What is age regression?
Sigmund Freud believed age regression was an unconscious defense mechanism. It was a way the ego could protect itself from trauma, stress, or anger.
Still, other psychologists think of age regression as a way for people to achieve a therapeutic goal. It might be used to help a patient recall memories of trauma or painful events. The therapist can then help their patient heal properly from those experiences.
Psychiatrist Carl Jung believed age regression wasn’t a means to escape anything. He believed age regression could be a positive experience. It could be used to help people feel younger, less stressed, and more open.
With all these different theories for age regression, several types exist.
Types of age regression
Each of these age regression types share two common elements:
People who regress revert to a younger state of mind than their physical age. The length of years varies from type to type and person to person.
Age regression is in no way sexual.
As a symptom
Age regression may be the result of a medical or psychiatric issue. For example, some individuals experiencing significant distress or pain may revert to childlike behavior as a means to cope with anxiety or fear.
Certain mental health issues make age regression more likely. Age regression could be a symptom of one of these conditions:
Dissociative identity disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Major depressive disorder
Borderline personality disorder
Age regression may occur in personality disorders when people come face to face with distressing memories or triggers. In this case, the age regression may be spontaneous.
What’s more, some individuals may begin to revert to a younger age as they grow older. This can be a sign of dementia. It might also be a coping mechanism for worries about the impact of aging.
Age regression can be used as a therapeutic technique. Some mental health professionals use hypnotherapy and age regression to help patients return to painful periods in their lives. Once there, they can help them overcome the trauma and find healing.
However, this practice is controversial. Some experts suggest it could be possible to “uncover” false memories. Plus, it’s unclear how reliable these “recovered” memories are.
People with a history of trauma may be more likely to regress. In fact, age regression may be common in people who have been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID), a disorder formerly known as multiple personality disorder.
People with this disorder frequently have a younger personality among their distinctive personalities. However, it’s believed that the “little” may not be a separate personality. Instead, it may be a regressed version of the original personality.
In other words, the person with DID may be aware of everything, but they feel like they’re a different age. They may talk like a child or begin behaving like one. In other instances, the “little” is entirely separate.
In this case, age regression is a form of security against fear or insecurity. This type of age regression may be triggered by particular events or stressors.
For others, age regression may be intentional. Some individuals may select reverting to a younger state as a means to block out stress and worry. They can also revert to a younger age so they can avoid tough issues or personal problems.
As a form of self-help, age regression may help you revert to a time in your life when you felt loved, cared for, and secure. In that sense, this can be a positive experience.
However, age regression may be a sign of a larger mental health issue. You should speak with a mental health care provider about this practice. They can help you learn how to use it safely. They can also evaluate your experiences to determine if a different type of treatment is needed.
Recreational age regression
Age regression is never considered sexual. It’s a type of defense mechanism that allows you to mentally escape to a different time in your life.
This is different from pretending to be younger. Indeed, some individuals portray themselves many years younger than they are as part of a hobby, sexual fetish, or kink.
For example, some members of fandom communities may use costumes and portrayals to “pretend” to be younger and more naïve. This is not real age regression.
Is age regression safe?
There’s no inherent risk in age regression. If you practice it as a form of self-help or relaxation, you may want to make sure you’re in a safe place and around people who understand this technique.
If, however, you find yourself reverting to a younger age without your control, you should seek help from a mental health professional. You may be showing symptoms of an underlying issue that needs to be addressed differently.
Age regression occurs when you mentally retreat to an earlier age. In all ways, you believe you’re back at that point in your life, and you may exhibit childish behaviors, too.
Some people choose to revert to a younger age. In this case, it can be a coping mechanism to help them relax and eliminate stress. Age regression may be a symptom of a mental health condition, such as dissociative identity disorder or PTSD.
Age regression can also be used a therapeutic technique, though it’s a controversial practice. A mental health professional can help you return to a time in your life when you were abused or experienced trauma. From there, you can work together to heal.