The invincibility complex is a psychological phenomenon characterized by a belief that one is immune to the effects of danger or harm which might have long-term impacts on health and well-being. This belief can lead to risky or dangerous behaviours as individuals believe they are invincible and cannot be harmed.
The invincibility complex is often seen in young people and teenagers who engage in risky behaviours such as drinking and driving, or drug use. It can also be seen in adults who take risks in their careers or personal lives. This kind of “it won’t happen to me” outlook on life can increase risk factors such as infection with sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, temporary or permanent injury and disability, and even death.
So here are Six ways to debunk the invincibility complex in teens that might be helpful for parents, as well as in shaping, planning, and conducting health promotion interventions:
1. Being aware of the “it won’t happen to me” style of thinking
This style of thinking is the main characteristic of the invincibility complex, and it is a contributing factor to the feeling of invincibility. Teens can see themselves as being protected from something bad happening to them based on chances, believing that the rules do not apply to them etc. Therefore, being aware of this phenomenon is important, especially, for parents, caretakers, guardians, and for those who are providing health promotion programs to this age group.
2. Spending time with teens
Spending time and talking with teens is also an important strategy for establishing personal relationships. Some ideas for spending time with teens in order to help them avoid risky behaviours can include participating in activities together that promote positive behaviour, such as volunteering, playing sports, or participating in community service projects. Other ideas can include talking to teens about the importance of making healthy choices, setting clear expectations and boundaries, and being a role model of positive behaviour.
3. Focusing on the here and now
Instead of starting to teach them about the long-term health consequences of risky behaviours at the start, it is important to focus on the here and now. Therefore, addressing the issues that are currently affecting or threatening physical, emotional, or mental health should be the priority.
4. Being mindful about parental monitoring
Parental monitoring is the process of parents keeping track of their teens’ activities to ensure their safety and well-being. Through monitoring, parents, guardians, or caretakers could provide structure in the teen’s life by, basically, paying close attention to a teen’s online and offline activity to protect them from potential harm.
5. Implementing health education programmes
Considering that the teenage years are a time of transition, health education programmes are important in promoting healthy habits and empowering teens to take control of their own health and make informed choices which in the end might reduce the risks of certain behaviours due to invincibility complex.
6. Reducing stereotypes and adult stigmatization of teens
The way society views teens might ultimately influence how teens see themselves. Thus, encouraging adults, especially caretakers, to see teens as individuals rather than a group with common traits is an important step.
There is no one-size-fits-all in addressing the invincibility complex in teens, as the best way to debunk the invincibility complex will vary depending on the context, culture, individual beliefs and worldview. Besides the above mentioned, it is important to address other significant factors such as aggressiveness, impulsiveness, identity formation, thrill-seeking or sensation-seeking behaviours, locus of control (i.e., an individual’s perception about the underlying main causes of events in their life.), and depression. Since risk-taking behaviour in this age group is a complex psychological issue, starting with understanding the individual’s perception of invincibility could be an excellent first step in this process.
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Seray Soyman is working as a Trainee Psychosexologist within the Willingness team, providing psychosexual education and sexual support sessions, as well as delivering training and workshops. She is also pursuing her master’s on Clinical Psychosexology at Sapienza University, Rome. Seray’s research interests are sex-positive behaviour, sexual habits, LGBTQIA+ studies, and sexual communication.
World Health Organization. (2007). Helping parents in developing countries improve adolescents’ health. https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/43725
Wickman, M. E., Anderson, N. L. R., & Greenberg, C. S. (2008). The adolescent perception of invincibility and its influence on teen acceptance of health promotion strategies. Journal of pediatric nursing, 23(6), 460-468.