How To Handle Separation Anxiety
Remember, it’s only natural for your baby to feel anxious without you, so there’s no reason to feel guilty when you need to get on with other parts of your life. In fact, separation anxiety is usually a sign of how well you have bonded with them.
Instead, you can focus on helping your baby understand and deal with their feelings so they feel more secure. They’ll learn that if you leave them, they will be OK and you will come back. If your baby’s old enough, you can talk to them about what’s happening, where you’re going and when you’ll be with them again.
Does Separation Anxiety Go Away
Once Separation Anxiety has grown, there is no simple way of fixing the issue. It does not go down by itself, and a real cure is often never encountered. But to start to relieve the symptoms, there are several things an individual should do straight away. Anxiety from separation can vary from mild to extreme.
How Is It Diagnosed
In the past, the DSM-5 only considered separation anxiety to be a condition that lasted until a person was 18 years old. In more recent versions, however, the definition has expanded to include adults.
A doctor will diagnose separation anxiety by asking about the symptoms a person is experiencing. A mental health expert will use the criteria, including those used in the latest DSM-5 to make a diagnosis of separation anxiety in adults.
Doctors treat separation anxiety primarily through psychotherapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
This therapy aims to help a person identify their thoughts and behaviors that are making their separation anxiety worse.
Parents may also learn additional parenting techniques that can reduce their separation anxiety.
Sometimes an individual can benefit from group therapy and family therapy.
Doctors may also temporarily prescribe anti-anxiety medications to help a person through their most acute symptoms of separation anxiety. These drugs, however, are not always long-term solutions to the underlying disorder, and some types of anti-anxiety medications can be addictive.
A person should engage in therapy so they can begin to change their ways of thinking to reduce the incidence of separation anxiety.
A person may also wish to seek out a support group for those with anxiety and separation anxiety. People who join these groups can gain help with learning techniques for reducing separation-related anxiety.
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What Triggers Separation Anxiety In Toddlers
The following scenarios might trigger separation anxiety in children and toddlers.
Saying Goodbye: Toddlers are working to develop more mastery over their body , and every new challenge that they face can cause stress, Dr. Walfish notes. As a result, they feel conflicted about being away from the security of their parents. Toddlers need reassurance that when you leave, you’ll always come back.
Large Gatherings: Going to a large gathering can be particularly anxiety-provoking for your toddler, who may be afraid of losing you in a crowd.
Going to Sleep: Leaving your toddler in her room at night or for a nap can inspire anxiety, since these are probably the longest stretches of alone time she regularly experiences.
Helping Children With Separation Anxiety
If your child is suffering from separation anxiety, there are lots of things you can do to help her.
In new places
- If youre leaving your child in a new setting child care centre, preschool, friends house, babysitter spend time at the new place with your child before the separation. Your child will be less distressed if hes left in a safe, familiar place with familiar people he trusts.
- Let your child take something she loves from home, like a teddy bear, pillow or blanket. These objects will help your child feel safer, and you can gradually phase them out as she feels more settled in the new place.
- Tell your childs child care centre, preschool or school about his separation anxiety, and let them know about anything youre doing to help your child. This way, other people in your childs environment can give him consistent support.
- Gently encourage your child to separate from you by giving her practice. Its important to give her positive experiences of separations and reunions. Avoiding separations from your child can make the problem worse.
When youre leaving your child
Read about the stepladder approach, a gentle behaviour technique that can be used to help children who suffer from separation anxiety.
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Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety
Klemanski lists some of the symptoms of separation anxiety:
- Physical symptoms: In some people, separation anxiety can cause symptoms like rapid heartbeat, tingling in the limbs, or an anxious feeling overall.
- Behavioral and cognitive symptoms: Separation anxiety can cause significant changes in mood , concentration, decision-making, or even eating or sleeping.
- Functional problems: Separation anxiety can also cause some people to have functional problems, such as avoiding leaving the house, difficulty at work or school, or turning to substances to cope.
Below, Hanson outlines some of the effects of separation anxiety.
What Is Separation Anxiety Disorder
The main differences between normal separation anxiety and separation anxiety disorder are the intensity of your childs fears, and whether these fears keep them from normal activities. Children with separation anxiety disorder may become agitated at just the thought of being away from mom or dad, and may complain of sickness to avoid playing with friends or attending school. When symptoms are extreme enough, these anxieties can add up to a disorder. But no matter how fretful your child becomes when parted from you, separation anxiety disorder is treatable. There are plenty of things you can do to make your child feel safer and ease the anxiety of separation.
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Making A Separation Anxiety Action Plan
Helping your friend create a separation anxiety action plan can help them control their distressing symptoms. This individual can also refer to this anxiety action plan whenever they feel intense stress caused by separation anxiety disorder.
Some helpful tips typically included in a separation anxiety plan are:
- Calm breathing exercises
- Cognitive coping cards
- Seek reassurance from a loved one
A separation anxiety plan does not eliminate anxiety. Instead, this resource is intended to help people tolerate and manage their anxiety. People dealing anxiety conditions, including separation anxiety disorder, use anxiety action plans.
Tips For Dealing With Separation Anxiety In Relationships
Do you struggle with in relationships? You are not alone. This is my personal story of my experience with separation anxiety from my partner, and the tools I used to help relieve and reduce my anxiety.
Absence makes the heart growanxious.
