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Nearly 8 year old feeling unreal

(12 Posts)
Hyperhelpmum Thu 31-Mar-16 11:04:25

My DS is 7, 8 in April and is possibly on spectrum. We are currently on Easter hold and he keeps saying 'is this a dream mummy? Am I real?' He has also said he feels like an alien and like he isn't human. He also describes a feeling where he thinks about why the we exist and feels very scared. Yesterday he said how many days until we go back to a school? I think the lack of routine is making him anxious. Any thoughts, advice, similar experiences? Just feeling a bit lost and sad about it. My happy boy is becoming increasingly worried and preoccupied.

MattDillonsPants Thu 31-Mar-16 11:42:21

This sounds like classic existential dread. Bless him. If you google phrases such as "Existential dread in children" and "Child with existential fear" then you will see it's not uncommon and that it's often found in gifted kids.

ThirtyNineWeeks Thu 31-Mar-16 11:45:38

Could he be watching too much telly/sci-fi? I remember becoming rather over-invested in believing my reality was actually one massive long dream when I was approximately 11 years old. My beloved cat had recently died and I'm sure that had something to do with it.

Hyperhelpmum Thu 31-Mar-16 12:11:05

Thanks for this. I haven't googled yet but existential dread sounds exactly it. Good to know it's quite common. I think he is also having derealization from anxiety. I find this quite hard as we are on holidays from school and feel he is unhappy and would rather be in school. Wish I could find a way to make his time with the family less stressful.

Hyperhelpmum Thu 31-Mar-16 12:12:17

Also, he is obsessed with minecraft and may well be playing it too much. I will try reducing his screen time and see if it helps. I felt it was reducing his anxiety but maybe it's making it worse.

wordsandmusic Mon 04-Apr-16 22:29:18

Hi, I just came on to this board to ask a question about my own 8 year old so I was very interested to read your post, which sounds very, very familiar. My ds is 8.5, has an Aspergers diagnosis and has always been a bit anxious - but in the last few weeks his worries seem to have taken over, making him weepy and shaky several times a day. For the first time ever, he - like your son - has started to ask why we exist, what is the purpose of it all etc. He has also been having the 'unreal'/dreamlike feeling, which he has never had before. Oddly, I remember having a similar feeling a few times about this age - no idea what it was but it went away.

I've been thinking it's something to do with increasing awareness of the world around him, understanding a little but not everything, trying to make sense of it all with a logical brain and getting very worried when it doesn't all quite make sense.

I've been feeling pretty helpless and unsure how to help. We got the 'What to do when you worry too much' book (aimed at kids around this age), and have been working through some of that with him - he seems to like it but it's certainly not a quick fix. It would be really good to hear how you and your ds are getting on.

MattDillonsPants Tue 05-Apr-16 00:00:10

I also used to experience this unreal feeling...it was like being aware of how infinite the universe is and how insignificant I was.

OP I would definitely reduce screen time. Is there anything else he's interested in that you could encourage?

Runningtokeepstill Tue 05-Apr-16 13:42:00

Hmm, "existential dread" is presumably as old as humanity so personally I'm not sure screen time is the issue here. Depends on how much your ds needs screen time as down time.

I've had this sensation throughout childhood and adolescence and it recurred a bit in my 20's. I don't consider myself to be on the autistic spectrum (some traits, I suppose) or to be gifted but I was highly anxious as a child and young woman. I can't say how stressed I was as a very young child but even now when I'm under a lot of pressure I can feel this threatening to come back. I've just googled and some sources talk of a fear of death but for me this wasn't it - I had a really weird sense of unreality. The best descriptions were about isolation, a kind of hyper-consciousness of yourself and the universe and feeling that you are apart from everyone else.

For me it was much worse at night if I couldn't sleep so if your ds has the same problem it might be worth looking at sleep and night time routines. Also I sometimes felt so unreal that I felt I'd never get back to feeling "normal". Maybe some relaxation techniques might help either focusing on breathing and tensing and relaxing muscles or imagining going to a real or imagined safe place. As an adult I try to shift my focus and just tell myself it will pass.

MattDillonsPants Tue 05-Apr-16 14:09:20

This might be a bit too hippy for some but I feel that a good way of feeling "real" is to get into some earthy activities. Gardening, planting, weeding, walking in woods. There's proof that being around trees is good for our mental health.

Why not take him for a walk in the woods OP?

onlyoneboot Tue 05-Apr-16 16:04:50

Sounds very like my DS who has recently been diagnosed with ASD. He's 10 and talks a lot about his fear of nothingness. He's generally anxious about pretty much everything and plays a lot of Minecraft too. Screen time does help him relax, though I would love to get him out and about more. He's so scared at the moment after a massive change in circumstances (long story but now home ed) and I'm trying not to push too hard. Starving the Anxiety Gremlin has been a good book for us.

Hyperhelpmum Sat 16-Apr-16 15:40:05

Thanks for responses. I haven't been back in a while because things have been so full on. He got worse having panic attacks and constant nightmares. Lack of sleep, of course, made his feelings of 'unreality' worse. It's like he is stuck in a rut now and is ok when busy but flits back to 'mummy I feel like I'm in s dream' frequently. Sometimes he copes ok and other times he is shaking and in bits he is so scared. runningtokeepstill your account sound exactly like him. Night time is by far no away the worst time. I have been giving him pholcodine cough syrup last couple of nights which can cause drowsiness in an attempt to get him to sleep and break the cycle of exhaustion. It seemed to work with an audiobook and sleeping in his little brothers room. We had four nights with him in our bed waking hourly crying with nightmares and I just couldn't cope ad have two other children. I didn't give him the pholcodine tonight as I don't really like medicating him but relented at 10.30pm as he just wasn't settling and was tearful and anxious saying he felt like he might grow up to be s bad person and he is still stuck in a dream and is terrified he won't be normal again. We have moved abroad (sept 2015) and he is desperate to come back to up. I'm at my wits end and heartbroken that my boy is so very unhappy and I can't help him.

Hyperhelpmum Sat 16-Apr-16 15:42:09

*uk not up. Excuse typos, beyond tired!

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