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Description: persistent, irrational fears about certain objects or situations.

Teenagers suffering from a phobia are usually mature enough to recognize that their intense fear defies logic, but they are unable to control it. The phobias seen most frequently during adolescence are agoraphobia, fear of leaving a familiar setting, such as one’s home, social phobia, a painful fear of humiliating oneself in public; and specific phobia, a chronic fear of a single thing or event. Among the more common phobias to prey upon teens are fears of snakes, heights, needle injections, flying in airplanes and getting low grades.

As long as the object of the phobia can generally be avoided and not disrupt a child’s day-to-day life, treatment may not be necessary. Social phobia, though, almost always gets in the way of normal functioning. Young people with social phobia may be too intimidated to speak up in the classroom or present a speech. (Fear of speaking in public is the most common manifestation of social phobia.)

This is not the same thing as shyness. Plenty of people with social phobia are outgoing and completely at ease around others much of the time. But the thought of attending a party, walking into class late or any number of situations can send them into a panic. With some teens, social phobia takes the form of school avoidance. They wake up in the morning complaining of various physical ailments, which not-so-mysteriously vanish once they’re pardoned from having to attend school.

Signs of a Phobia

One or more of the following symptoms when exposed to or thinking about the source of the phobia:

  • palpitations
  • sweating
  • trembling and shaking
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • flushed face
  • disturbing thoughts and images
Last Updated
Caring for Your Teenager (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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