Anxiety, Fears & Phobias

Are my child’s fears “normal”?

Most people feel afraid in specific situations such as delivering a speech, taking an exam or starting a new school. This fear can be a positive, motivating force which enhances performance. Anxious girlHowever, too much anxiety or general nervousness can be extremely distressing, creating such uncertainty and fear that the person experiencing it cannot function normally. When fear becomes extreme, it can become debilitating.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a generalised feeling of fear and apprehension that may be related to a particular situation or object – and everyone experiences it.

As with adults, children and young people respond differently to life’s stressors depending on their age, individual personalities and coping skills. In most cases, fear and anxiety in children are often natural and change or disappear with age. For example, a child who experiences separation anxiety as a preschooler may become a social butterfly who fearlessly bounds into school a few years later.

Fears may develop from a traumatic experience, but for some, there is no clear event that causes the fear to arise.

If anxious feelings persist, they can take a toll on a child’s sense of well-being. For example, the anxiety associated with social avoidance can have long-term effects as a child with a fear of being rejected can fail to learn important social skills, causing social isolation.

It’s important to recognize and identify the signs and symptoms of childrens’ anxieties so that fears don’t get in the way of everyday life.

Some signs that a child may be overly anxious about something may include:

  • Tummy achebecoming clingy, impulsive, or distracted
  • nervous movements, such as temporary twitches
  • problems getting to sleep and/or staying asleep longer than usual
  • sweaty hands
  • accelerated heart rate and breathing
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • stomach aches

Apart from these signs, parents can usually tell when their child is feeling excessively uneasy about something. Lending a sympathetic ear is always helpful, and sometimes just talking about the fear can help a child move beyond it. However, if your child shows no sign of their anxiety reducing over time or develops generalised anxiety (i.e. feels anxious almost constantly, even though nothing specific seems to provoke their anxiety) professional assistance is required.

Panic disorders

A form of anxiety – people with panic disorder have sudden overwhelming feelings of acute and disabling anxiety. These are called panic attacks which recur and last for several minutes, sometimes longer. These attacks are often random with no known or identifiable trigger. Some people with panic disorder have frequent attacks, some experience clusters of attacks, and others have infrequent attacks.

Panic disorder is particularly debilitating and the physical effects are intense – it can feel like a heart attack- with:

  • a racing heart beat
  • difficulty breathing
  • sweating
  • weakness or dizziness
  • tingly or numb hands
  • feeling hot or a cold chill
  • chest or stomach pain

Panic disorder often begins in the late teens or early adulthood. More women than men have panic disorder but not everyone who experiences panic attacks will develop panic disorder.

Due to the debilitating nature of panic disorders, professional assistance is always recommended.

Phobic disorders

A phobia is an extreme fear of something specific, like:Clown

  • a person or animal (like clowns or insects)
  • a place or type of place (for example, a hospital or graveyard)
  • a type of object (such as needles or knives)
  • an activity (like swimming or riding in an elevator)
  • a situation (for example, being alone in the dark)

The fear is unreasonable and disproportionate to the situation.

The most common and disabling symptom of a phobia is a panic attack accompanied by an overwhelming desire to avoid the triggering object or situation. Many psychologists agree that once a phobia is established, it is maintained by the relief the person experiences from escaping or avoiding the feared object or situation. The pattern of behaviour then becomes one of avoidance and can have a detrimental effect on a person’s ability to live a normal life.

Phobias can be caused by genetic and environmental reasons. Children who have a close relative with an anxiety disorder are known to have a greater risk for developing a phobia.

Distressing events can bring on a phobia such as experiencing being trapped in a confined space, exposed to extreme temperatures, nearly drowning, or an animal or insect bite can all be sources of phobias. Phobias are also often found in people with ongoing medical conditions or health concerns. There is a high incidence of phobia development after traumatic brain injuries. Substance abuse and depression also have been connected to phobias.

If a phobia prevents a person from engaging in everyday activities, professional help should be sought.

Home and Family Counselling

Home and Family Counselling provides professional, affordable and accessible counselling for children and their families, couples and individuals on a voluntary contribution basis.

