Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by the feeling of fear of being separated from a specific person, people (i.e. family), or sometimes even a pet animal. Despite the fact that many people link separation anxiety with children, adults can also experience the disorder. A person suffers from extreme anxiety as a consequence of separation. A person may also show the physical symptoms linked to separation anxiety.


Separation anxiety is normally seen in the stage of development in infants and toddlers. Young children often have a period of separation anxiety, but in most children, separation anxiety stops by about 3 years of age. In some children, (SAD) is an indication of a more severe disorder known as separation anxiety disorder, beginning as early as preschool age.

If your child suffers from separation anxiety (SAD) that is intense, persistent, troubling at school or other daily activities, involved in panic attacks, or other complications, they may have a separation anxiety disorder. Most often this relates to the child’s anxiety about detachment from his or her parents, but it could also be related to any other close caregiver. Less frequently, a separation anxiety disorder can also be seen in teenagers and adults who suffer anxiety and other significant complications when leaving home or going to school or work. But luckily treatment can help overcome this disorder.

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Signs and symptoms of Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD):

Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is usually observed when symptoms are too much for the developmental age and cause noteworthy distress in the daily functioning. Symptoms usually involve:

  • Persistent and extreme stress about expecting or being away from home or loved ones
  • Continuous, excessive anxiety about losing a parent or other loved one due to a disease or a calamity
  • Constant concern that something bad is going to happen, such as being lost or abducted, which leads to separation from parents or other loved ones
  • Saying no to be away from home due to the fear of separation
  • Not wanting to be alone at home or without a parent or other loved ones in the house
  • Unwillingness or refusing to sleep away from home without a parent or other loved one
  • Recurrent bad dreams about separation
  • Recurrent complaints of headaches, upset stomach or other symptoms when separated from a parent or other loved one

Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) might be linked to panic disorder and panic attacks which are frequent incidents of sudden feelings of extreme anxiety and fear or fright that reaches a highest level within minutes.

Causes of Separation Anxiety Disorder:

From time to time, separation anxiety disorder can be caused by stress that results from separation of a loved one. Genetics might also play a role in the development of the separation anxiety disorder.

Risk factors of Separation Anxiety Disorder:

Separation anxiety disorder usually starts in childhood, but may continue into the teenage years and occasionally into adulthood.

Risk factors may involve:

  • Tensions in life or a loss that results in separation,such as the disease or passing away of a loved one, loss of a dear pet, separation from a parent(s), or moving or going away to school
  • Certain personalities which are more predisposed to to anxiety disorders than others are
  • Family history that includes blood relatives having problems with anxiety or anxiety disorder, signifying that those traits could be hereditary
  • Environmental issues such as coming into contact with some type of calamity that involves separation

Complications of (SAD):

Separation anxiety disorder leads to major disturbances and problems while functioning in societal situations or at school or work.

Disorders that can go along with separation anxiety disorder involve:

  • Other anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, social anxiety disorder, phobias or agoraphobia
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Depression

How to prevent (SAD)?

There is no certain way to prevent the separation anxiety disorder in your child; however, the following suggestions might help:

  • Seek professional advice if you are worried that the anxiety of your child is much worse as compared to a normal developmental stage. Early identification and treatment can help to reduce the symptoms and prevent the disorder from getting severe.
  • Follow the treatment plan to help stop the re-occurrence or worsening of symptoms.
  • Seek professional assistance if you have depression, anxiety or other mental health issues so that you can practice healthy coping skills.

Diagnosis of (SAD):

Diagnosis of separation anxiety disorder is based upon identification of whether your child is going through a normal stage of development or is actually suffering from a disorder. After finding out any medical issues, your child’s pediatrician might refer you to a child psychiatrist or child (developmental) psychologist that has knowledge about anxiety disorders in children.

To help diagnose separation anxiety disorder, the mental health professional will probably conduct an evaluation that includes an interview with the child, parents, and get information from teachers. Therapy sessions with children 10 and under are usually done using a form of play therapy, drawing, and talking. Separation anxiety disorder might occur along with other mental health issues.

Treatment of (SAD):

Separation anxiety disorder is usually treated with the help of psychotherapy, and in severe cases medication may be prescribed. Psychotherapy, commonly known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, includes working with a therapist to diminish the symptoms of separation anxiety.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective form of psychotherapy for treating the separation anxiety disorder. During therapy sessions your child can learn how to face and control the fears about separation and insecurity. Moreover, parents can learn how to efficiently provide emotional support and inspire age appropriate freedom.

At times, both medication and CBT together can be helpful if the symptoms are severe. Anti-depressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) might be an option for the older aged children and adults.