most. Behavioral therapy can also be helpful in identifying the root cause of a particular phobia, which can be vital to the recovery process. Sometimes medication is prescribed when a teen phobia is particularly severe. It is important to consult a qualified therapist when determining the best course of action for treatment. Every teen is different, and what works in one case may not work in another.

Learning how to relax is another way to work with phobias. Breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, and meditation can facilitate a sense of ease when fear and panic feel like they are going to take over. For instance, feeling fear is usually accompanied by shallow breathing. If an adolescent were to become conscious of his or her breathing right in the middle of feeling panic, making the breath long and deep, this could shift his or her physiological state.

If phobia is interfering in a teen's life, know that there are a variety of supportive tools to use. Between medication, therapy, and relaxation techniques, you can heal from anxiety and not let a phobia come between you and your well-being.

With Trypanophobia and other types of phobia, it would be important to seek treatment when symptoms become a major disruption in life and impairs functioning at school, home, or work. For example, if a teen has an excessive fear of bridges and there are no bridges in the community where he or she lives, then there may be no need to treat this phobia. However, if that adolescent needed to cross a bridge every morning to get to school and truancy develops as a result of avoiding the travel to school, treatment would be is necessary.

It would be best to consider treatment if a phobia causes an adolescent intense fear, anxiety, or panic. If that anxiety or fear is excessive and unreasonable and it impairs functioning, then seeking the help of a mental health professional would also be applicable. Finally, a phobia lasting for 6 months or more would also be a reason to seek treatment.

Conclusion 

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.

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