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In addition to being more common in children with family histories of anxiety, children whose mothers were stressed during pregnancy with them tend to be more at risk for developing this disorder.
A majority of children with separation anxiety disorder have school refusal as a symptom and up to 80% of children who refuse school qualify for the diagnosis of separation anxiety disorder. Approximately 50%-75% of children who suffer from this disorder come from homes of low socioeconomic status.
What Causes Separation Anxiety In Puppies And Dogs
Its unclear why some puppies are more prone to separation anxiety than others. McConnell theorizes there may be several reasons, including never previously being left alone and traumatic separation, such as would be seen in some abandoned shelter dogs. Even a single traumatic event in the owners absence, like the house being robbed, can lead to SA. Finally, she suggests that personality can play a role, with clingy dogs perhaps being more at risk than independent ones.
Other triggers to watch for involve life changes like a sudden switch in schedule, a move to a new house, or the sudden absence of a family member, whether its a divorce, a death in the family, or a child leaving for college. Recent research has even pointed to a lack of daily exercise as a possible cause. Because there are so many potential triggers for SA, its essential to work on prevention and start treatment at the first sign.
Key Strategies For Helping Anxious Children
As a child, being told someone will return means nothing if you feel youll never see them again. Words do nothing to ease the aching longing, inconsolable panic, and wretched sobbing.
Imagine for a moment the feelings of utter helplessness and abandonment a child might feel in this situation. Experience the emotions as if they were your own.
To truly empathise, this is what we must do. We need a certain level of imaginative capacity to get a taste of another persons reality from the inside.
Gloria was six years old, and she would cry inconsolably whenever her mum, Sally, even so much as looked like she might leave her, be it at school or anywhere else.
Glorias just always been like that, Sally told me. Even before she went to school. I work from home, and its just the two of us. Ive been keeping her off school because I just dont know what else to do. Nothing seems to help!
Sally was a single parent, and fun times with her daughter were melting away.
All we seem to do is fight. I spend so long trying to get her to stay at school or at my mothers, and she just pushes back all the time. We love each other, but if you saw us every day youd think we didnt at all!
It was a painful story, but it was far from unique.
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Making Lifestyle Changes As A Dog Owner
If your dog is exhibiting symptoms of separation anxiety out of nowhere, you may wonder why this is the case. Well, maybe take a look at the energy you bring into your home when you walk through the front door.
Like our partners and roommates, perhaps even more so, our dogs can sense when something is off about us. So when youre bringing anxious vibes home from all the deadlines you tried to meet at work, it may rub off on your furry friend.
Dogs are sensitive to human emotions and our stress can rub off on them. Consider making small but impactful changes such as calmly walking through the front door when you get home and not slamming doors around the house. Dont make sudden movements and be more, shall we say, sophisticated in how you move around the house.
Other lifestyle changes you can implement include providing your dog with an outlet to channel excess energy, such as playing fetch and running around the garden. Go for long walks in the evening after work to help relieve yourself, and your dog, of stress.
Lastly, consider taking your dog to a dog park where theyll get to socialise with other dogs and make new friends. This can help to greatly relieve their stress and separation anxiety by encouraging play and independence.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety Disorder In A Child
The first symptoms of SAD often appear around the third or fourth grade. They may start after a break from school, such as during holidays or summer, or after a long-term sickness. Each child may have different symptoms. But the most common signs of SAD are:
Refusing to sleep alone
Too much worry about safety of self
Too much worry about or when sleeping away from home
Being very clingy, even when at home
Panic or temper tantrums at times of separation from parents or caregivers
The symptoms of SAD may look like other health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
What Causes Separation Anxiety
It might sound absurd. But the roots of the condition can very well be planted in your own childhood.
Other mental health conditions can also trigger separation anxiety disorder.
Heres how we can explain the causes of separation anxiety:
- Theres a great chance of you having Separation Anxiety Disorder if you were diagnosed with it as a child.
