We are all a little fearful of something. It's part of our biological make up and our psychological settings.
Specific phobias occur in about 5% of children and approximately 15% of children are referred to specialists for anxiety-related problems .
But when does fear turn into a phobia and, in kids, when is it something to worry about?
A phobia is an excessive or unreasonable and persistent fear. Common phobias include fear of animals, insects, blood, heights, closed spaces, or flying. In children the identified fear must last at least six months to be considered a phobia rather than a temporary fear.
Some of the more common phobias seen in children include something related to an object or situation that causes extreme anxiety; panic disorder; agoraphobia (fear of open spaces); social anxiety disorder (fear of social situations); separation anxiety disorder (fear of being separated from an attachment figure); selective mutism (inability to speak in social situations).
"The reason fears can become phobias more readily in children, is because they don't have the same ability to rationalise and contextualise as adults do," Dr Michael Nagel says.
The University of the Sunshine Coast Associate Professor of child development and educational psychology says while fears were a perfectly natural part of being a child – and of life in general – some children could be more fearful than others.
"Fears are highly personal and manifest for a number of different reasons,” Dr Nagel says.
"And the fears – and phobias in particular – will come from an event or occurrence."
Colleague Rachael Sharman, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, agrees.
"Kids all pop out differently and some of them have a greater propensity to anxiety and fears," Dr Sharman says.
"It's usually a reactive memory to a trigger.
"In an evolution sense, though, they are a preparedness for those things in the environment that can kill us.
"Think of it as an inbuilt radar for harm."
Dr Nagel says while there were still more questions than answers in the study and research of fears and phobias, there were some simple and effective steps parents could take to comfort their child when they were frightened, along with some effective communication tools.