From a teen in the U.S.: I have an overwhelming fear of home invasions. My house in the past has been broken into multiple times. Despite the fact that we now have an alarm system, dogs, etc. I still do not feel safe. This fear often keeps me up at night, listening for any noises or looking out for anything out of the ordinary. During this time i often experience panic attack like symptoms as well as extreme paranoia.

I have done large amounts of research on the topic of home invasions, in hopes that knowing I am prepared if it were to ever occur would calm me down during these situations but it never works. I have also spoken to my family about upping our security further, but there is only so much you can do. Either way, even with the added security we currently have, my fear will not subside, and if anything has gotten worse over the years. I don’t know what to do, and am open to any and all suggestions, thank you!

A: No one can blame you for being afraid. You are not fantasizing a problem. Your home has been invaded — multiple times! It makes sense to me that you are anxious about it.

It’s highly unusual for a home to be invaded multiple times unless there is suspicion on the street that there are drugs in the house or there is someone living there who is involved in things they shouldn’t be. If that’s the case, you need to explore options for getting out. Your school counselor may be able to give you some advice. There may be scholarships to a private school or an exchange program or a work program that you qualify for. Or you may want to investigate whether a relative in another community will let you move in for awhile.

But — If your family has just had horrible luck or you are living in a high crime district that your family can’t afford to leave, your family has already done what it can to ensure that there won’t be another invasion. If that’s the case, you have to figure out how to manage your fears or be miserable until the day you go off to college or move on yourself.

I can make a few suggestions:

  1. Stop researching on the internet. You already know what you are going to find. At this point, continuing to research it is only keeping the issue very alive in your mind. It’s like if you told yourself not to think of yellow kangaroos. The effort to not think about them is a way of thinking of them so yellow kangaroos would never be far from your mind.
  2. Work on some mindfulness exercises to help you relax. You can find guided meditations online. Work on focused breathing to help you relax. Focusing on breathing will engage your mind in something besides your fears.
  3. A short course of anti-anxiety medication might be helpful as a way to at least break the cycle of being afraid, being afraid of being afraid, and then being even more afraid.
  4. Consider seeing a therapist for a few sessions to coach you in mindfulness and to provide further suggestions and support.
  5. If you are allowed to have a dog where you live — and if you can be a responsible dog owner — talk to your folks about getting a dog from your local shelter. Dogs can be wonderfully therapeutic for someone like yourself. An added benefit in your case is that even a small dog with a big bark will usually deter someone from breaking in. Put up a “Beware of Dog” sign and teach the dog to bark at strangers.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie