What are Fear of Harm Behaviors?


Question: Aren’t there other characteristics of FOH that aren’t included in the diagnostic criteria? (Part 2)


Answer: So here we are again for part 2 of these characteristics. Let’s dive right in!


Self-esteem fluctuations:  Kids with FOH often have a distorted sense of self which can, at almost any moment based on their mood, vary from a tremendously negative self perception (often because of depression) to a wildly inflated sense of self that makes them arrogant, overly confident in themselves, and feel superior to others (often caused by hypomania or mania). Depression can also bring with it feelings of shame and worthlessness while mania can result in delusions of superpowers.


Increase in energy throughout the day: Kids with FOH often don’t have a lot of energy in the morning finding it really hard to get out of bed. But this energy escalates during the day making it harder and harder for them to control themselves, their bodies, their thoughts, and behaviors. Most often by dinnertime they’re experiencing a difficult time, which causes many parents to call it “the witching hour”. Kids’ energy peaks around bedtime making it objectively difficult for them to settle down and get to sleep.


Gore and violence: This characteristic can lead people to think that kids and adults with FOH are somehow dangerous, even though that’s not the point at all. There is often a fixation with the terrifying, gory, violent imagery that appears in the FOH nightmares. They intrude during the day and the child can’t escape reliving those nightmare images over and over again. To process them and the feelings they bring up, these ideas often get expressed in imaginative play, drawings, creative writing, and casual conversation. They rarely represent things the child or adult intends to do, but rather the things they are afraid might happen to them.


Sensory sensitivity: FOH involves so many sensory issues that kids with FOH are often diagnosed separately with a sensory sensitivity integration disorder. These sensitivities can be experienced in a lot of different ways, such as:

    • Inability to cope with new or repetitive stimulation; 
    • Complaints that their clothes feel too tight or too loose;
    • Sensitivity to labels in clothing; 
    • Intolerance of repetitive sounds, like a ticking clock, a ceiling fan, or even the sounds of someone else’s breathing; 
    • Being triggered by
      • Loud or just unexpected noises, like the blender;
      • Crowds; or
      • Strong smells. 

In an ongoing state of heightened fight-or-flight these irritations that other might see as minor can contribute significantly to anxiety and distress leading to emotional dysregulation.


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