Locations

  • Central Auckland
  • North Shore
  • Rodney

Specialities

  • Anxiety, Fears & Phobias
  • Behaviour Concerns
  • Family Relationships
  • Trauma & Grief
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Aurora Associates

I offer you brief or long term interventions for children, adolescents and adults. Assisting with a range of life challenges, I help create a new outlook on life.

Location

  • West Auckland

Specialities

  • ADHD & Other Behaviour Disorders
  • Anxiety, Fears & Phobias
  • Behaviour Concerns
  • Family Relationships
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Lifeline Aotearoa

Lifeline offers 24/7 free helplines and low-cost counselling to support the emotional and mental wellbeing of New Zealanders. We listen and work with them to understand what's going on, help them identify change they could make and bring a sense of peace, hope and strength back into their lives.

Locations

  • Central Auckland
  • East Auckland
  • North Shore
  • Rodney
  • South Auckland
  • West Auckland

Specialities

  • Anger
  • Anxiety, Fears & Phobias
  • Bullying
  • Depression & Mood
  • Family Relationships
  • Trauma & Grief
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Mary Ashby-Green

Specialising in children struggling at school with learning, dyslexia, behaviour & anxiety, Mary can help your child thrive with a toolbox of strategies to make life & learning fun again.

Location

  • Rodney

Specialities

  • Anxiety, Fears & Phobias
  • Behaviour Concerns
  • Bullying
  • Reading
  • Self-confidence & Self-esteem
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ICONZ – The Boys’ Brigade in NZ Inc

ICONZ and Boys’ Brigade offer weekly adventure based programmes for boys, mentored by men of integrity whose desire it is too see kiwi boys become kiwi icons. Programmes are specifically designed to develop practical life skills and encourage values such as discipline, integrity, respect.

Locations

  • East Auckland
  • North Shore
  • South Auckland
  • West Auckland

Specialities

  • Anxiety, Fears & Phobias
  • Bullying
  • Outdoor Sports & Activities
  • Pre-employment, Careers & Life Skills
  • Social Skills
  • Water sports & activities
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Lyn Nicholls Family Therapist/ Counsellor

A practical and supportive family therapy service for parents and children, to help empower all members of the family to have an easier and more enjoyable life.

Locations

  • Central Auckland
  • North Shore

Specialities

  • Anger
  • Anxiety, Fears & Phobias
  • Behaviour Concerns
  • Self-confidence & Self-esteem
  • Trauma & Grief
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Totally Psyched

Totally Psyched offers a friendly, supportive team of mental health professionals with solid credentials and evidence based practice to address a wide range of mental health challenges for children, adolescents & families.

Location

  • North Shore

Specialities

  • ADHD & Other Behaviour Disorders
  • Anxiety, Fears & Phobias
  • Depression & Mood
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Kereru Psychotherapy & Counselling

Are you battling with a situation you need to discuss in a supportive environment? We believe that with specialised support, children, young people and their families can discover the strength to endure the toughest of times.

Location

  • North Shore

Specialities

  • Anxiety, Fears & Phobias
  • Bullying
  • Family Relationships
  • Parenting Skills
  • Self-confidence & Self-esteem
  • Trauma & Grief
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Indigo

We provide assistance for children, young people and adults with learning, behavioural, emotional and cognitive needs. Our services cover a broad range of abilities and difficulties from struggling learners to giftedness; emotional issues and behavioural concerns. We provide assessments, strategies and support to overcome these difficulties.

Location

  • North Shore

Specialities

  • ADHD & Other Behaviour Disorders
  • Anxiety, Fears & Phobias
  • Social Skills
  • Special Exam / Assessment Conditions
  • Testing for Behaviour Concerns
  • Testing for Learning Concerns
  • Testing for Special Abilities
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Brain / Body In Synch

Educational and developmental Kinesiology and Brain Gym are used in one to one sessions to overcome learning and emotional blocks, and integrate primitive reflexes.

Location

  • North Shore

Specialities

  • Anxiety, Fears & Phobias
  • Coordination, Motor Skills & Mobility
  • Gifted & Talented
  • Teacher & Parent Education
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