Monsters have been a part of human mythology for thousands of years. Teraphobia is common in young children, particularly at night and in the dark. However, most children grow out of this fear by the early elementary school (when they are as young as 4 or 5). In older children and adults, the fear of monsters can become a severe phobia with life-limiting effects.
Said that this fear can affect people of different ages and backgrounds, but mostly children are affected by this fear. So, there are many signs to look out for if you think your child has teraphobia. And there are ways to overcome it. So let’s discuss everything about the phobia here now!
What Is Teraphobia?
The word ‘Teraphobia’ originates from the Greek words ‘Tero,’ meaning monster or strange being, and phobia, meaning fear or anxiety. It is a condition that results in an extreme sense of fear of monsters. In western cultures, the concept of monsters dates back millennia.
It is similar to the fear of ghosts and other paranormal creatures, such as vampires and werewolves. There are some stories of people being afraid of monsters since childhood.
What Are the Symptoms of Teraphobia?
The symptoms of teraphobia can range from mild anxiety to uncontrollable panic attacks. Symptoms may include:
- Fear of being attacked by monsters
- Fear of being eaten by monsters
- Fear about things “going bump in the night.”
- Anxiety about watching monster horror movies
- Trouble sleeping in complete darkness because the dark may hide a monster
- Fears that there might be a monster lurking
Additionally, the symptoms of teraphobia are similar to any other phobia, such as panic attacks, nausea, sweating, and an intense desire to get away from the source of the fear, including
- Racing heartbeat
- Trouble breathing
People who have teraphobia may experience more than one symptom at a time. If you feel you may have this phobia, it is crucial to seek help.
What Are the Causes of Teraphobia?
Some people outgrow teraphobia, but others don’t. For those who don’t, it’s more than a fear of monsters under their bed. It’s a form of anxiety disorder that can be debilitating. If you have a teraphobia, you’re probably well aware of the embarrassment and inconvenience it causes. The first step to conquering this persistent phobia is to understand its causes.
The causes for these fears are not always known. It may be because children have been exposed to scary stories and movies for older children or adults. The most common cause of teraphobia is associated with the fear of darkness.
This fear can be traced back to childhood, as children have vivid imaginations and may imagine frightening scenarios in the dark. There are several other causes of teraphobia, including
- Traumatic events in their youth
- Dealing with an abusive parent or relative
- Being abandoned by parents or caregivers
- Being bullied by other kids in school
- Reading books or watching movies that feature monsters
- Having a large amount of stress in their life
How to Treat Teraphobia in Children?
The fear of monsters is widespread fear among young children. Parents must implement coping techniques to help their child manage their fears. Children fear monsters because they don’t understand how the world works. Their minds often don’t distinguish between reality and fantasy, so it can be challenging to differentiate between make-believe and real life.
Parents’ most common technique to cope with this type of fear is to tell the child that there are no such things as monsters, but if you want to help your child overcome their fear, this approach isn’t working. Here are some techniques you can try:
- Never laugh at children’s fears or try to make them feel foolish for being afraid. Provide reassurance without belittling the child’s feelings and encourage them to talk about it rather than keep it.
- Be sensitive and respectful. Please don’t make fun of or belittle your child’s fears, or she’ll quickly learn to keep them to herself. Instead, validate her feelings by saying something like, “I know that’s scary.”
- Create a safe place in your home where your child can go to feel safe when they are frightened. This may be a bedroom area with a special blanket, stuffed animal, or other objects that make your child feel safe.
- When events in the news include monstrous elements, limit children’s exposure to media coverage so they don’t get more distressed than necessary by the details of what happened.
- Please help your child learn how to relax through deep breathing, listening to music, playing with a pet, or participating in another activity they enjoy doing alone (e.g., drawing).
- Reassure your child that you’ll be available if they need you in the future and tell them whom else they can turn to for help (e.g., other family members or friends who show interest).
- Kids often believe that monsters will come out of the closet or under the bed if they don’t stay awake to protect themselves and their parents. Reassure your child that everyone needs sleep and that you will be there in the morning after he’s had his rest. Help them find a way out. If they are afraid of sleeping alone in their room because they are worried a monster will get them, suggest that they draw or write about the monster to get him out of their head and onto paper. Or, if the problem is nightmares, encourage them to keep a dream diary to write down what happened in the dream each night and replace frightening images with happy ones in their mind before falling asleep.
How to Treat Teraphobia in Teenagers and Adults?
To treat teraphobia, the first step is to get a complete medical examination to rule out any physical problems causing the symptoms. Some doctors may prescribe anti-anxiety medications if no physical abnormalities are found, while others prefer using psychotherapy as a treatment option.
Further, treating teraphobia in teenagers and adults requires a few steps. These include:
- Identifying the root cause of the fear of monsters.
- Cognitive restructuring involves challenging the false beliefs that trigger fear responses.
- Exposure therapy consists in exposing yourself to the object of your fear.
- Pharmacological interventions, such as medication.
Since treating the core source of the phobia is essential, a comprehensive assessment will identify potential underlying issues causing anxiety in a person. For example, if a child is afraid of monsters because he was told about them by his parents, the underlying cause would be his parent’s inability to regulate their emotions (strict parenting). The treatment goals would be focused on helping him develop better emotional regulation skills.
It is crucial to establish whether a child has been exposed to monster movies, books, or toys. If yes, the best way to encourage fear of monsters is by expressing empathy and understanding the causes. Do not ever judge or criticize the child. Ask questions, understand their point of view (curious, excited), and ensure they are ready to accept reality: nothing exists in reality that they watched on screen.
- Taming the monsters: Helping kids deal with their fears. (2001). Paediatrics & Child Health, 6(3), 165–166. https://doi.org/10.1093/pch/6.3.165
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