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Anxiety and Stress Disorders (Children)

Insect Phobias



My 6 year old is very afraid of insects. It all started 3years ago with the cicadas when he was three. We had a lot because we have a lot of trees and live in an older neighborhood. It ruined the summer for him; even after the cicadas were all gone he still was fearful of going in the backyard, even to swing, which is a preferred acivity. Now, this fear has resurfaced. We don`t make a big deal of bugs and try to treat them very matter of factly. My son is very bright and some friends were trying to convince him that some red ants were fire ants. I was able to explain that fire ants only live in Texas and that their mounds are visible, so Texas children can look for them and not lay their tents on them if they are camping, and we don`t have fire ants in Ohio anyway. But one day we were eating lunch and a small spider did come down from the ceiling and landed on his place mat. How can I work with my son? I am being careful not to overreact -- I remember as a child being afraid of bugs and being yelled at, and that definitely didn`t work. My son is going to run into bugs and he can`t stay inside, so can you suggest any resources to help him? He can read, if that helps.


Simple phobias are classically seen in childhood and may be fear of the dark, strangers, yes and even insects. It sounds like your approach is sound and will probably decrease the intensity of this particular fear over time. Exposure in a positive environment will also decrease anxiety. Try a field trip to the insect house at the zoo.

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Response by:

Floyd R Sallee, MD
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati