Regression is the psychological action of returning to a younger state when a person remembers feeling content. Sigmund Freud developed the concept of regression and identified it as a defense mechanism in response to a traumatic event. Freud believed that regression was a response to a person experiencing trauma, anger, or psychological stress. Another reason that people regress is they haven’t healed from trauma. They also may not have a great support system where they can process their emotions. That includes a therapist and a network of friends, family, and loved ones. Trauma is a significant cause as to why people regress. Here is how trauma can impact the adult mind and cause people to revert to a childhood state. If you’re curious to learn more about regression, there are resources that you can find online. Read more about regression psychology here. It’s a fascinating subject that can bring more emotional insight into your trauma and recovery. In addition to your research, you can learn more about it from a mental health professional.
Returning to simpler times
Not all regression is bad. Sometimes people regress to childhood because those years have positive experiences. When they are dealing with stress or anger, their body automatically chooses to disassociate and find a mental space to feel comforted. For some people, that time is childhood. Perhaps as a child, you felt like people loved and cared for you. If you are upset about what is currently happening in your life, you may want to mentally return to a time when you felt safe and cared for in your life. This is a natural inclination. Sometimes people regress in simple ways. Let’s say you are stressed out about things happening in your adult life, and instead of dealing with them, you take out a coloring book and start using those crayons. It could bring back pleasant memories of coloring from school. You may remember sitting with a group of children and drawing what came out of your imagination as a young person. That’s a benign example of regressive behavior. However, if you find that this regression is interfering with your ability to engage in everyday activities, it may be something to bring up with a therapist.
If you’re an adult and you’re consistently behaving like a child in public settings or with friends and family, that could be problematic. Regressive behavior tends to be not age-appropriate. It’s okay to have silly jokes with your close circle of friends. But, if you start throwing tantrums at work, that could be a problem. It’s about how you are able to cope with the ebb and flow of life’s challenges. Dissociation and regression are complex defense mechanisms if they’re interfering with your ability to process situations in your life and not allowing you to be present at the moment.
Symptoms of regression
You may suspect that you’re regressing but aren’t sure. Or, perhaps you want to learn more about the symptoms of regression. It’s helpful to know the signs of the condition to point them out to a therapist when you choose to address the issues. You may identify with some of these, but not all. Here are the symptoms of regression:
- Flashbacks to painful memories – upsetting memories can cause a person to regress. They’re triggered by these mental images, and the reaction is to revert to a childhood state.
- Disrupted sleep – An individual may have traumatic events that show up in their dreams. They could have persistent nightmares with a common theme.
- Baby talk – A person may regress to such a young age that they start talking like a toddler. It can be strange to interact with them during this state.
- Temper tantrums – Children throw temper tantrums as a normal part of their development process. Adults may engage in this behavior because they’re regressing.
- Disassociation – Sometimes, people regress by checking out of a situation. You might find a person who appears to be in a daydreaming state. They’re in their own world so they can protect themselves from perceived harm.
You may not understand why a person is regressing. You might regress yourself from time to time and be unclear about why. It’s okay if you don’t know why you’re reverting back to a childhood state. You don’t have to be an expert in psychology to find out what’s going on with you. You can leave that to a mental health professional. One of the best ways to learn about this state is by reading up on it and going to see a therapist. You can find a mental health provider online or in your local city or town. Your state of regression could be within the range of normal human behavior, or it could be a sign of a mental health disorder. Sometimes people who have PTSD regress. Another condition that causes regressive behavior is Dissociative Identity Disorder. These conditions are both due to a person experiencing trauma. It’s crucial to seek help if regression is impacting your quality of life. A therapist will help you identify the symptoms and find ways to help you cope with trauma.
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