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Last Updated on : 09th Apr, 2013

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Specific Phobia

What are Specific Phobias?

The main feature of specific phobia is a persistent and excessive fear that is cued or triggered by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation. Exposure to a phobic object immediately and always results in an anxiety response that may be characterized by panic. Many children and adolescents do not realize that their anxiety is excessive or unreasonable and may believe that their fearful responses are justified. In other words, young people may fully believe that the threatening object or event will really harm them if they do not avoid it. The anxiety response causes considerable distress for the child or adolescent and/or interferes with normal everyday functioning at home, at school, or with friends.

As can be seen below, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) currently has the most research evidence for the treatment of young people with specific phobia. This treatment can be administered in the variety of different formats listed below.

Specific Phobia (SP)

Works Well
What does this mean?
What does this mean?
Might Work
What does this mean?
  • CBT
  • Emotive imagery for SP of darkness
  • In-vivo behavioral exposures with EMDR for SP of spiders
  • Exposures plus contingency management for SP
  • Exposures plus self-control for SP
  • One-session exposure treatment for SP
  • One-session exposure treatment with parents for SP

Source: Silverman, W. K., Pina, A. A., & Viswesvaran, Chockalingam (2008). Evidence-based psychosocial treatments for phobic and anxiety disorders in children and adolescents: A review and meta-analyses. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 37, 105-130.

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