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Age Regression in Adults: A Comprehensive Overview

Adult age regression
Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Dr. Bradley Noon




  • Age regression is the process of mentally retreating to an earlier developmental stage.
  • There can be involuntary and voluntary age regression.
  • Age regression can serve as a coping mechanism for stress, anxiety, or trauma.
  • It can be associated with serious mental health disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociative identity disorder, and schizophrenia.

Age regression is a unique condition in which individuals revert to behaviors associated with an earlier age or a child-like state of mind. It can be voluntary or involuntary and can manifest in various forms: from being just a few years younger to a complete journey back to early childhood.

Read on to learn the intricacies of adult age regression, its symptoms, causes, and how to deal with it.

Seek professional guidance today to take the first step toward mental well-being.

What Is Age Regression?

Age regression often occurs as a coping mechanism in response to stress, fears, trauma, or emotional exhaustion. But, it can also indicate a serious mental health disorder, such as borderline personality disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. It is not a physical change in age but rather a mental and emotional state that some individuals experience trying to achieve comfort, safety, or solace.

Emotional regression in adults can be temporary or longer-lasting and varies from person to person. It is an umbrella term describing all the child-like characteristics and behavioral patterns. Sometimes, a person may do it intentionally, for example, buying stuffed animals or dressing like a child to deal with anxiety. However, some people may have involuntary age regression because of more serious causes with symptoms like thumb-sucking and whining.

The Signs and Symptoms of Age Regression

The symptoms may differ depending on the severity of the condition and a person’s mental health features. The most common signs associated with age regression are the following:

  • Whining
  • Sucking thumb 
  • Rocking or pacing
  • Using baby talk
  • Tantrums
  • Incontinence
  • Spending a lot of time in the fetal position
  • Seeking comfort in a stuffed animal or blanket
  • Dressing like a child
  • Extreme attachment to certain people or things
  • The need for constant reassurance
  • Dissociation 
  • Intrusive thoughts
Only a qualified healthcare provider can make the right diagnosis. See an expert online to get your symptoms assessed.

Causes of Age Regression

Regression behaviors could be linked with many triggers, from prolonged stress to some mental disorders. The most common reasons are discussed below.


Extreme stress can lead to psychological exhaustion, where temporary retreating into childlike behaviors becomes a coping mechanism. For example, an adult dealing with overwhelming work pressure, family issues, and financial problems starts to exhibit behaviors reminiscent of their childhood, where they had significantly fewer responsibilities.

This state can also be triggered by traumatic memories, becoming a psychological defense [1*] . In this case, common symptoms include increased dependency on others, simplified language, difficulty grasping complex information, and magical thinking.


This is a chronic mental health disorder that affects cognitive abilities, behavior, and emotional processing. People with schizophrenia tend to detach themselves from reality, so age regression [2*] and childish behaviors are often observed in them.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

This is another severe mental health disorder in which people cannot think and feel correct about themselves and others. People with BPD have self-image issues and sometimes cannot behave appropriately and according to the situations.

Dissociative Identity Disorder

A person with dissociative identity disorder tends to have distinctive personalities. In some cases, these include having altered emotional and behavioral responses, similar to those of children.

Schizoaffective Disorder

This mental health disorder combines elements of schizophrenia and mood disorders. People with schizoaffective disorder can exhibit child-like traits during mood swings, particularly during manic or depressive episodes, including disorganized speech and behavior.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD, classified under anxiety disorders, arises from traumatic experiences. Age regression may occur as an unconscious defense mechanism when the condition is left untreated or a person faces a trigger and cannot cope with it.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

MDD profoundly impacts a person’s emotional state. Individuals may exhibit child-like behaviors due to overwhelming sadness and a loss of interest in life, becoming emotionally regressed.


While not a direct cause of age regression, dementia affects cognitive functions. In some cases, individuals with dementia may exhibit child-like behaviors as their cognitive abilities decline, impacting their ability to perform daily tasks.

Dealing With Adult Age Regression

If you notice the symptoms of age regression and it’s causing distress, here are some steps to consider:

  • Self-awareness: Recognise when age regression happens and what could cause it. Understanding triggers can help you manage it.
  • Journaling: Keeping a journal can help you remember when age regression happens and what feelings or circumstances set it off.
  • Relaxation techniques: Using mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, or deep breathing might assist in managing stress and anxiety, thereby lowering the likelihood of age regression.
  • Support network: Share your experiences with friends and family. A strong support system can ease loneliness and offer comfort during regressive moments.
  • Medicine: In some situations, a prescription for medicine may be given to treat underlying problems like anxiety or depression that cause age regression.

Remember that sometimes self-help methods are not enough to stop age regression. It may represent serious mental health conditions, so it’s important to see a healthcare professional if the symptoms become severe.

See a healthcare expert if any mental health symptoms bother you or affect your daily life.

Professional Help for Age Regression

Some techniques, such as hypnotic age regression, can bring therapeutic effects. For example, this can help a person relieve suppressed memories to recover from them. However, if age regression is a symptom and has severe forms, one should seek medical help. A mental health professional will provide appropriate treatment and determine the root cause of the condition, including an assessment for underlying disorders.

The treatment plan is strongly linked with individual symptoms and mental health conditions that cause age regression. A healthcare provider can recommend appropriate medication or psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or others.

In Conclusion

Age regression can serve as a coping mechanism in those with severe depression or anxiety but it can also be a sign of more serious illnesses, such as borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, and more. If regressive behaviors are mild, don’t interfere with daily life and cognitive abilities, and disappear soon, it can be beneficial to use stress management techniques and pay more attention to mental health. However, if the symptoms are severe and prolonged, professional help is critical.

Frequently Asked Questions

No, age regression itself is not a mental illness. It’s a psychological phenomenon where someone temporarily reverts to a younger age to cope with stress, anxiety, or trauma. However, it can be a sign of a mental health disorder.
A vivid example is when an adult finds comfort in engaging in activities or behaviors typically associated with a younger age after having a particularly stressful day. They might cuddle with a stuffed animal, watch children’s cartoons, or seek reassurance and care from a trusted friend or partner, similar to how a child might seek comfort from a caregiver. Severe symptoms include thumb-sucking and dissociation, among others.
It is possible to overcome age regression if the underlying cause is resolved. Mental health professionals can help identify the root cause and recommend appropriate treatments.
The duration of age regression varies from person to person, lasting minutes, hours, or longer depending on coping ability and triggers.


2 sources
  1. Regression: Diagnosis, Evaluation, and Management
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  2. Age Disorientation in Schizophrenia
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Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Dr. Bradley Noon



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in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.