A 14-year-old boy in Mexico is possibly the first reported child in the world to have been diagnosed with gerascophobia, or an extreme fear of aging. His condition, described in Case Reports in Psychiatry in December and spotted by LiveScience, began two and a half years ago. It involves such an intense fear of growing up that he cut his food intake after learning nutrients in food facilitate growth; he lost 26 pounds. He also stooped to mask his height and altered his voice by using a higher pitch. Researchers note that he was "greatly concerned with the development of secondary sexual characteristics ... and has also been searching the Internet to learn how not to ejaculate." Any physical change related to growth prompts anxiety so intense that he "has considered undergoing multiple surgeries to hide it."
Phobias can stem from a mix of psychological, biological, and environmental factors, one researcher not involved in the study tells LiveScience. It turns out that when he was 5 the boy was diagnosed with separation anxiety disorder; he was sexually abused by a neighbor at age 6; and was bullied regularly a few years later, the combination of which could have helped give rise to the phobia. The report also notes his mother provided "excessive care," singing him lullabies and combing his hair. He began to see a therapist two years ago but was ultimately referred to Autonomous University of Nuevo León for further treatment, which included the antidepressant fluoxetine. He has since gained 13 pounds, stands straight, and uses his regular voice. The researchers noted that they were only able to uncover two other reported cases of gerascophobia, both in adults. (Check out 25 fears held by celebrities.)