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Fears of Being Alone

Fears of Being Alone

Teen: Dear Dr. Expert,

I am so embarrassed - I'm 15 years old and I'm still scared to be at home alone! I keep worrying that someone is going to break into the house. I hear strange noises all the time and my mind just starts racing - I just know it's a burglar. My parents are getting so mad at me because I won't stay home alone.

Thanks, Frightened in Fredericton
Dr. Expert: Dear Thanks, Frightened in Fredericton,

There is a big difference between possibilities and probabilities! Lots of things are possible. For example, it is possible that someone is breaking into your house when you hear strange noises. But it's not very likely or probable. Ask yourself: What has happened in the past when you heard noises like that? What has happened to other people you know? How often do you hear about burglaries in your neighborhood?

Once you have evaluated the information, it might be time to change your thinking. Instead of thinking it's a burglar breaking in, change it to a more realistic thought, such as: "It's highly unlikely to be a burglar since I have never heard of a break and enter happening in our neighbourhood when someone was home at the time. Plus, every time I've thought this before it was nothing"

Armed with your new way of thinking, try it out! Get your parents to go out for a brief errand to start - maybe to the corner store. Have them do this a few times until you don't feel too anxious. Once you have conquered this step, build up to longer stays on your own with your parents going farther away and for longer periods of time. Feel your anxiety, but don't let it boss you around - it will decrease over time as you realize that nothing bad is happening. This might even take 30 to 45 minutes but stick with it! Next time the anxiety will be much shorter. Give yourself a little reward each time you face your fear. Next thing you know you will be staying home alone with no problems!