Anyone who works with young children, or has a child, is familiar with the idea of a security blanket. Whether it’s their pacifier, their Lovey, or a stuffed animal, some kids will refuse to part with a certain item. I work with children, and I’ve seen the nightmare that ensues when a pacifier is lost or a stuffed animal is left at home. Those kids are fine when their Lovey is in their hands, but as soon as its gone, they’re suddenly aware of the fact that Mom is gone, and they’re away from home. Most children outgrow their need for a security blanket, but for some of us, that need for comfort never goes away.
My Social Anxiety Disorder and OCD reached their peak when I was 13. I was so anxious that I had severe stomach pains and missed about a week of school. Eventually, I felt ready to go back to school, but I was terrified that my stomachaches (and the nausea and acid reflux which accompanied them) would come back. To ease that fear, I packed Tums, gum and water in my backpack. The Tums calmed my nausea, the water cooled the burning of the acid reflux and the mint gum soothed my stomach. Nine years later, and I never leave the house without those three objects in my purse.
Sometimes I’ll be at work or on the train or in class, and I’ll reach into my purse only to realize that I left my pack of gum at home. At that moment, I’ll go from feeling fine, to dealing with a major stomachache and having a mini panic attack. I’m sure I’m not alone with this. I feel vulnerable without Tums, gum and water. I need them! Are there days I carry them with me and never touch them? Yes, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to get rid of them.
A therapist told me my need to have a security item with me at all times was an aspect of OCD and anxiety. I craved comfort and stability, and at 13, I found that with Tums, gum and water. And at 22, I still find comfort in those items. They’re my security blanket! While I’m not ready to live without them, I have come up with some tips so I rely on them less. If you also need a security object and want to slowly move away from it, check these out!
- When you leave the house for a short period of time (say, 30 minutes), leave the security item(s) behind. Test yourself! If 30 minutes is easy, try 40, then 50, and work your way up to a couple hours!
- Make it harder for you to access the items. I used to keep my Tums in my pocket, but I moved them into my purse. When I can’t get to them as easily, I find myself reaching for them less and less.
- Carry a smaller amount of your security items. (That is, if your items are like Tums or gum and can be separated from a pack. If your security item is your cell phone or some other singular object, don’t chop it in half.) Instead of an entire roll of Tums, I’ll carry six. Or I’ll carry a few pieces of gum, not the whole pack.
- If you do forget a security item at home, accept the challenge! See if you can make it through your day without it. If you feel yourself getting panicky, then excuse yourself to either buy more or sit out and take a few breaths.
Security blankets aren’t just for babies! If you rely on something to help you feel comfortable or safe, there’s nothing wrong with that. Share your security items in the comments! Besides, we all have our “can’t live without” items, some of us just take that idea a bit more seriously.