Separation anxiety is a typical part of child development from the ages of six months to three years old. Some children may continue to have symptoms of into late childhood – they may have irrational fears about being away from their parents meaning they’re scared of doing things like sleeping over at a friend’s house or going on an overnight school trip. Separation anxiety isn’t just present in children though, it can continue into adulthood. Adults who experience this type of anxiety disorder tend to have an extreme fear of being away from their children, spouses, other family members or even a pet. This fear can be so extreme that it can start to hinder their work and other important responsibilities.

It’s completely normal for an adult to worry about their loved ones, however the difference between normal concern and separation anxiety is that those who experience the latter have high levels of anxiety and even panic attacks, when they are not with their loved ones.

So what are the symptoms in adults?

They may be socially withdrawn, seem very sad or have difficulty concentrating when they’re not with their loved ones. If they’re a parent, they may be very strict and over-involved. If they are in a relationship, they tend to be an oppressive and domineering partner. Common symptoms consist of:

  • Irrational fears that their loved ones will be abducted or fatally injured
  • Extreme and resolute uncertainty or downright refusal to leave their loved ones
  • Needed to know where their loved ones are at all times
  • Struggling to sleep when they’re not next to their loved one because they’re scared something bad will happen to them
  • Depression or panic attacks
  • Physical symptoms such as aches and pains, headaches, sore throat, nausea and diarrhoea when they feel anxious

Why do people have separation anxiety disorder?

It tends to occur after the death of a loved one, or after a life transition such as a child going to university. Women also tend be more at risk of developing separation anxiety. Adults with separation anxiety usually were diagnosed with the disorder as a child, and those who suffered childhood abuse or had overbearing parents may also be more at risk of developing the disorder. If an adult has separation anxiety, they have typically already been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder, PTSD, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, OCD or a personality disorder.

Luckily, separation anxiety disorder can be successfully treated. Treatment can include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), group therapy, family therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) or medication.

If you are experiencing symptoms of separation anxiety, get in touch with Dalton Wise and start improving your wellbeing today.

Check out our blog on how to spot the signs of a mental health issue in a loved one HERE

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