Specific Phobia: What Is It?

“Specific phobia” is a disorder characterized by an excessive and irrational fear of an object or situation not normally considered dangerous. Children with specific phobia aren’t anxious in general; they only become so when confronted with the particular thing that causes them terror, whether it’s dogs, the dark, clowns, blood, or loud noises. The fear can be triggered directly, by encountering the thing itself, or a indirectly: hearing a song about it, for instance, or seeing a photo.

Children with specific phobias will anticipate and avoid the thing that triggers their fear, and this avioidance can greatly interfere with normal activities. Though adults and adolescents realize that their fear is unwarranted, children often do not. Specific phobias are more common among girls than boys.