Defined as distress associated with separation from one’s parent or caregiver, separation anxiety is developmentally appropriate among infants and toddlers between the ages of 6 and 18 months. However, Separation Anxiety Disorder is characterized by excessive, persistent worry when separation from home or attachment figures occurs or is anticipated.
Recognizing Separation Anxiety Disorder
- Recurrent, excessive distress when separation from home, parents, and/or loved ones occurs or is anticipated
- Preference for time spent with parents over social activities
- Persistent worry about losing or about possible harm befalling a parent or other loved one
- Extreme worry if parent or caregiver is late
- Fear of getting lost or being kidnapped
- Reluctance or refusal to go to school or elsewhere due to fear of separation
- Difficulty going to sleep without being near caregiver or sibling
- Fearful or reluctant to be alone, clinginess
- Frequent reassurance seeking
- Physical symptoms (such as headache, stomachache, nausea, or vomiting) when separation from parent or caregiver occurs or is anticipated
- Nightmares about separation
Recommended Treatment For Separation Anxiety Disorder
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered the treatment of choice with emphasis placed on identifying anxious thoughts regarding separation, challenging those thoughts, and generating alternative coping thoughts. Relaxation techniques targeting physical symptoms of stress and anxiety may also be a helpful component of the treatment plan. These new skills are then implemented in anxiety provoking situations such as attending a birthday party without a parent or staying with a babysitter. This is accomplished gradually beginning with the easiest situations then progressing to the more difficult. Parent education is an important component of treatment as the anxiety is often unintentionally reinforced.
For more information about separation anxiety or to schedule an appointment with an anxiety treatment specialist at Austin Anxiety and Behavioral Health Services please call (512) 246-7225 or email us at [email protected] We are currently accepting new patients at our Round Rock and Austin therapy offices.