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More Than Fear | Helping a Child Overcome It

 

More Than Fear | Helping a Child Overcome It

 

In the eyes of a child, the world is a fascinating, yet scary place, being huge and filled with many unfamiliar things. This means fear is very common among young children. These are often overcome as they grow older. Fear is not just a usual emotion in children. It is also a productive emotion that teaches them to be cautious, tempering their recklessness and eagerness to experiment or try new experiences.

These typical fears fade in time. New fears can be developed; that is not unusual. Considering the child’s lack of experience and their limited ability to understand/rationalize many things and verbally express their feelings, it is understandable why they may react in fear to many harmless ordinary things. There are, however, signs and symptoms that are healthy – these are red flags. When these are observed, it is best to see a behavioral health professional with haste.

 

What’s Okay and What’s Not

A vast number of young people wrestle with fear, whether they are toddlers, school-aged, or in their adolescence. Many of these are outgrown in time but replaced by new ones. For instance, recognizing the faces of people in their immediate environment, babies aged 8 to 9 months old commonly exhibit stranger anxiety. Toddlers, feeling secure with the people they know, may refuse to be separated from their parents or caregivers.

Preschoolers can have fears because of their active imagination, turning shadows, sounds and movements into monsters and ghosts. This is outgrown soon enough, so that children 7 years old and older usually won’t be scared by “unreal” threats any longer. Rather, they are afraid of real dangers, such as their parents having accidents, a loved one dying, and such. Afraid of rejection and not being accepted, 10-year old children and teenagers are vulnerable to social fears.

Though these fears can be typical, they are not when intense, irrational and is beyond the more vulnerable years. For example, a child 8 years or older that refuses to be left in school is a red flag.  Though fear from being separated is expected from toddlers and preschool children, it is odd for older ones. When a child had a traumatic experience, it isn’t healthy to assume that excessive fears are natural. If your little one has troubling symptoms, such as nightmares and heightened arousal – angry outbursts, jitteriness, irritability, sleeplessness, and poor focus – these are not okay.

 

Phobia: What Is It?

Fear is a natural human emotion that can serve a purpose when one is in danger. According to an article authored by Laporte et.al (2017) and published by the British Journal of Psychiatry, “It is an adaptive emotion and essential for survival.” It can be unproductive and unhealthy when it is already “more than fear,” bordering on phobia and it is interfering in your child’s life and their activities. Stanford Children’s Health defines a phobia as “an identifiable and persistent fear that is excessive or unreasonable and is triggered by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation.”

A phobia is a very powerful form of fear. It is excessive, illogical and persistent. It can overwhelm anyone, particularly children. Though it may not make sense – excessive fear of taking the school bus, being attacked by dogs or being in a crowd – the terror is very real and persuasive. For children, these emotions can be incapacitating. Not taking the bus may mean missing school. Being afraid of dogs may prevent your child from leaving the house. If he/she fears crowds, they can develop severe shyness.  

You can be baffled by your child’s phobia. It is not easy to understand having varied possible causes. Stanford Children’s Health says that “both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the onset of phobias.” Meanwhile, specific phobias can be related to a horrible first experience with the phobic situation or thing.  To this day, however, it is not clear if a child can develop the phobia because of a genetic predisposition or because of a terrible experience.

Phobia or excessive fear is difficult to ignore because of its intense manifestations, but fear in children can have unusual symptoms. Stanford Children’s Health shares these symptoms:

 

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Upset stomach
  • Feeling dizzy or faint
  • Fear of losing power over actions
  • Fear of dying
  • Numbness
  • Chills or hot flashes

 

The Challenge

Parents may feel helpless and frustrated when they see their precious children gripped with extreme fear, which to them may appear senseless. If you feel this way, you are not alone. According to statistics, about 10 percent of the population has specific phobias. A large fraction of those struggling start to develop these phobias while young. This means that you have the power to change the outcome of your child’s intense and illogical fears/phobia, by having it treated as soon as you recognize the symptoms.

Recognizing the symptoms is key to receiving a proper diagnosis and treatment to improve the outcome of the condition. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to recognize the symptoms. For one, these bear a resemblance to the symptoms of the other medical disorders and emotional conditions, like depression, ADHD and bipolar disorder. The symptoms may also be masked as three or more occur at the same time during attacks, with or without a known, recognizable cause.

Parents may also miss the symptoms, ignoring them in the belief that fears are natural in children and that these will soon pass. The younger the child is, the more challenging it can be for you, considering their limited abilities, insofar as verbally expressing their emotions is concerned. Maybe there is a logical reason to be afraid, such as being harassed by a bully in their school or neighborhood. Or maybe, your child has been previously traumatized and needs expert help. How do you ease your child’s irrational fear?

 

Meeting the Challenge with Counseling

When your child is emotionally troubled, you will not have peace of mind until it is resolved. It can keep you preoccupied, consuming your every waking moment. The process can be difficult, considering all the challenges that may exacerbate the issue. Rather than living your life watching your child battle his/her way through fears, seek help. There is nothing wrong with accepting the support of well-meaning family and friends. Remember, nonetheless, that the best advice can only come from a qualified professional. Have the symptoms assessed and the condition diagnosed. The right professional is near your home – a skilled counselor/therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – Cameron, NC.

As a parent, your child will look to you during this trying time. There is no need to be afraid or feel helpless and desperate. Continue to be the loving, comforting, supportive, and reassuring parent that you are. If you feel you are losing it, as you are overwhelmed by so many kinds of emotions, CCS-Cameron will be there to assist you during this challenging time. Since you spend more time with your child, you can do a lot of things for him/her. The outlook of your child’s intense fear/phobia improving is a great possibility with the right help.

Call us today to find the help your child needs.

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Cameron, NC

Counties: Harnett County

Areas: Cameron NC, Linden Oaks NC, Sprout Springs NC, Anderson Creek NC, Olivia NC, Pineview NC, Johnsonville NC, Spring Lake NC

Zip Codes: 28326, 28327, 27332, 28394

Rose Thomas, MA, LPC, LCAS, NCC

Specializes in: (Ages 5+) Children, Teens, Individuals, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder, ADHD, Relationship Issues, Marriage Counseling, Parenting, PTSD/Trauma Recovery, Acute Stress Disorder, Adult Sexual Abuse Survivors, Adjustment Disorders, Depressive Disorders, Persistent Depressive Disorder, Bipolar and Related Disorders, Self-injurious/Self-Harm, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Separation Anxiety, Disruptive Disorders, Conduct Disorder, Marital Conflict and Discord, LGBT, Substance Use Disorders
 Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Tricare Prime, Tricare Select, Extra, Retired, Cash, HSA and FSA accepted (credit cards accepted)
 Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

 

Specializes in: (Ages 4+) Children, Individuals, families, PTSD, Trauma, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Adjustment Disorder, ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, communication skills, and Parenting Skills, Behavior Management, Life transitions, Family Conflict, Difficulty Coping, Relationship Problems, Depression, Anxiety

InsuranceBCBSTricare, Cash, HSA and FSA accepted and Apple Pay

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Shirlisa Daniels, MS, LPC, NCC

Specializes in: (Ages 4+) Children, Teens, Adults and Individuals, Families, Anxiety Disorders, Depression, Panic Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, ODD, PTSD, Relationship Issues, Conflict Resolution and Life Transitions
Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Cash (credit cards accepted)
 Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

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Carolina Counseling Services - Cameron, NC
35 Plantation Drive, Suite 100B and 100C
Cameron, NC 28326

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