Separation anxiety disorder is a condition in which toddlers and children experience severe anxiety when separated from their parents. Separation anxiety is common among most kids. However, when this anxiety is prolonged and more serious, the child is diagnosed with separation anxiety disorder. Read on to learn more about separation anxiety, its symptoms, its causes, and treatments.
What is separation anxiety disorder?
It is a condition commonly found among children. It is characterized by severe and prolonged anxiety when the children get separated from their parents or caregivers. Most children outgrow overattachment within three(3) years of age. If the condition persists after that, they might have a separation anxiety disorder.
What are the symptoms of separation anxiety disorder?
The signs and symptoms that may indicate that your child are:
- Recurrent, prolonged, and excessive distress about being away from home or loved ones, especially parents.
- Constant, unusually excessive worry about losing a loved one to a disease, accident, or disaster.
- Constant and excessive worry that something will happen to separate your child from its loved ones, such as a kidnapping.
- Refusing to leave the house for school, work, play, trips, etc., due to the fear of being separated from the parents or other loved ones.
- Not wanting to be alone without a parent or loved one.
- Refusing to sleep away from home without a loved one nearby
- Recurrent nightmares about separation.
- Stomach aches, headaches, and other physical symptoms when your child gets separated from its loved ones.
- Panic attacks when thinking about being away from a loved one.
When to see a doctor
If you see any of the symptoms mentioned above or suspect your child is having a separation anxiety disorder, visit a pediatrician. Leaving it untreated may lead to further complications in the future.
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What causes separation anxiety disorder?
It is caused by genetics and brain chemistry. It can also be caused due to the following factors:
- Life events: If one has lost someone very close to them due to death, divorce, illness, moving, etc., they may develop a separation anxiety disorder.
- Family history: As genetics play a role in this disorder, having a family member with a separation anxiety disorder or other anxiety-related condition, makes it more likely for an individual to develop the same disorder.
How is separation anxiety disorder diagnosed?
Diagnosis of separation anxiety disorder involves determining if the anxiety is just a part of a normal development process or a clinical disorder. After ruling out other medical conditions, your pediatrician will recommend a visit to a child psychiatrist .
To diagnose, your child’s psychiatrist will ask a series of questions to your child for a psychological evaluation. Your child’s behavior will also be observed. Commonly, separation anxiety is accompanied by other mental health issues.
How can separation anxiety disorder be treated?
Separation anxiety disorder often gets treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy involves sessions with a therapist who helps you reduce symptoms via counseling. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy that works best on people with separation anxiety disorder.
During these sessions, the patient learns to deal with situations where they are separated from their loved ones. It helps them face fears regarding separation as well. Additionally, parents and loved ones are taught how to provide emotional support during episodes of anxiety and fear.
Visit a doctor if you feel like your child is experiencing separation anxiety. Early diagnosis and treatments can prevent complications and the progression of the condition. Parents and other loved ones to whom the child is attached must learn how to deal with the child’s disorder and provide emotional and mental support.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can separation anxiety affect older adults?
Patients with separation anxiety are primarily toddlers and children. However, there exists a rare set of teenagers and adults who experience the same. It can affect their work life, social life, and mental well-being. Fortunately, it can be treated .
Can separation anxiety disorder go away on its own?
While separation anxiety usually doesn’t last beyond three(3) years of age, if it persists after that , it probably cannot get resolved on its own. It only gets worse with time and leads to other anxiety-related disorders such as panic disorder. If you get worried your child might have a separation anxiety disorder, visit your child’s pediatrician and find a suitable treatment plan.
Are there other mental health disorders that accompany separation anxiety disorder?
Often, people with separation anxiety disorder have other related conditions. It includes panic attacks, phobias, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression.