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Is It Normal to Fixate on a Bad Experience?

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From a teen in the U.S.: A few days ago something bad happened. I would rather not go into too much detail but something extremely inappropriate was said to me by a relative who lived with me. I told my parents what happened and the situation was handled. Ever since then, however, any time I try to relax my mind just replays what happened over and over and I make myself anxious and scared.¬† I begin questioning if it even actually happened, or if maybe I misheard what was said, even though I am positive I heard correctly. Part of me almost thinks I shouldn’t have told anybody because of all the trouble it’s caused but, I know it was the right decision. I guess what I’m wondering is: Are these relatively normal responses to this kind of situation?

Is It Normal to Fixate on a Bad Experience?

Answered by on -


Yes. It’s absolutely normal. Something happened that has caused you to significantly change the way you look at the world and your place in it. Basic assumptions you’ve made about your family and your safety have been challenged in a big way. The replays are your mind’s effort to make sense of what happened. Apparently, your parents came through for you which, I imagine, is very reassuring. None the less, you are struggling with a loss of innocence and trust that is very, very hard to handle.

Because something is “normal” doesn’t mean that you don’t need some help. A therapist can provide you with tools for metabolizing the experience and for learning from it. I hope you will consider seeing a mental health professional who specializes in trauma and teens. I think you will find it validating and useful.

I wish you well.

Dr. Marie

Is It Normal to Fixate on a Bad Experience?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2019). Is It Normal to Fixate on a Bad Experience?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 19 Jan 2019 (Originally: 21 Jan 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 19 Jan 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.