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How To Deal With Separation Anxiety In Adults

What Causes Separation Anxiety

Dealing With Separation Anxiety In Teens

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?

What Are The Risk Factors

Those who suffer with clinical obsessive-compulsive disorder are more likely to experience separation anxiety as an adult. Furthermore, those with separation anxiety often have other coexisting conditions such as social anxiety, social phobias, panic disorder, agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress disorder , personality disorders, and generalised anxiety disorder.

It has also been found that being female, experiencing childhood adversity , or having a history of childhood traumatic events , increases your risk for adult separation anxiety. You may also be more likely to develop separation anxiety as an adult if you experienced it as a child.

Sometimes, a significant life change, such as a divorce, death, or even the recent coronavirus pandemic, can cause the development of adult separation anxiety.

However, it is important to remember that a person could have all of these risk factors and still not develop separation anxiety. Equally, a person can have none of these risk factors, but experience separation anxiety. These risk factors are a guide, but not a prediction.

Treatment Options For Separation Anxiety In Adults

While typically associated with childhood disorders, incidents of separation anxiety in adults have increased considerably over the past decade. In spite of the considerable age difference between the two groups, both forms of this condition bring about the same types of symptoms.

According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, adults affected by separation anxiety may experience feelings of fear and even panic when separated from any major attachment figure in their lives. Major attachment figures may take the form of:

  • Spouses
  • Friends
  • Siblings

As far as degree of dysfunction goes, separation anxiety exists as a normal phase in childhood development , whereas separation anxiety in adults qualifies as a full-blown anxiety disorder.

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What Are The Symptoms

There are many signs that someone is suffering from separation anxiety, says Elizabeth Zakarin, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Columbia University Medical Center in New Yorkmany of which should not come as a surprise. First is the constant fear about the possibility of being separated from home or a loved one, even due to circumstances beyond a person’s control, such as a house fire or natural disaster.

People with separation anxiety may also obsess that something bad will happen to their loved one when they are away, like getting sick or dying. They may be reluctant to spend time away from home, even to attend school or work. They don’t like being alone, and they can have nightmares themed around separation. They may complain of physical symptoms when anticipating or experiencing being apart from someone they’re close to.

Needless to say, these feelings can make it difficult to maintain relationships and a so-called regular life. Imagine if someone were to spend all their time constantly checking on the whereabouts of their loved ones, via calling, texting, social media, even turning on the news? Thats not exactly normal behavior.

For adults, separation anxiety disorder can have monumental consequences in their social and work life and could lead to social isolation, loss of employment opportunities or the ability to prosper at work, relational difficulties, or the ability to live a satisfying and fulfilling life, says Forti.

How Separation Anxiety Manifests In Adults

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  • Extreme Jealousy – adults with separation anxiety may demonstrate signs of jealousy in relationships. A fear of abandonment is often what drives those with ASA to experience jealousy. This is especially true if the jealousy is accompanied by anxious thoughts, such as a fear of being alone or irrational concerns about infidelity. Of course, jealousy may be completely unrelated to ASA – for example, control of others is the cause of jealousy, as are trust issues – but some forms of deep jealousy may also be due to separation anxiety.
  • Over Strict Parenting – there is some evidence that extremely strict and demanding parents may have separation anxiety issues as well. Sometimes referred to as reverse-separation anxiety, the parents may be so concerned that their child will leave them someday that they try to control the child’s life as much as possible.
  • Stuck in Relationships – another way separation anxiety may manifest itself is in the way adults treat their relationships. Whether romantic, familial, or friend relationships, but also friendships and occasionally familial relationships, many with ASA work to maintain the relationship even when extremely unhealthy , out of fear of being alone.
  • Mooching – those that “mooch” off their parents well into adulthood, or those that never seem to leave their friends’ homes may be experiencing separation anxiety in some way.

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Addressing Separation Anxiety In Children

  • 1Observe their behaviors and get a proper medical diagnosis. All children experience at least mild separation anxiety at times. However, if even the very thought of separation causes severe emotional or physical symptoms, allow their doctor to do an evaluation of their condition.XTrustworthy SourceMedlinePlusCollection of medical information sourced from the US National Library of MedicineGo to source
  • A child with separation anxiety may do several of the following to avoid separations: throw tantrums describe physical illnesses like stomach pain or a bellyache become excessively clingy when youre around become unable to sleep alone.
  • About 4% of children between ages 7 and 10 have separation anxiety to a degree that warrants a clinical diagnosis.XResearch source
  • 2Prepare them for time apart with books, games, and role playing. Fear of the unknown is one of the major factors behind childhood separation anxiety. Prepare them for the experience of separation in a calm, supportive manner, using techniques such as the following:XResearch source
  • Reading childrens books that describe events like going to school for the first time.
  • Playing games ranging from peek-a-boo to hide-and-seek.
  • Role-playing together what a separation event, like staying at Grandmas house for the weekend, will be like.
  • Doing practice runs of getting ready and going to school.
  • Getting ready for bed and waking up in the morning.
  • Heading off to school and returning home at the end of the day.
  • What You Can Do

