Childhood phobias: should they be tackled early?
A phobia is a stressful reaction to a creature, location, situation, feeling or thing. Childhood phobias are so much more pronounced than just being slightly afraid of something. They are a serious fear and avoidance of a specific circumstance or object that creates extreme anxiety. These feelings and incidents can cause the sufferer to become isolated, depressed and anxious. For example, a child who suffers from a fear of spiders often experiences an overwhelming and debilitating terror when they come into contact with any form of spider.
Unfortunately, phobias are long lasting and can develop at any age. They commonly happen because of a given incident or trauma like, for example, being spooked in early childhood by a pigeon suddenly taking flight in a park. Phobias can also be learned behaviour copied from a sibling or parent. Many children will be afraid of something at some point in their life. Being afraid of strangers, separation anxiety or just being afraid of the dark. These fears will mostly dissipate and possibly be replaced by another when passing through a normal developmental stage. However, should these fears and anxieties evolve into something more serious, parents need to keep a close eye out for the signs and symptoms so they can minimize any detrimental impact on their child.
If a childhood phobia is left untreated, it can soon become an uncomfortable habit that causes feelings of terror and panic whenever exposed to the stimuli. It can then have an effect on a child’s well-being and social development and restrict many of aspects of their life. Many phobias are rooted in childhood and can range from the surprisingly common fears of the seemingly harmless, like buttons, balloons and clowns or the more serious fear of going to school. Often, parents tackle these habits early by helping their child confront their phobia. This can be an effective strategy but it may also have the opposite effect and create more fear.
Avoiding the cause of a phobia during childhood can aggravate anxiety so it manifests to a greater extreme in later life. Resolving childhood phobias when they emerge can reduce the likelihood of experiencing years of distress and this can be done effectively with hypnotherapy techniques. Children and young people are extremely receptive to hypnosis as their imagination is far greater than an adults and they are in the learning phase of their development. Children can create their own tools and capabilities to conquer fear with guided imagery and positive mental rehearsal. This can often be achieved in one or two sessions.
Tunbridge Wells based hypnotherapist Karen Martin has helped many children overcome phobias and anxieties. She said: “Children of all ages are wonderful hypnotherapy subjects as they can immerse themselves in creative stories of bravery, courage, success and recovery. this helps them to become their own ‘superhero’, overcoming fears or problems and winning the day. My skill is in pressing the right imaginative buttons to help them deconstruct their phobias so they can change their reaction, desensitise them to the triggers so they can tolerate exposure to the cause and dissociate them from it so they can regard themselves as having overcome their fear.”
A clinical hypnotherapist, master NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) practitioner, Karen has many years experience treating a wide range of conditions and disorders in adults, adolescents and children. Anxiety in its many forms, from phobias to panic disorders, and behavioural change, like weight management and smoking cessation, are issues she specialises in and has a consistent track record of successfully treating. Karen also teaches hypnotherapy and counselling on university accredited Chrysalis Courses.