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Fear of growing up (in children and adults): why does it happen and what are its symptoms?

Fear of growing up (in children and adults): why does it happen and what are its symptoms?

May 5, 2024

Human beings are constantly growing and developing, and these changes not only occur at a biological level, but also psychological and social. As we grow our environment requires us to behave in a certain way .

Over the years, our physical appearance changes, and our mind too. Each time we become more independent and responsible as we go into adulthood. Although we generally mature as we grow older, some adults remain anchored in the desire to behave like children or adolescents without being able to take responsibility for their actions and adult life. It is a kind of fear of growing .

  • Related article: "Gerantophobia or Gerascofobia: the fear of aging"

Afraid to grow: what is it?

The growth and development of people have always interested psychologists. One of the most well-known theories in developmental psychology is that of Erik Erikson, called "Theory of Psychosocial Development". This author postulates that people go through a series of stages throughout our lives, and in these we have to overcome a series of conflicts that, if overcome successfully, make us acquire different vital skills.

To grow is to evolve, to develop , progress and overcome the different stages, that is, not get stuck in any. Growing brings new knowledge and learning, but it is also necessary to let go of old habits or behavior as we get older.

Sometimes, people they do not follow a normal progression and they are afraid of becoming older . The fear of growing can manifest itself in two ways: with the Peter Pan syndrome, more related to the psychosocial aspects; or with gerontofobia or gerontofobia, which is the fear of becoming older, rather related to physical aspects (body image, loss of mobility, etc.).

  • Related article: "Peter Pan Syndrome: adults trapped in Neverland"

What is Peter Pan syndrome about?

The Peter Pan syndrome refers to those adults who continue to behave like children or teenagers without being able to take responsibility for their actions and adult life. Usually associated with the fear of facing only the difficulties, not leaving the comfort zone and waiting for others to solve their problems. Those who present it are very dependent and well-off individuals.

Individuals with this fear of growing have serious difficulties in assuming the roles of adulthood , like the one of father or the one of professional, and they resist to become independent. They maintain superficial sentimental relationships and do not achieve vital stability.

What are your symptoms

The syndrome of Peter Pan brings with it different consequences for the person who suffers it. Generally, these individuals appear to be happy and live life to the fullest; however, they present high levels of anxiety and sadness. They may also feel little accomplished with their lives, which affects their self-esteem.

There are different symptoms that warn of the presence of this syndrome linked to the fear of growing up. They are the following:

  • They are dependent people with constant need for attention.
  • They feel a great insecurity, lack of confidence and low self-esteem.
  • The commitment is not part of their life, because they consider it an obstacle to their freedom.
  • They are usually people focused on themselves.
  • They are usually spoiled and expect to receive before they give.
  • They have a low tolerance for frustration.
  • They tend to behave like children or adolescents even when they are 30 years old.
  • They feel a great dissatisfaction.
  • They are afraid of loneliness.
  • They are not responsible for their actions and lack little capacity for self-criticism.

Causes of Peter Pan syndrome

The causes of Peter Pan syndrome can be varied. The dependent or avoidant personality It can cause the development of this condition. The style that the person has to face the problems, too. Also, the educational style that has been received by your family and the excess of protection during its development may cause that the individual is not emotionally strong and, therefore, is more prone to develop this syndrome.

Economic difficulties and inability to find employment, as well as irrational beliefs and the lack of social skills They can be behind this phenomenon.

Fear of growing up in children

While it is clear that some adults may feel a great fear of growing up, in the case of children this is unlikely to happen. In large part, this is because their level of reflection is lower and at the social level they do not feel so pressured .

Now, in some cases it can happen that children associate adulthood with something negative , which causes anxiety and terror and causes them to develop a phobia.

Magazine LiveScience echoed the news of a 14-year-old Mexican boy who had such an intense fear of growing up that he took extreme measures for his growth, such as restricting his food intake and distorting his voice to speak with a more acute tone. The boy began to suffer the phobia at 11 years of age, and a few years later he was diagnosed with gerontofobia.

What is gerontofobia?

Gerontofobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by an irrational fear of aging. That is, the years go by and the person suffers a change in appearance, has to depend on others, loses mobility, is taken a residence or his health gets worse. Phobias cause extreme anxiety in the person who suffers them, so they tend to avoid the feared stimulus, be it an object or a situation.

The gerontofobia usually manifests itself in the last stage of the 30 years, when the wrinkles start to appear . Much of the blame for the development of this disorder is the bombardment of information from the media regarding the perfect body image. However, traumatic events are associated with the development of many phobias, and gerontofobia is no exception. The inability to accept that people get older is also one of the reasons why this disorder can manifest itself.

How to overcome Childhood Emotional Neglect (May 2024).

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