    Before your appointment, make a list of:

    • Your child’s symptoms of anxiety. Note when they occur, whether anything seems to make them better or worse, and how much they affect day-to-day activities and interactions.
    • What causes your child to be stressed. Include any major life changes or stressful events your child dealt with recently, as well as any past traumatic experiences.
    • Any family history of mental health problems. Note if you, your spouse, your parents, grandparents, siblings or other children have struggled with any mental health problems.
    • Any other health problems your child has. Include both physical conditions and mental health issues.
    • All medications that your child takes. Include any medications, vitamins, herbs or other supplements, and the dosages.
    • Questions to ask to make the most of your appointment.

    Questions to ask may include:

    • Are there other possible situations, psychological issues or physical health problems that could be causing or worsening the anxiety?
    • Does my child need any tests?
    • What type of therapy might help?
    • Would medication help? If so, is there a generic alternative?
    • In addition to treatment, are there any steps I can take at home that might help my child?
    • Do you have any educational materials that I can have? What websites do you recommend?

    Don’t hesitate to ask other questions during the appointment.

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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.

    Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety

    How to Deal with Separation Anxiety | 7 Tips

    Are you experiencing any of these separation anxiety symptoms?

  • Inability or refusal to stay away from loved ones or a family member.
  • Fear of being left alone or facing separation from a person.
  • Worries around a loved one getting hurt, abducted, or killed.
  • Extreme episodes of anxiety when separated from a person.
  • Over clinginess and the need to know the whereabouts of a loved one at all times.
  • Persistent fear of facing separation from a pet
  • Difficulty leaving the side of a person fearing something bad will happen to them.
  • Experiencing physical signs of distress including physical pain and headache.
  • If youre someone who often struggles with any of these signs of separation anxiety, you have to be vigilant.

    This kind of behavior can easily become overbearing for the ones who are on the receiving end.

    In fact, it can become overwhelming for the sufferer as well. Its not uncommon to notice such feelings taking over your life.

    Soon these symptoms creep up on you to start interfering with your work life and daily activities.

    Thats also the moment when you need to evaluate if youre on the verge of a serious .

    So, Is separation anxiety a mental illness?

    Here, its important to understand the difference between separation anxiety and separation anxiety disorder. Not all cases are severe actually.

    Medical diagnosis requires an individual to have symptoms for more than six months.

    Plus, the symptoms have to be excessive as per the developmental age.

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    Five Ways To Help Separation Anxiety Friend

    To help someone suffering from separation anxiety, you dont need to be a doctor. What can you do to help someone with anxiety? There may not be one way to help a friend manage their separation anxiety.

    You can prepare yourself to support someone with this disorder by learning how to better help them. Encouragement might be all they need to get professional help.

    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.

    Anti-anxiety medication

    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.

    Support groups

    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.

    Also Check: How To Help A 5 Year Old With Separation Anxiety

    A Kissing Hand For Chester Raccoon Audrey Penn And Barbara Gibson

    This is a picture book for children and parents facing separation. It is geared toward younger children .

    The story is about a little raccoon named Chester who does not want to go to school. His mom shares a family secret about the kissing hand where his mother kisses his hand upon leaving him.

    This way, every time Chester misses his mother, he can hold his hand to his face and feel the warmth of her kiss whenever he needs a reminder that his mother is always with him.

    Kindergarten teachers often read this book on the first day of school to help children cope with the separation. The book comes with a CD of the story being read and a recording of Chesters Song, written by the author.

    Available on .

    Trying Coping Techniques For Relaxation

    Separation Anxiety Can Hit You As An Adult Too
  • 1Practice breathing techniques to help calm yourself down. Breathing can be a great way to calm down when you are feeling anxious. Deep breathing is a known stress reliever. When you begin to feel yourself getting anxious, try this technique:XResearch source
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose for five seconds.
  • Focus your attention on listening to and feeling the air move as you breathe.
  • Place your hand on your chest and feel it rise as you breathe.
  • 2Try meditating. Like deep breathing, meditating is another way to calm yourself by focusing on your breath and clearing your mind.XTrustworthy SourceMayo ClinicEducational website from one of the world’s leading hospitalsGo to source
  • Sit in a position that you find comfortable. If you sit on the floor, a pillow or mat can make things more comfortable.
  • Start off with some breathing exercises.
  • Focus your attention on your breathing. Gently bring your mind back to focus on your breathing as soon as it wanders.
  • Dont judge or dwell on any thoughts that may come to mind.
  • Meditate for five minutes at least once a day. As you develop the habit of meditating, you can gradually increase the time you spend on it.
  • Start by spending a few minutes on breathing exercises and meditation.
  • Close your eyes and begin to imagine a setting that you find peaceful and relaxing. For instance, picture yourself in a sunny, grassy meadow with birds singing.
  • When you feel relaxed and ready, open your eyes.
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