Efebiphobia (adolescent phobia): symptoms, causes and treatment

Adolescence is one of the most important stages in life, a process of transformation and maturation both biological and cognitive that takes us from childhood to adulthood. It is a difficult stage for those who live it, full of new experiences and the search for their own identity.

But in general it is not only difficult for the adolescent, but also for the adults around him: the behavior and the way of thinking of the adolescents, the change of roles and a possible but habitual rebellion towards authority make that there are often small conflicts.

While this can be a complex step for most people, it ends up happening without crippling everyday life. However, some people experience real panic, at an irrational level, when exposed to contact with teenagers. This is what happens in ephebiphobia, A condition that we will discuss below.

    Ephephiphobia: what is it?

    It is called epbiphobia or ephebophobia in the Specific phobia in adolescents and young people. It is a real phobia but unusual, which would be considered specific although it has a strong link with social phobia. Although technically ephbiphobia should refer to adolescents, from its conception it refers not only to this age, but also to young people up to 35 years old.

    A specific phobia is the emergence of a powerful panic in the face of a specific stimulus or situation, in this case adolescents.

    This fear appears irrational and exaggerated in relation to the possible risk posed by the presence of what was feared, and the mere idea of ​​being exposed to it generates such a level of anxiety that he can suffer an anxiety attack, appearing physical symptoms such as tachycardia, hyperventilation, tremors, hyperhidrosis and even the belief that he is dying, losing control of his own body or even of his sanity. In addition, this fear and anxiety are so strong that they cause the person to make active efforts to avoid as much as possible the stimulus he fears or the situations or stimuli that may have been associated with it.

    It should also be mentioned that in addition to the fear itself, on the social level sometimes The tendency to think badly about youth and adolescence is also called ephephiphobia or ephebophobia. and their way of acting today, or of hating, despising, belittling and rejecting young people without any cause, also in a way that is often irrational and biased by stereotypes and prejudices (as for example what happens with the homophobia or transphobia).

    Thus, not only does it have an effect at the individual level for those who suffer from it, but it can also lead to the development of discriminatory or even belligerent attitudes towards people at this vital stage.

    symptoms

    Ephephiphobia is certainly a type of phobia that generates a great impact on those who suffer, and not just on that person but it can have social and community implications.

    And it is that someone who has a phobia or hatred of young people and adolescents tends to avoid them and everything associated with them. Thus, they will tend to avoid crowds and situations in which there is an influx of young people, such as areas with institutes, educational establishments or places of recreation such as night clubs.

    They can also reach avoiding personal relationships not only with adolescents and young people, but with people who associate with people of these ages, Such as families with teenage children. To an extreme degree and especially if the reaction is panic, it is possible to isolate yourself and have difficulty even going out on the street, although this is much less common.

    As we have said, there is also a social impact, although in this regard the reaction of hatred, contempt and depreciation towards this sector of the population is fundamentally relevant: the successes, contributions and ideas proposed by young people can be ignored and rejected regardless. of its merits, and may involve a reaction of rejection and discrimination against young people at social, professional and even academic level.

    They may be offered fewer opportunities and be excluded from relevant decisions, regardless of their ability. The fact that this discrimination is perceived by young people themselves also means that they have less interest in participating socially, which in the long run and with an increasingly aging population can even be dangerous for the community.

      Possible causes of fear in adolescents

      The causes of ephbiphobia are not fully understoodWhile we consider that there is not a single cause but a set of factors that can influence its occurrence.

      At first, the phobia may appear due to conditioning: it is possible that the person with ephbiphobia has had an aversive experience featuring or associated with adolescence or youth. adolescence or suffering from any form of abuse by a minor or young person.

      Another of the major possible causes of this phobia lies in the acquisition of vicarious or learned conditioning at the socio-cultural level. And it is that negative stereotypes about young people have often been internalized, both by the family environment and at the social level: young people are seen as uncontrolled, irresponsible and far-sighted violent people and prone to risk, disrespect and excess.

      These prejudices are widespread and spread to all young people, causing aversive reactions to their presence. In addition, the media also participate in this fact, frequently and until relatively recently perpetuating stereotypes and the belief that young people are inexperienced beings, interested only in themselves or as something that should have a chance in the future. but not now (sometimes for interest).

      Also, behind ephebophilia it may be behind the fear and rejection of social change and generational transfer, To lose its own position and its role hitherto held behind the new generations.

      Treatment of this phobia

      Treating epebiphobia is possible, as with other phobias. To start, exposure therapy is one of the most effective in treating this type of problem: The person must be exposed to contact with what he fears, gradually, so that the anxiety gradually decreases and can evolve into situations that generate a higher level of anxiety.

      As for stereotypes, exposure can also help reduce them: simple exposure to groups with prejudices can often allow us to bond with them and learn that preconceived ideas are not applicable in all cases.

      Relaxation techniques are also very helpful in reducing anxiety and underlying discomfort.

      Another aspect that needs to be worked on, and indeed in a very thorough way, is cognitive. Understanding what causes the discomfort, fear or annoyance, why it generates it and what it means for the subject can help to resolve it, so that they can contribute to change beliefs and ways of approaching reality so that they become more adaptive and realistic. Psychoeducation and participation in joint activities with the feared population can also be helpful, as well as working with members of the environment who may be young or adolescent and the relationship with the subject may be impaired (for example, children or nephews).

      Bibliographical references:

      • Astroth, KA (1994). Beyond ephobia: adult problem or youth problem ?. Development of public library resources for young adults. Florida Department of State, Library Information Services Division, Tallahassee.

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