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.
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 your 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.