Is Age Regression a Sign of BPD?
Updated: Dec 3, 2022
Age regression can be seen in many types of mental disorders, and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is certainly one of them. If you feel and act as you did when you were much younger, you have experienced age regression. The experience of regressing back in time may only be a few years, but it may also go back much further, to early childhood or even infancy.
In this article, we'll discuss what age regression is, if BPD causes age regression, examples of age regression, and more.
What is Age Regression?
When people regress in age, they act as though they are much younger than they actually are. In the face of tragedy, stress, severe disease, or mental health conditions, adults can revert to infantile behavior. Regressing one's chronological age can be a voluntary or involuntary state of mind. The activity helps the individual to feel more comfortable about themselves and their situation.
People who try to turn back time may revert to childlike habits like thumb-sucking and whining. Someone who habitually sucked their thumb as a kid may now chew on a pen when they're anxious or attempting to concentrate. As with most mental/personality disorders, people can respond and react differently in various situations. Some people refuse to have grown-up discussions or take responsibility for their problems since it feels too demanding. And others may cry while curled up in a ball and wet their bed which is a more severe sign of age regression.
Can BPD cause age regression?
Age regression is a coping mechanism where one will take on the ego of their former/younger self to avoid dealing with high-stress adult situations. It is said that this mechanism protects the self from trauma, stress, and anger.
When someone is having a down day due to stress, reverting back to their childish selves is a way to block out the situation. For example, instead of dealing with a situation like an adult, someone behaves like a complete fool, as if they have no idea what is going on. It’s not age regression to the extent of being a child again and sucking on their thumb, but it’s still a valid example of what BPD age regression can look like.
To further elaborate, as in the extent of becoming a child again, it is said that people can regress back to an age when they felt safer and protected. Back when life was easier, and everything was about having fun. After all, most of us are guilty of wishing we were grown-ups when we were younger, but being an adult is really tough. If only we knew what it was really going to be like, maybe we wouldn't have spent so much time wishing those days away and focused on enjoying the innocent youth while we had it. And maybe that is why age regression takes us back there.
Hiding behind your parents in social situations is another example. You would much rather let them do all the talking while you stay silent the entire time. This is mostly due to anxiety and the fact that you may be scared of people. You let your parents make your doctor's/dental appointments since speaking to someone on the phone may terrify you. The anxiety and fear of rejection, which are common symptoms of BPD, may revert you too childish behavior.
However, despite all this, it doesn't mean that it constantly occurs. You can be perfectly capable of holding a conversation with a stranger and speaking to people on the phone for appointments etc. But other times, you may find yourself not being capable. For someone with BPD, the simplest thing can trigger some serious anxiety and stress, and therefore age regression may be used as a coping mechanism.
Examples of Age Regression
Additional types of regressive behaviors include the following:
Lack of ability to calm or soothe oneself
Obtaining solace from playing with a doll or stuffed animal
Aggression via the use of force
Temper tantrums (outbursts, throwing things, kicking, holding their breath)
Inability to perform even the most fundamental activities they were capable of doing before
Pretending not to understand
Voluntarily Age Regressing
Some people find that going backwards in age helps them better cope with the psychological impacts of negative emotions such as stress, worry, or melancholy. Some people voluntarily decide to engage in childish behavior as a way to release the stress of everyday life.
The behavior of age reversal undertaken voluntarily could include:
Dressed as a baby
Sucking on a pacifier
Utilizing a Baby Cup
Use of a child's playthings
Surrounding oneself with toys
Most people would find these things odd, to say the very least, but we never know what people are suffering from and what they may be going through. It is easy to judge someone, but people simply cope differently. That’s not to say we should normalize it and allow it to happen. But we can try to understand it and find ways to help those who require some serious help.
Is Age Regression Harmful?