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

We humans are constantly growing and evolving, and these changes are happening not only biologically, but also psychologically and socially. As we grow up our environment demands that we behave in a certain way..

Over the years, our physical appearance changes, as does our mind. We become more independent and responsible as we enter adulthood. Although we usually mature as we get older, some adults remain rooted in the desire to behave like children or adolescents without being able to take responsibility for their actions and adult life. It’s kind of a fear of growing up.

    Fear of growing up: what is it?

    The growth and development of people have always interested psychologists. One of the best-known theories of developmental psychology is that of Erik Erikson, called “Theory of Psychosocial Development”. This author postulates that people go through a series of stages throughout their lives and that we have to overcome a series of conflicts which, if overcome successfully, lead us to acquire different vital skills.

    To grow is to evolve, to develop, Progress and overcome the different stages, that is to say, do not worry. Growing up brings new knowledge and learning, although we also have to let go of old habits or behaviors as we get older.

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

      What is Peter Pan Syndrome?

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

      People who are afraid of growing up are serious difficulties in taking on the roles of adulthoodLike that of a father or that of a professional, and they resist becoming independent. They maintain superficial sentimental relationships and do not achieve vital stability.

      What are your symptoms

      Peter Pan syndrome has different consequences for the person who has it. Usually these individuals seem happy and live life to the fullest; however, they can exhibit high levels of anxiety and sadness. They may also feel dissatisfied with their life, which affects their self-esteem.

      There are different symptoms warning of the presence of this syndrome linked to the fear of growing up. They are as follows:

      • They are dependent people who are in constant need of care.
      • They experience great insecurity, lack of confidence and low self-esteem.
      • Commitment is not part of their life, because they see it as an obstacle to their freedom.
      • They are generally self-centered people.
      • They are generally pampered and expect to receive before giving.
      • They have a low tolerance for frustration.
      • They generally behave like children or adolescents still in their thirties.
      • They feel great dissatisfaction.
      • They are afraid of loneliness.
      • They are not responsible for their actions and have little capacity for self-criticism.

      Causes of Peter Pan syndrome

      The causes of Peter Pan syndrome can be varied. Dependent or avoidant personality can cause the development of this condition. The style that the person has to deal with the problems too. Likewise, the educational style he received from his family and the excess of protection during his development may cause the individual not to be emotionally strong and therefore more likely to develop this syndrome.

      Economic hardship and inability to find work, as well as irrational beliefs and lack of social skills they can be at the origin of this phenomenon.

      Fear of growing up in children

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

      However, in some cases it can happen that children associate adulthood with something negative, Which causes them anxiety and terror and makes them develop a phobia.

      LiveScience magazine echoed the news of a 14-year-old Mexican girl who felt such an intense fear of growing up that she took extreme measures for her growth, such as restricting her food intake and distorting her voice to speak in a sharper tone. The little one started to suffer from a phobia at the age of 11, and a few years later, he was diagnosed with gerontophobia.

      What is gerontophobia?

      Gerontophobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by an irrational fear of aging. That is, as the years go by and the person changes their appearance, they have to depend on others, lose their mobility, be brought to a residence or their health deteriorates. Phobias cause extreme anxiety in the sufferer, so they tend to avoid the dreaded stimulus, be it an object or a situation.

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

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