What are Fear of Harm FOH Behaviors?


Question: Aren’t there other characteristics of FOH that aren’t included in the diagnostic criteria? (Part 1)


Answer: Yes, there are, and once you get the main symptoms down and know what you’re looking at it’s time to take a deeper dive into what FOH can look like. So, let’s go with Part 1! (Keep an eye out for part 2 next week!)


Low frustration tolerance: Feeling thwarted or being limited can feel like a major threat to kids with FOH. The child wants something, and not being able to have it, or having to wait for it, creates an overwhelming feeling of anxiety. This anxiety triggers frustration and aggression that can derail simple activities like waiting their turn, being unable to figure out a homework assignment, or being asked to wait 15 minutes for dinner to be served before eating. This low frustration tolerance leads to all sorts of symptoms that get mistaken for willful behaviors.


Executive function: It’s not uncommon for kids with FOH to have underdeveloped executive functioning skills. These are the skills required for planning, remembering, paying attention, solving problems, reasoning, inhibition, flexibility, transitioning, and self monitoring. They can look like this:

    • Extreme resistance or anger to unexpected changes of plans;
    • Difficulty giving up an idea or desire, no matter how unrealistic it may be;
    • Difficulty starting or completing school assignments or tasks around the house;
    • Difficulty getting past small details in order to see the “big picture”;
    • Impulsivity and over-reactivity;
    • Restlessness or fidgetiness;
    • Poor handwriting.

These difficulties, especially when adults and teachers expect FOH kids to be functioning like their peers, creates all sorts of additional anxiety and obstacles for these kids.


Fixations and goal oriented behaviors: Cravings, “Mission Mode”, and an absolute unrelenting need to have, do, or say can overtake a kid with FOH in an instant. Cravings can include demands for excessive sweets, carbs, chips, and other starchy processed foods. “Mission Mode” can appear as an intense need to start and maintain a project no matter what time it is or what else is on the agenda.


Irritable behavior: Irritability can look like being forever “on-guard”, vigilant for any possible sources of danger or threat. This causes the child with FOH to be reactive and negative in those reactions. Parents describe this state as one in which they have to constantly walk on eggshells, being careful not to trigger behaviors even when they don’t have any idea what those triggers might be. But this kind of irritability is never far from the surface and when it escalates it can quickly turn into episodes of rage.

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