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Thursday, December 5, 2013
I have a 12 year old son, just entering puberty. He has always been somewhat afraid of `bad guys` breaking into our home. Over the last year or so he has developed the habit of walking through the house at bedtime to make sure all the doors & windows are locked. Recently he has started to carry a baseball bat to bed for protection. He still sleeps with the `security blanket` he has had since he was a baby.
We live in a safe neighborhood in an urban environment. There is occasional crime in the area, but no one in his family or circle of friends has been impacted. I have re-assured my son that we live in a safe place, but have not otherwise tried to pressure him into leaving the bat where it belongs.
Is this a normal childhood fear that he will grow out of, or should I seek councelling for him?
I am a single dad and the primary caregiver. His mother lives close by and we have an excellent relationship, deviod of anger or hostility.
Thank you for your inquiry. Anxiety is common in children and adolescents and they often find different ways of managing their anxiety. It sounds like he is developing behaviors such as checking locks and carrying a bat to manage his anxiety. If the behaviors are not affecting his day-to-day routines and functioning, they will likely diminish along with the anxiety when he finds that he is safe. Consider scheduling further evaluation if you are noticing the following:
Other compulsive (repetitive) behaviors that are impacting his functioning. (For example being a perfectionist to the point that it becomes difficult for him academically or socially).
If he starts to appear more depressed or begins to have thoughts of hurting himself.
• If anxiety is affecting his sleep-wake cycle.
• If he talks about being physically or sexually abused.
• If anxiety is leading to aggressive behaviors.
• If there is a strong family history of depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder
It is often difficult to reassure individuals with anxiety. They will often have to see the evidence on their own that they are safe before the anxiety decreases. As long as the anxiety does not seem to progress and there is no impact on day to day functioning, he should just be monitored at this time.
Bela Gandhi, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University