Phobic anxiety

Ella L. Milliner, Lara J. Farrell, Thomas H. Ollendick

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Children typically experience a range of fears during the course of their development. The content of these fears follows a predictable course that coincides with increasing cognitive development (Gullone, 2000; Muris et al., 2000; Ollendick et al., 2004), from concrete fears in infancy and toddlerhood (e.g. strangers and animals) to increasingly more abstract fears in childhood (e.g. ghosts, the supernatural) and adolescence (e.g. social fears, agoraphobia). Specific fears tend to peak in early childhood between the ages of 7 and 9 years and then begin to decline in children 10 years and older (Muris et al., 2000). While typically transient in nature, for some children fears persist and become more frequent, intensive and durable in nature, eventually evolving into a phobia (Ollendick et al., 2004). Phenomenology and epidemiology According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–IV–TR; American Psychiatric Association, 2000) a specific phobia is an intense and persistent fear cued by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation. Exposure to the phobic stimulus typically provokes an immediate anxiety response or panic attack in the child and the phobic stimulus is typically avoided or, if avoidance is not possible, endured with considerable distress. Moreover, avoidance of the phobic stimulus generally interferes significantly with the child’s academic, social and family functioning. The fear cannot be better accounted for by another mental disorder. The DSM–IV–TR criteria take into consideration the tenets of developmental psychopathology and specify that fear should not be transient and must be present for at least 6 months in children. Additionally, unlike adults, children are not required to recognise that their fear is excessive or unreasonable.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCognitive behaviour therapy for children and families
EditorsPhilip J. Graham, Shirley Reynolds
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9781107689855
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameCambridge child and adolescent psychiatry
PublisherCambridge University Press


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