- A person diagnosed with panic disorder, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, or social anxiety is at a greater risk.
- A sudden loss of a family member or close ones can trigger separation anxiety symptoms.
- A history of traumatic events in your childhood.
- Different attachment styles during childhood can trigger the symptoms as an adult.
As children, we often develop patterns that are imprinted on our psyche. As a result, they dont just get away as soon as we enter adulthood.
For instance, someone with an absent parent is more likely to be clingy or overbearing in their adult relationships.
The fear of losing the ones you love can stick through well into adulthood.
Rewind a little bit to the panic and anxiety Martha felt.
What if the reason she worries so much about her son is actually rooted in the fact that she lost her father when she was just 10 years old?
NOTE: Reading more on how repressed childhood trauma affects your adult relationships can help you navigate your feelings.
But how to cure separation anxiety or are there any evidence-based treatment for separation anxiety disorder?
Recommended Reading: Do You Have An Anxiety Disorder Test
Choose A Person They Will Be With When Youre Away
Select someone with whom the baby feels comfortable while carrying on his usual activities. Let them change his/her diaper, make them bathe the baby, and let them take walks or play together. This way you can make your child comfortable with someone other than you so that there is a backup. This way, they get to realise that it is vital for them to be with other people too.
How Separation Anxiety Impacts The Child At Different Ages
In the preschool and early childhood years, separation anxiety presents with more physical and observable signs such as complaints about stomachache or general ailments, as well as crying, clinging, refusal to part, and sometimes full-blown tantrums. Furthermore, these signs are often more common on Sunday nights and Monday mornings with the anticipation of a return to school, as well as following vacations and other extended periods of time off from school. Many parents are able to recognize that their child is struggling with separation anxiety within the first few weeks to months of witnessing a repeating pattern of these behaviours. In addition, teachers are often well equipped to notice and manage separation anxious kids as it is more expected in these early years.
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What Can Be Happening For The Child
Fears of Being Alone
e.g. I can’t handle being on my own, but I can be in control if I am around others
Fears of Abandonment
e.g. The parent is abandoning me if I go to school I will never see Mum again if she goes out!
Fear of Physical Illness:
e.g. I feel awful when Mum goes out, I could be getting sick, and that would be BAD!
Worry about Calamitous Events
e.g. I could get kidnapped if Mum is not there OR Dad could die if he goes out!
Overall, the child feels the world is a dangerous place, which they risk facing alone while they feel physically awful. To try and cope with this danger, the child will be using a lot of “safety signals.” Safety signals refer to people, places, objects, and actions that help the child feel safe. Unfortunately, with separation anxiety, these safety signals become too strong and serve to feed the separation anxiety.
Examples of safety signals include: calling out for a parent and having them respond getting parents to make specific promises about when they will be back having to have a safety object only going to familiar places, or requiring a parent to attend an activity such as school camp.
Engage In Appropriate Exercise Routines Before You Leave
Most dogs can benefit from increased exercise, particularly dogs suffering from a milder form of separation anxiety called separation intolerance.
Working out your dogs brain and body prior to leaving him alone might help him settle during your absence.
Dogs dealing with mild separation intolerance can benefit from playing challenging games that stimulate their minds prior to being left alone. Finding treats that are hidden in a puzzle toy or playing a scenting game like “find the toy” can help your dog get ready to settle once you leave for the day.
Easy trick training also helps to mentally exhaust dogs. Working on something like “spin” or “high five” is more than just cute and fun the mental stimulation will leave your dog ready for a rest.
Read Also: How To Calm Your Mind From Anxiety
What Is Dog Separation Anxiety
is a stress response that a dog exhibits when the person that the dog is bonded to is away from home.
