Getting separated from someone you love is a painful experience, even if it is for a brief period. While some are able to recover from separation woes in some time, others may get anxious at the mere idea of separation.
Separation anxiety has suddenly emerged as a point of discussion after people have started to resume their pre-COVID lives, especially among kids who are finding it difficult to bid goodbye to their parents and the comfort of their homes to go to school and resume classes as before.
Separation Anxiety, a Precursor to Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation anxiety is a normal feeling among infants and toddlers during the stages of development. While most children are able to outgrow separation anxiety by the age of three years, some children may experience it even at preschool age.
In cases of prolonged or intense separation anxiety that interferes with school or daily routine and produces symptoms like panic attacks, a serious condition called as separation anxiety disorder may be suspected. Mostly, the child’s anxiety pertains to separation from his or her parents. Sometimes, however, it may involve a close caregiver as well. While separation anxiety disorder is atypical for infants and toddlers or children in preschool, it may also involve teenagers and adults.
Separation anxiety disorder may result from different stressful situations in life resulting from separation from the loved ones. In some cases, genetics may also contribute to the development of separation anxiety disorder.
Identifying Separation Anxiety Disorder
The following signs or symptoms may suggest a possibility of separation anxiety disorder, which warrants expert opinion:
- Experiencing repeated nightmares about separation from parents or loved ones
- Not ready to leave home for the fear of separation or staying away from loved ones
- Experiencing severe and frequent distress about the idea of leaving home or loved ones
- Constant thoughts of concern as if something bad (being lost or kidnapped) will happen if separated from parents or loved ones
- Persistent fear of losing a parent or other loved one to a disaster or illness
- Denial or showing reluctance to sleep away from home in the absence of a parent or a loved one
- Frequent complaints of headaches, stomachaches or other symptoms when separation from a parent or loved one is anticipated
- In worst cases, separation anxiety disorder may also lead to panic disorder and panic attacks, characterized by feelings of fear or terror, or repeated episodes of intense anxiety at even the thought of leaving home without parents or loved ones
Timely treatment for Separation Anxiety
It is important to address separation anxiety, as if left untreated it may lead to major distress and problems associated with functioning in social situations or at work or school. Moreover, there are disorders that may come in tow with separation anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders, including panic attacks, phobias, social anxiety disorder (SAD), and/or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), depression and even obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are known to accompany separation anxiety.
Considering the risks associated with separation anxiety, it is important to seek timely professional help. While early diagnosis and treatment can prevent further complications, ignorance may lead to further aggravation of symptoms.
Any signs of anxiety or depression in children of growing age, especially if they are demanding your continuous presence may require professional help. Remember, separation anxiety disorder in older children usually would not subside on its own. Therefore, even if you have the slightest doubt that your child is displaying symptoms of separation anxiety disorder, talk to an expert. That is the best way out.
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