Teddy bears are not just for kids! Everyone needs a teddy bear regardless of their age. You may have had a 'security blanket' famously used in the Peanuts cartoon strips, or a 'therabuddy'. It's not that unusual as a survey by Travelodge found that 35% of adults in Britain sleep with a teddy bear. Other research has found that up to 60% of children have some kind of 'transitional object' for emotional comfort.
A 'transitional object' as it was called by Donald Winnicott, is an object that the holds the representation of something comforting, like a parent. The child uses their imagination to attach comfort to the object. The child realises that the parent can't be with them all the time to help them regulate or manage their emotions, so they substitute their 'blankey' or teddy, and receive comfort from the object using their imagination.
Although Winnicott spoke about children out-growing their 'transitional object' usually as a typical part of development, it doesn't have to so. As adults we may simply adapt to having a photo of people we love in our wallet, a necklace that may be an heirloom and remind us of grandmother's love or an engagement or wedding ring, that reminds us of our significant other or the boyfriend pillow to hug when they are away or don't exist in your life yet.
We still have and use 'transition objects' as adults and find comfort and reassurance in them. Why not a teddy bear or other soft toy? If you have one, it doesn't mean you got stuck in a developmental stage, it means you have learned how to self-soothe and comfort yourself.
Hugging your teddy or stroking your soft or even stinky 'transition object' can be a great way down-regulate or calm down when you feel anxious. The movement of squeezing or stroking the object can help your amygdala (fire alarm for panic and danger) to know you are OK and help your nervous system down-regulate. The repetitive action of stroking something you like the feel of, like a fuzzy blanket or cloth can also be calming. Think of the person who may be anxious and furiously clean their glasses? It is similar but looks more adult appropriate. A teddy bear is simply a more overt way to self-sooth that isn't commonly seen among adults, but certainly used and one that is useful.