If you dont know what Im talking about, youre lucky. Chances are good that you dont experience any sort of adult separation anxiety in relationships. But if that opening phrase is all too clear, jump in and lets talk.
Having separation anxiety from a boyfriend, spouse or partner can be awful. It was for me for a long time. And while I still dont *love* being apart from my husband, Ive developed some ways to help myself better manage it. Im going to share those tips with you.
Ive always been a sensitive, emotional person, especially as a kid. As I grew into an adult, in many ways, that part of me didnt change.
Sure, I grew braver about some things and learned to laugh at myself and be more confident and strong, but anxiety followed me into adulthood. One of the ways it manifested was in separation anxiety in my relationship.
When my now husband Nathan and I were first together, we were long distance for a good year and a half. This was really tough on me, but the toughest part was always the saying of the goodbyes: the departure.
A Quick Note
It. Will. End.
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How Is Separation Anxiety Disorder Treated
Treatment for separation anxiety disorder usually involvescognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. This is a treatment that helps children learn to understand and manage their fears. Exposure therapy, a specialized form of CBT, might also be used. Exposure therapy works by carefully exposing children to separation in small doses. This can help them feel less anxious over time.
When therapy is not enough, a child may be given medicine to lessen their symptoms and help make therapy more effective. The most common drug to treat separation anxiety disorder is an antidepressant medication called an SSRI. Occasionally anti-anxiety medications are used but they can be habit-forming.
Coping With Separation And Divorce
Going through a separation or divorce can be very difficult, no matter the reason for it. It can turn your world upside down and make it hard to get through the work day and stay productive. But there are things you can do to get through this difficult adjustment.
Recognize that its OK to have different feelings. Its normal to feel sad, angry, exhausted, frustrated and confusedand these feelings can be intense. You also may feel anxious about the future. Accept that reactions like these will lessen over time. Even if the marriage was unhealthy, venturing into the unknown is frightening.
Give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to feel and to function at a less than optimal level for a period of time. You may not be able to be quite as productive on the job or care for others in exactly the way youre accustomed to for a little while. No one is superman or superwoman take time to heal, regroup and re-energize.
Dont go through this alone. Sharing your feelings with friends and family can help you get through this period. Consider joining a support group where you can talk to others in similar situations. Isolating yourself can raise your stress levels, reduce your concentration, and get in the way of your work, relationships and overall health. Dont be afraid to get outside help if you need it.
Life will get back to normal, although normal may be different from what you had originally hoped.
Tips for talking to kids
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Key Points: Helping A Friend With Separation Anxiety
Some important points to remember about how to help a friend with separation anxiety disorder include:
- Although children are more likely to experience separation anxiety, adults can also deal with separation anxiety disorder
- To help a friend with separation anxiety:
- Learn about the condition
- Support your friend whenever possible
- Be patient with them, especially when their symptoms arise
- Promote the benefits of treatment
- Celebrate their small victories, like beginning therapy
- A separation anxiety plan is a short-term tool that can help people better manage their symptoms of separation anxiety
Some people with separation anxiety turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their stress. If your friend with separation anxiety disorder engages in substance use, contact The Recovery Village. An admissions representative can talk to you about ways to help your friend or loved one find treatment.
Help Your Child By Relieving Your Own Stress
Kids with anxious or stressed parents may be more prone to separation anxiety. In order to help your child ease their anxiety symptoms, you may need to take measures to become calmer and more centered yourself.
Talk about your feelings. Expressing what youre going through can be very cathartic, even if theres nothing you can do to alter the stressful situation.
Exercise regularly.Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress.
Eat right. A well-nourished body is better prepared to cope with stress, so eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats, and try to avoid junk food, sugary snacks, and refined carbohydrates.
Practice relaxation. You can control your stress levels with relaxation techniques like yoga, deep breathing, or meditation.
Get enough sleep. Feeling tired only increases your stress, causing you to think irrationally or foggily, while sleeping well directly improves your mood and the quality of your waking life.
Keep your sense of humor. As well as boosting your outlook, the act of laughing helps your body fight stress in a variety of ways.
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Coping With Separation Anxiety At School
In early childhood, school is one of the first places where separation anxiety and related anxious behaviors may manifest, as it represents a change in routine for both children and parents.
A key component of separation anxiety is avoidance, where the most common manifestation is refusing to go to school. Behavioral symptoms of separation anxiety typically manifest in the child completely refusing to go to school but can also be characterized by irregular attendance or throwing a tantrum upon arriving at school.
Children can also experience a high degree of distress as the day goes on and even start having physical symptoms of anxiety.
Some specific techniques that may help build structure for a child experiencing separation anxiety about going to school include:
- Keeping goodbyes short and sweet
- Having a special handshake or goodbye routine upon separating
- If possible, having gradual exposure to a new school or situation by visiting the school a few weeks prior to starting and rehearsing the drop-off routine
- Having the child act out scenarios where they are being dropped off or simulate activities they may do at school using their toys or siblings/family members
Treating Separation Anxiety In Therapy
Treatment for separation anxiety revolves around identifying the clients fears by modifying the clients approach toward uncomfortable situations.
The most widely used therapeutic approach for separation anxiety or other anxiety-related disorders is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy , specifically focused on exposure therapy.
Exposure therapy focuses on simulating the situation the individual is fearful of or the symptoms they are experiencing in a safe environment, while giving them specific tools to help them work through, rather than avoid, fearful sensations or feelings.
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Addressing Separation Anxiety In Children