Ephebiphobia is the fear of youth or teenagers and it does not include the fear of younger prepubescent children. The word comes from Greek ephebos meaning youth or adolescence and phobos meaning deep aversion or fear. Another word for Ephebiphobia is Hebephobia. Pedophobia, on the other hand, is the fear of infants or young children but it is often mistaken for Ephebiphobia.
Ephebiphobia is more common in the Western world. This may be due to the fact that teenagers here are more concerned about their peers than about other people, leading to segregation of generations or a divide between adults and young people. Many teenagers are involved in gangs and crimes.
An Ephebiphobe tends to experience a full blown panic attack at the thought of talking to or confronting a teenager. The phobic may lash out or run away in the presence of a teen or several teens. Needless to say, the fear can greatly impact one’s quality of life, especially if one has to deal with teenagers from time to time. The phobic might avoid shopping malls, cinema multiplexes, high schools, gaming arcades, certain TV channels like Nickelodeon, and even apps like Snapchat.
Causes of Ephebiphobia
Ephebiphobia may arise from stereotyping. Older people often see teenagers as lazy, violent, rude, selfish, threatening, wild, and impulsive. Sometimes, teenagers get involved in gangs and crimes and commit acts of violence and vandalism. This can also add to the fear. A traumatic experience with an unruly youth can exacerbate the fear and lead to permanent phobia.
Many times, phobias like Ephebiphobia can arise out of the blue. Doctors believe that a combination of genetic tendencies, brain chemistry, and environmental factors can all cause this phobia.
Symptoms of Hebephobia
We all have things that make us uneasy or afraid and most of us try to avoid these things. However, a normal level of fear means that we generally manage to overcome it and face the situation. In case of a phobia, the person experiences a very strong, rather irrational level of fear which logically they understand does not make any sense. And yet, the individual is not able to stop feeling this way.
Like all phobias, the symptoms of Ephebiphobia can range from a feeling of mild apprehension to a full-blown panic attack. Typically, the closer one gets to the object or situation he or she fears, the greater fear they experience. The symptoms increase drastically if the Ephebiphobe feels trapped or finds it difficult to escape. The phobic may then experience the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling like being choked
- Nausea, vomiting, or dry-heaving
- Feeling like running away
- Shaking or trembling
- Sweaty palms
- Racing heart or accelerated heart rate
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Hot or cold flashes
Emotional or psychological symptoms
- Feeling disconnected with reality; feeling unreal or detached from oneself
- Fear of embarrassment
- Feeling an intense desire to escape or run away
- Fear of going crazy
- Fear of passing out or fainting
- Understanding that one is overreacting but being unable to control it
As stated before, the Ephebiphobe experiences deep anxiety when faced with a teen. The phobic may lash out, scream, cry, or flee the scene. Often, phobic parents of teenagers have to take medicines to deal with this condition. Many resort to self-medicating or drinking, both of which can be very harmful and could impact the quality of life. One’s day-to-day existence can become difficult, especially if the Ephebiphobe starts avoiding places like malls, schools, and other communal activities.
You should seek treatment if your fear is causing you to:
- Avoid certain places
- If it interferes with your day-to-day routine or causes distress, disabling panic, or if you can recognize your fear is unreasonable
- If you have had the phobia for more than six months
Treatment for fear of youth
It might help for an Ephebiphobe to understand that the number of arrests of people under the age of 18 in the year 2018 was nearly 59% lower than the figures in 2008. This goes to show that crimes committed by teens and adolescents are definitely on the decline.
Suffering from an extreme phobia of young people can be isolating and embarrassing. The anxiety disorder can interfere with many aspects of one’s life and can be especially difficult for a parent who is afraid of his or her own kids.
It is important that you speak to someone you trust regarding your fear; it could be a friend or a significant other. If possible, talk to a general physician who can direct you to a psychiatrist or a psychologist. The good news is that most people who seek timely help for their anxiety disorders do see a significant improvement in their quality of life. There are a variety of treatment options available these days:
Self-help can be very effective, and, as a rule, it is worth a try before seeking other options. The more you can do for yourself, the more in control you will feel. You can start by reading up on your phobia like you are doing right now. Reading the stories of other people who are suffering from similar anxiety disorders often helps a lot. This will enable you to see that you are not alone and that there are others like you. You can also take up exercise, meditation, journaling, positive visualization, and/or affirmations to build up your self-esteem. If, despite these techniques, you continue experiencing panic attacks or uncontrollable anxiety, you should not hesitate to seek additional help.
Desensitization therapy works well for treating Ephebiphobia. You gradually expose yourself to the object of your fear (confronting teenagers) in a safe and controlled manner. During the exposure, you are taught to ride out your fear or anxiety until it inevitably passes. Soon you begin to realize that the worst is very unlikely to happen and that your fears are unjustified.
Cognitive behavior therapy
Apart from desensitization, your therapist might recommend cognitive behavior therapy or CBT, which aims at helping you recognize negative thought patterns and change them. With practice, you learn to control your reaction to the fearful situation.
In extreme cases, if your fear of youth interferes with your ability to function, your doctor may put you on medication to control your panic attacks. Drugs are often the last resort, but they can be helpful, especially for short-term treatment.