Agoraphobia In Young Children

Adults are not the only ones affected by anxiety. For example, agoraphobia in young children, although rare, is not unheard of and if suspected, should be treated early before it gets to a debilitating stage.

If your child is afraid to leave the house, it can be frustrating and concerning - especially if they are exhibiting intense anxiety.

It can be difficult to distinguish agoraphobia from other reasons the child might have to not want to go out. We as parents can be frustrated and feel angry with our child for being so fearful about ordinary activities. Or we may go the opposite extreme and comfort and be overly protective (and unwittingly encourage the behavior).

Our reactions to our child's behaviors can complicate them without us even being aware.

If we as parents happen to be anxious or have anxiety issues ourselves, children can pick up on that, and start to feel even more worried because they sense our emotions and pick up on our fears.

Early Diagnosis is Important

Agoraphobia in young children can be difficult to spot and therefore, can go untreated, become more complicated or entrenched and eventually get worse.

As a parent it can be so easy to either be overly cautious or be in denial . We may may not be open enough to think there is a problem. We may think, "Oh well, that's how she is. She'll grow out of it."

For this reason, if your child seems to have unusual levels of anxiety and feels afraid or very worried leaving home be sure to consult with your family doctor or a child psychologist.

Childhood anxiety often has its roots in experiences that the child has gone through. For example, they may have seen a scary TV show that they in some way relate to, been bullied at school, witnessed a traumatic event, or even just have an over active imagination, or have a habit of thinking in a catastrophic manner.

The earlier these fears and habits are addressed the better. It can be much easier sometimes for a child psychologist to determine the cause of the problem and recommend programs or skills if appropriate to help the child.

Don't delay. Listen to your gut feelings.

My Childhood Agoraphobia Experience

by Giri Anthana

I remember as a child in school how I would be frightened to go anywhere unfamiliar on my own. I just HAD to go with someone.

I remember getting on a bus with an older friend. I was dead scared to even pay my own fare! I begged him to pay for me (which he didn't) and I paid it myself, but it made no difference.

As a teenager, I remember my friends making fun of me because I never went anywhere and was afraid of being left behind. When I did go somewhere with them, I became very 'clingy'.

I'd always make sure I would be able to 'hold' someone if they tried to run off. They found teasing me this way to be funny. In fact, they DID run but because I was fast, I could catch up.

I had no idea why I was the way I was. This was in the days I didn't have a panic disorder or agoraphobia (or wasn't told that I did). Looking back, I can see that I was agoraphobic, but had no idea back then.

I wish I had been able to find someone to help me back then, but it was a long time ago and not many people had the knowledge or skill to recognize what was bothering me.

I ended up becoming more and more withdrawn and continuing to suffer from anxiety disorder and panic attacks as an adult.

Agoraphobia Is Treatable

Giri's story is an example of how agoraphobia in young children can be extremely difficult to indentify.

Getting help from a child psychologist can help your child to get on the path way to recovery, and become the happy carefree child they were meant to be.

The therapist will most likely work with your whole family to teach parents and siblings how best to support an anxious child, in a way that helps them become brave and confident.

Early diagnosis and intervention will help your child and your family on so many levels improving relationships and enhancing self esteem. Without help agoraphobia in young children can get progressively worse and can cause your child years of torment, frustration, depression, feeling worthless and low self-esteem.

Do not let your child go through this. Help is available these days.

There are many effective treatments available. Most children can be effectively treated using a combination of cognitive behavior therapy and exposure therapy. Most therapists also conduct some family therapy or instruction as well.

Agoraphobia in young children can normally be treated successfully without the use of drugs, as these can interfer with learning in a young developing brain and may also contribute to future problems.

Let your child be as happy as he or she can be. Like almost everything, the earlier you begin to address an issue the easier it is to solve.

Agoraphobia in young children can be overcome.

Resources & Studies

Biederman, J et al, Panic Disorder & Agoraphobia in Consecutively Referred Children and Adolescents, Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 36, No. 2, 1997.

Craske, Michelle G., et al. "Paths to Panic Disorder/Agoraphobia: An Exploratory Analysis from Age 3 to 21." Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (May 2001)556-563.

Walling, Anne D. "Management of Agoraphobia." American Family Physician 62 (November 2001): 67.

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