Temple Grandin says people with autism have a slightly bigger fear box (source). Though we haven’t had a brain scan, my son has lived with constant fear his entire life. Currently, teenage fear effects EVERY aspect of his life.
- How he crosses the street.
- How he navigates through school.
- What he ruminates about.
- Why he doesn’t sleep.
Living in constant fear has a huge impact on your social relationships, how you learn at school, and how you do in the community. Basically, your entire life.
Beyond Normal Teenage Fear
It’s Halloween month and all the scary decorations are going up. While my son has always loved Halloween, he’s never had a frightening costume due to sensory issues on top of constant fear. He’s always been a magician, rock star, or Ron from Harry Potter, all super safe and sensory friendly.
Some kids love to be scared, to watch horror movies, and go to haunted houses. My son would have a heart attack, no joke. And I take his fear very seriously. We are still learning and trying to figure out how to help him and I often feel I’m failing him. Can you relate?
He can’t watch scary movies (not that we let him). Watching a documentary on Jon Benet Ramsey sent him over the edge for weeks. He still is!
Teenage Fear ALL The Time
I know this is the season that people really love that adrenaline rush of controlled fear. It’s such a high and so fun to scream with your friends. But when it’s fright night all day 24/7 in your head, being spooked is not a thrill.
Teenage Fear, Anxiety, or Paranoia?
It really takes an expert, highly trained in the mental health field, so start by finding a psychologist your child and you respond to.
Next, as a parent, there are ways you can help put your child into a more peaceful mental state.
- Be compassionate to their needs. They have to feel they can trust you. That you are a safe place for them. And that you care.
- Educate yourself. And them! Take this fun quiz on Buzzfeed “How Paranoid are You?” and “This is What Someone With Anxiety Hears.” It really shows how distorted thinking can be and will help you understand. Read this explanation of Paranoid Disorders on WebMd.
- Find Resources. There are so many web pages out there to support you and your teenager. A few great ones are: ParanoidThoughts.com (hear from people with paranoia) and Anxiety in Teens (written by teenagers).
- Prepare when you can. Watch videos. Learn what you can. Know what to expect. Utilize the great gift that is the internet!
- Seek Help for Yourself. It’s emotionally and cognitively draining to care for someone with mental health problems. Don’t shame yourself for being overwhelmed. And please don’t shame your teen. You’re both going through a lot and you deserve support, and professional help.
**Remember** Their fear doesn’t just go away, even if they get better at hiding it.
I had this reminder recently when I took my toddler on a merry-go-round and my teen about had a heart attack. He was incredibly fearful that the ride would break, he’d get dizzy, etc. For a brief moment, I thought it was absurd. But I quickly realized that his panic was real to him. Although some might find the situation ridiculous, I have to remember his sensory system and his fear box keep him in red alert ALL THE TIME. How exhausting!
Just love your kiddos. Love, love, love and love more when you think you’ve tapped out. And enjoy this awesome scary season! And read up on how to help them when you can:-)