|ephebiphobia is an irrational fear of teenagers/ Photo By VGstockstudio via Shutterstock|
An inscription on a 6,000 year old Egyptian tomb states, “We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect their parents. They are rude and impatient. They frequently inhabit taverns and have no self-control.” This is proof that that even from 6,000 years ago, there had already been an adverse view on teenagers.
Today’s youths are often perceived negatively by most of the adults and the elderly. They are mostly characterized as young people who are reckless, undisciplined, dangerous, unhealthy, lazy and blindly follow trends and succumb to peer pressure. This antagonistic view of teenagers may have lead to the loathing and fearing of them, a condition labelled as Ephebiphobia.
Media is one of the perpetrators of this perceptions, as youth in popular media are mostly portrayed in a bad light. Maure Ann Metzger writes in her book, A Prison Called School: Creating Effective Schools for All Learners, that from among twelve local news cast reports, only one focuses on the youth. It is also revealed in her book that 60% of the stories broadcasted on news networks that cover young people focus on their negative effects such as being part of accidents, juvenile crime and crime victimization.
What is Ephebiphobia?
Massivephobia.com defines Ephebiphobia as ‘the persistent and irrational fear of teenagers.” It is also known as Hebephobia. It was a term formerly described as the hate or fear of teenagers. Now, it is identified as the magnified, incorrect and dramatic portrayal of teenagers across the world. It is considered a form of social anxiety disorder and classified as a social phobia. It is derived from the Greek terms “ephebos” meaning “youth” or “adolescent” and “phobos” meaning “fear”.
The Freechild Institute explains it was a word which was created ten years ago to depict the alarm of society that has taken hold of schools, politicians and media.
An adult or senior who suffers from Ephebiphobia will may display symptoms when they have to deal with the youth such as: feeling a sense of dread or intense anxiety, experiencing heart palpitations and shortness of breath,shaking, feeling nauseous, sweating too much, not being being able to form coherent words, being unable to focus, and headaches.
They may also feel a sense of powerlessness or being unable to control the situation, have an obsession with their fear of teenagers and exhibit avoidance behavior.
What specifically causes adults or seniors to develop this phobia is unknown. Most experts attribute it to external experiences and reports about teenagers, which may result into acquiring the fear or making it become worse. If they see that one of their friends or family suffers from this condition, there is a tendency for them to develop it. Hereditary factors may also be involved. An instance would be having a genetic inclination to be nervous or high-strung.
For individuals who have more severe cases, merely overhearing about teenagers or watching negative things about them in the news, TV or movies may also trigger their fear. Ephebiphobia, like most phobias is created as a subconscious overprotection mechanism which comes from unaddressed emotional problems.
Ephebiphobia patients are suggested to try therapies such as Psychotherapy, Group Therapy, Cognitive Therapy, Hypnotherapy, In Vivo Exposure, Response Prevention and Energy Psychology. They are also encouraged to use relaxation strategies and practice meditation. In some cases, when therapy is not enough to help dissipate their phobia or make them recover, a mental health professional may prescribe them some medication.
Other Ways to Address Ephebiphobia
This fear of teenagers not only affects the adults and elderly who suffer from it, but also the youth who are the subject of their phobia. Having this kind of fear not only limits the patients’ lives but also restricts the growth and development of teenagers. It also prevents people from discovering their potential, says The Guardian.
Kirk Astroth, author of the study Beyond Ephebiphobia: Problem Adults or Problem Youths?, states most of the young people who are ten to 17 years old have the tendency to fail school, engage in substance abuse, become delinquents and are at risk of early pregnancy.
|Having ephebiphobia not only limits the patients’ lives but also restricts the growth and development of teenagers/ Photo By WAYHOME studio via Shutterstock|
Astroth further explains that nearly every generation of adults have stereotyped teenagers as being deviant or uncontrollable in some form. However, he says that recently, teenager’s lifestyles and attitudes and improved for the past two years. He declares that presently, teenagers are more educated, responsible and healthier. According to a study which he cited, 90% to 95% of the youth do not participate in gangs.
In his other research, Are Youth At Risk, those who are part of extension programs are advised to address this increasing irrational fear of the youth in the following ways:
1. The youth extension education should lean more towards the youth’s strengths and abilities instead of their problems and the skills that they lack. They are suggested to take on a more positive approach.
2. Extension youth workers must verify the information they receive before believing that every teenager is at risk. They should found their data on credible research. If they only base their data on generalizations, this can cause them to focus on problems that do not actually exist instead of concentrating their efforts on the issues that need attention.
3. The older generation must be cautious in conveying messages to the younger people. Depicting the younger generation as a problematic one and promoting this perception by false and negative publicity may cause the youth to lose confidence in themselves and be uncertain about their future.
|older generation must focus on what actions the institutions are taking to improve the outlook of the youth/ Photo By ESB Professional via Shutterstock|
The prevention of problems concerning teenagers should also mean that they are respecting the endurance of the young population. The harmful and destructive reputation of teenagers is not something they deserve. Instead of blaming the youth, the older generation must focus on what actions the institutions are taking to improve the outlook of the youth who are trying to surmount various challenges and prevailing. They should not have to face barriers to their incredible future in their young adulthood.
4. Extension programs must be able to show a representation of how most of current youth are more well-adjusted and even if some of them were brought up in vulnerable environments, that does not necessarily mean that they will form patterns of behavior that are harmful.
Instead of being saddened by how ineffective some government policies are or trying to alter the family structure, youth educators should concentrate on teaching the youth how to be more resilient so that they survive and flourish even in the most tragic situations. Afterwards, they should be able to make conditions to help them cope and develop the traits that improve the teenagers’ well-being.
5. Even though the problems that the present youth face are severe, they should not be viewed as an “epidemic” by extension program educators. It is shown that only a minority of these teenagers are actually at risk. Issues such as child abuse, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and suicide should be addressed with only the most accurate data. The right perspective should be implemented in researching about these problems and their prevention.
Assuming that all of the youth are at risk of having these issues would be futile. In order to be able to solve these problems, they should focus on targeted, research-based efforts.
Extension program workers, as well as the older generation today are suggested to focus their energies in creating more chances where teenagers would be able to develop their capabilities instead of focusing their efforts on trying to fix those whom they consider as troublemakers.
Astroth concludes his research by stating, “We need to concentrate our efforts away from just “fixing” problem kids and toward efforts for creating positive opportunities to develop youth potential. Extension youth professionals must commit themselves to taking a critical, unbiased look at the research related to youth problems. Only then will we transcend ephebiphobia and focus on the minority of the youth who need help and support.”
To reaffirm this, in treating Ephebiphobia, the cooperation of adults, elders, mental health care experts, extension program workers is required. A change in the negative perception of the youth as well as the manner of handling the issues associated with them can help prevent the propagation of this phobia in adults and in seniors.