Everyone confronts scary situations that they would rather avoid from time to time. But if the fear of an object, activity, or situation becomes so strong that it interferes with one’s life, the fear has escalated into a phobia. Common phobias in children and adolescents include the fear of flying, heights, small spaces, snakes or insects, dogs, fear of the dark and public speaking. Many simple phobias, such as fear of dogs, begin in childhood, and an estimated 12 percent of Americans suffer from a phobia at some point in their life. Frequently the person is well aware that his or her reaction is irrational, but feels helpless to control the fear. Many of the physical symptoms that accompany panic attacks – such as sweating, racing heart, and trembling – also occur with phobias.
Treatment of Specific Phobia:
The scientifically-supported treatment of choice for phobias is exposure therapy. First, children and adolescents are taught coping skills to better manage their anxiety. Then, the child works with the therapist to create a hierarchy of steps toward confronting the feared object or situation. With the therapist’s support, they then participate in gradual exposure to the feared object or situation while using their coping tools to manage anxiety. While gradually confronting the fear, habituation occurs, until the fear is extinguished. The child learns that they can conquer their anxiety.
When appropriate, there is also a supportive component to therapy that allows the child to discuss life stressors and concerns. Parents are educated on the tools their child is learning so they can support a child’s progress outside of treatment. With parent permission, our therapists will work with your child’s school, pediatrician, psychiatrist and other community providers as needed.
Our focus is on treating the “whole child,” so issues other than anxiety may also be addressed in treatment.
For more information regarding treatment for children and adolescents, or to schedule an initial evaluation for your child, please contact Dr. Lori Kasmen at (610) 667-6490 ext 21 or email@example.com
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