Tina Flores, KPA-CTP, CSAT, certified separation anxiety trainer explains, When a dog is experiencing separation anxiety, it is quite similar to a panic attack in a human. A human, for example, with a fear of heights who is placed on top of a tall building might exhibit sweaty palms, dry mouth and fast heart rate. In the same way, every time a dog who has separation anxiety is left alone, their bodies are flooded with the same stress hormones.
The dogs reactions can range from mild distress, like pacing and whining, to extreme anxiety, resulting in dogs that injure themselves when attempting to escape confinement.
While there is no single reason why some dogs develop this challenging response to being left alone, for many dogs, its related to a traumatic event or an environmental change that they found upsetting. Examples include:
Changes in the family dynamic
Changes in lifestyle
Changes in routine
Control Your Emotions Upon Meeting
Dont go overboard with affection right when you meet after a while. Restrain yourself from showing feelings that can feed their fears. Temporary separation should be presented as a matter of course instead of as a special event.
Separation anxiety is a normal stage of development. Although it might be frustrating initially, your efforts are sure to pay off and help you raise a confident child in the long run. In case none of the above solutions seems to be helping or your child displays severe symptoms such as aggression, age-inappropriate tantrums, or persistent refusal to go to school, consult an expert.
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Why Separation Anxiety Happens
If your baby used to be calm when you left the room and they were happy to be held by people they didn’t know, it may not seem to make sense when they start crying whenever you’re not there or strangers are close.
But separation anxiety is a sign your baby now realises how dependent they are on the people who care for them. That can include their grandparents or professionals closely involved with their care, as well as their parents.
As they get more aware of their surroundings, your baby’s strong relationship with this small group means they don’t feel so safe without you. Their growing awareness of the world around them can also make them feel unsafe or upset in new situations or with new people, even if you are there.
Canine Separation Anxiety: Strategies For Treatment And Management
Accepted for publication 28 August 2014
30 October 2014Volume 2014:5 Pages 143151
Dogs without separation-related behavior problems are passive and inactive in their owners absence,1,2 and the initially anxious behavior of puppies separated from their owners3 has been found to decrease quickly after adoption.4 Dogs with separation-related behavior problems, in contrast, engage in undesirable behaviors when left alone. The most common of these are destruction and excessive vocalization, including whining and barking.59 Less common problem behaviors include inappropriate elimination , self-injurious behavior , increased or repetitive motor activity , attempts to escape, trembling, salivation, and depression.10,11
The bond formed between dogs and their human owners is consistent with an attachment.12 The emotional attachment between adult dogs and their owners, even in the absence of separation-related behavior problems, has been found to be similar to that displayed by human adults and their children.13 This is not surprising given that dogs have been selected for their dependence on humans over 10,000 or more years of domestication.13
Importance of separation-related problems
Factors that predispose dogs to separation-related behavior problems
Treatments for canine separation anxiety
Table 1 Options for the treatment of canine separation-related behavior problems
Other factors that may help
Easing Separation Anxiety Disorder: Tips For School
For children with separation anxiety disorder, attending school can seem overwhelming and a refusal to go is commonplace. But by addressing any root causes for your childs avoidance of school and by making changes at school, though, you can help reduce your childs symptoms.
Help a child who has been absent from school return as quickly as possible. Even if a shorter school day is necessary initially, childrens symptoms are more likely to decrease when they discover that they can survive the separation.
Ask the school to accommodate your childs late arrival. If the school can be lenient about late arrival at first, it can give you and your child a little wiggle room to talk and separate at your childs slower pace.
Identify a safe place. Find a place at school where your child can go to reduce anxiety during stressful periods. Develop guidelines for appropriate use of the safe place.
Allow your child contact with home. At times of stress at school, a brief phone calla minute or twowith family may reduce separation anxiety.
Send notes for your child to read. You can place a note for your child in their lunch box or locker. A quick I love you! on a napkin can reassure a child.
Provide assistance to your child during interactions with peers. An adults help, whether it is from a teacher or counselor, may be beneficial for both your child and the other children theyre interacting with.