A 3 year old's strange phobias
October 19, 2012 8:40 AM Subscribe
Over the summer, my 3.5 year old developed a bunch of odd aversions/phobias. And now, over the last three weeks or so, he seems generally anxious when we go out.
I'm wondering if it's just a phase related to his age, and I should keep him mostly at home till it passes? Or is this the start of a more serious anxiety condition? Or a sign that our city life is too much for him?
posted by misoramen to Human Relations (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've been reading about childhood fears, like: the dark, or monsters, or the bathtub, or bees. This is nothing like that, as far as I can tell.
He developed a fear of the choking/Heimlich maneuver poster in restaurants, and doesn't want to go in restaurants any more. Some days he even has trouble walking by restaurants because he will be thinking of the poster and wondering if it can be seen from the street. He says he doesn't like it because it reminds him that he could choke.
He also finds it frightening to look at people with piercings or tattoos, or dyed hair. The dyed hair thing extends beyond green or blue hair -- he reacts to people with the wrong shade of blond for their skin-tone, too. He is fine with temporary tattoos and wears them all the time.
He is completely fine at home. He is completely fine inside stores or a place like a children's museum, assuming we can get there. The general anxiety thing is newer, and happens whenever we leave our apartment. He wonders if there will be people in the laundry room. He worries about the places we go -- "Let's not go to that playground: we might see a mother scold her child like we did last time." If we go to visit his uncle at work, we might see tattoos. If we go to art class, we might see the administration woman with a nose ring. If we're riding the bus, he wonders about the emergency exit in the roof -- how would we get down from the roof of the bus if we had to climb out that way? He is always reading the signs that have warnings, cautions, rules, and asking about them in detail.
Up till now, he was not a worried person, though he has always been sensitive to noise, sensitive to odors, attuned to details, and rattled by emotional stories (e.g. books about kids who won't share). He loves amusement parks. He is social and extroverted and will even talk to these tattooed and pierced people -- he just won't look at them, and he'll be shaking the whole time. His odor sensitivity is at an all-time high right now.
We do live in NYC and in a busy neighborhood, so there are lots of colorful people around, plus sad/strange sights like homeless and drunk people.
His life seemingly has no stresses or traumas. Happy family, no deaths, no injury, (no choking), no school, no long separations, no siblings, no new bed, no new caregiver, etc.
I know that some fearfulness is normal at this age, but this feels like a big change. Or are big changes normal?