Separation anxiety a stage of development that is normal for infants and toddlers. Children tend to experience a stage of separation anxiety, which they often outgrow by the age of 3. However, separation anxiety is part of a more severe condition known as a separation anxiety disorder in some children. This condition refers to prolonged separation anxiety that can often interfere with school and other activities and may even result in panic attacks.
Although not as common as children, separation anxiety disorder also occurs in teens and adults. While children experience separation anxiety because they’re away from their parents or a close caregiver, separation anxiety in adults stems from the distance between them and their children or spouses.
Separation anxiety in teens and adults can cause serious problems leaving home or going to work. On the other hand, children experiencing separation anxiety are much less willing to participate in events and social experiences.
Fortunately, separation anxiety can be treated in both children and adults.
Signs Of Separation Anxiety Disorder In Children
The symptoms or signs of separation anxiety disorder often arise when a child is separated from their parents or other close caregivers. The fear of being separated from their loved ones causes anxiety-related behaviors. Here are some of the most common signs of separation anxiety disorder in children:
- Extreme clinginess
- Severe bursts of crying
- Avoiding engaging in activities requiring separation
- Physical symptoms, such as vomiting or headaches
- Temper tantrums that can become violent or emotional
- Unwillingness to attend school
- Poor academic performance
- Failure to establish healthy relationships with other children
- Refusal to sleep alone
Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety Disorder In Adults
It is generally normal to be concerned about the well-being of your loved ones. Individuals who suffer from separation anxiety tend to experience high levels of anxiety in addition to panic attacks when their loved ones are out of reach. Parents with a separation anxiety disorder may also lead to strict and over-involved parents.
Other signs of adult separation anxiety include:
- Unsubstantiated fears that your loved ones are hurt, abducted or fatally injured.
- Serious and continuous refused to leave the side of your loved ones
- Trouble sleeping away from your partner, parents, or children due to the fear that something may happen to them
- Anxiety attacks
Many adults also experience physical pains, aches, headaches, and even diarrhea during periods of anxiety. To be diagnosed with separation anxiety disorder, the above-listed symptoms must impair or impact the functioning of an adult for at least six months.
How Is Separation Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed In Children?
Children that experience three or more of the symptoms are diagnosed with separation anxiety disorder. However, your doctor will conduct some extra tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Diagnosis Of Separation Anxiety In Adults
To diagnose separation anxiety in adults, your doctor will conduct a thorough examination to determine your condition. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, one of the first indicators of separation anxiety in adults is excessive anxiety or fear of being separated from those you love. This fear in adults must be developmentally inappropriate.
Also, separation anxiety symptoms in adults must:
- Be present for a minimum of six months
- Be so severe that they impact your social functioning and responsibilities
- Be better explained by a different disorder
Your medical practitioner will ask you a list of questions to determine whether you fit the criteria for this diagnosis or not. Your therapist may even conduct multiple sessions before giving a for-sure diagnosis. Many therapists also talk to close friends and family members to help them better comprehend how your symptoms may be impacting your daily life.
Treating Separation Anxiety Disorder In Children
Here are a few ways to treat separation anxiety disorder in children:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
The most effective way to get rid of separation anxiety disorder in children is to get them cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps children learn various techniques, such as deep breathing and relaxation, to cope with their anxiety effectively.
Parent-Child Interaction Therapy
Parent-child interaction therapy is another effective way to treat separation anxiety disorder. It comprises three main phases:
- The first phase focuses on the improvement of the quality of the relationship between the parent and child. This stage involves a lot of attention, warmth, and praise, strengthening your child’s feeling of safety.
- The second phase is about educating parents about why their child is experiencing anxiety. Your child’s therapist will help develop a bravery ladder that shows situations resulting in feelings of anxiety.
- The last and final stage teaches parents to establish clear communication channels with their children to manage poor behavior.
Safe School Environment
Having a safe school environment is another great way to relieve symptoms of separation anxiety in a child. Having a safe place will make it easier for your child to be more relaxed and easy. There must be a way for your child to communicate with you during school hours when they are away from you. This will help make relieve some symptoms of separation anxiety.
Although there aren’t any specific medications for separation anxiety, doctors may prescribe antidepressants to the older child if other treatments are ineffective. This decision is typically made after rigorous thinking and consultations.
Treating Separation Anxiety Disorder In Adults
Treating separation anxiety disorder in adults is very similar to treating other anxiety disorders. Your therapist may recommend one of the following treatments:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Family therapy
- Group therapy
- Medications, such as antidepressants.
The Bottom Line
It is normal for children to suffer from separation anxiety during their developmental age. Adult separation anxiety, however, separation anxiety in adults can often have an onset in childhood or adulthood. Just like other anxiety disorders, separation anxiety impacts the quality of one’s life. Luckily, this condition can be managed through proper treatment. If you’re having trouble dealing with separation anxiety disorder, talk to a medical professional.