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How To Help Someone With Separation Anxiety

How Is Separation Anxiety Disorder Treated

Dealing With Separation Anxiety In Teens

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.

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.

Is Separation Anxiety Always A Bad Thing

Im someone who has always felt sad about separation, which is probably why Ive always been particularly interested in the topic. As a young girl, I got homesick if I spent the night with my best friend. And sleep-away camp well, when my parents downsized years ago, my mom sent me a bunch of letters I had written to her over the years. Among them were letters I had written from camp, with little circles all over the page and the note, these circles are where my tears have fallen while Im writing to you.

For much of my life, I felt ashamed of this tendency to hurt over separation. Cultural and family beliefs suggested that I should be self-sufficient and independent, and not need other people to make me feel good or comfortable. My early days of training to be a psychotherapist reinforced this idea as I learned about separation-individuationthat is, the capacity to be an independent person separate from parents and family and other supports.

But these days we recognize that the capacity for attachment is as important as the ability to separate. We also understand that individuation itself occurs best in the context of attachment, what some theorists have called attachment-individuation.

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Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety

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.

    Key Points About Separation Anxiety Disorder In Children

    How to Help Your Toddler Overcome Separation Anxiety
    • SAD is a type of mental health problem. A child with SAD worries a lot about being apart from family members or other close people.

    • The cause of SAD is both biological and environmental.

    • Symptoms of SAD are more severe than the normal separation anxiety that nearly every child has to some degree between the ages of 18 months and 3 years of age.

    • A child must have symptoms that last at least 4 weeks to be considered SAD.

    • A mental health evaluation is needed to diagnose SAD.

    • Treatment includes therapy and medicines.

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    Explain What Is Happening And Return On Time

    When leaving an infant with someone else, caregivers should explain that they are going away for a little while but that they will come back. As the baby gets older, they will begin to understand these explanations.

    It can also be helpful to provide a timeframe. When doing this, be specific so that the child knows exactly when to expect a return. For example, a caregiver could say, I will be back after your nap to take you home.

    It is important to return on time, as returning later can cause a child not to trust what the caregiver says.

    Exercise Regularly Sleep Well And Practice Relaxation Techniques

    Exercising and sleeping enough can help you have better control over your emotional health.

    In fact, these activities directly affect the feel-good hormones in your body.

    Its obvious to feel more anxious and worried if youre also tired and feel sluggish. Besides, eating right has its own importance in keeping you well-nourished.

    If you usually follow a healthy routine, theres little chance of you thinking irrational thoughts.

    Likewise, practicing relaxing activities like yoga and meditation can also help you organize your thoughts.

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    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.

    Signs Of Separation Anxiety Disorder In Children

    Separation Anxiety In Children: What You Need To Know

    Some of the key symptoms of separation anxiety disorder in children are:

    • A constant fear that something terrible might happen to the loved ones .
    • Unreasonable fear of going to school.
    • Reluctance to go to sleep because of fear of being alone or separated.
    • Increased clinginess to primary caregivers.
    • Frequent complaints of feeling ill and physical sickness like stomach or headache.
    • The constant worry of an unpredicted event to take place and lead to permanent separation with the loved one.
    • Reporting nightmares about separation.
    • A constant urge to be in the proximity of loved ones and not leaving it
    • All these signs have now persisted for more than four weeks.

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    How Is Separation Anxiety Disorder Treated In A Child

    Treatment will depend on your childs symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

    Treatment for SAD often involves a mix of the following:

    • Cognitive behavioral therapy. This treatment helps a child learn how to better handle his or her anxiety. The goal is also to help a child master the situations that may lead to the anxiety.

    • Medicines. Antidepressant or antianxiety medicine may help some children feel calmer.

    • Family therapy. Parents play a vital role in any treatment.

    • School input. A childs school may also be involved in care.

    The Signs Of Separation Anxiety

    Medically Reviewed By: Audrey Kelly, LMFT

    What Is Separation Anxiety?

    In most cases, these symptoms last at least four weeks in children and six months or longer in adults. Individuals experiencing separation anxiety may face difficulties in academics, professional life, social life, personal life and other realms, which may prevent healthy functioning in their day-to-day life. In some ways, separation anxiety may mimic drug-withdrawal or depression symptoms. Heredity and other sociological factors may also impact the development of separation anxiety disorder in babies, children, and adults. Studies indicate that approximately 73 percent of those who meet some or all of the DSM-5 requirements for separation anxiety disorder have a family history of the mental-health disorder.

    According to the DSM-5 Section 309.21 , separation anxiety disorder is recognized when a person exhibits the following characteristics:

    In 2014, the induction of the new DSM-5 edition began categorizing adults with separation anxiety. In previous editions and practices, separation anxiety only applied for those under age 18. The former long-standing diagnosis for adults with separation anxiety tended to be a panic disorder, generalized anxiety order or agoraphobia. can affect people of all ages, including babies, children, and adults. It can even affect pets.

    The following may affect the risk of developing separation anxiety:

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    How To Help A Dog With Separation Anxiety

    Its a heartbreaking scene after a short time away from your house, you return to a dog thats wet from drool, trembling and wide-eyed with fear. Theres a mess by the door, and the TV remote and couch cushions are chewed to bits.

    Its clear that youre dealing with more than just canine mischief. This is a case of a dog with separation anxiety, which can cause stress for your pup and for you.

    Heres how to help your dog with separation anxiety to ensure their safety and well-being.

    What Is Dog Separation Anxiety

    Separation anxiety in children

    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

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    Coping With Feelings Of Separation Anxiety

    The separation discomfort that many of us are feeling these days is in many cases simply a sign of how well we managed the balance during the pandemic, and how much we need to find a new point of equilibrium now.

    One of the hardest things for most of us is to accept that attachment and individuation are always shifting. The balance between them is always changing, requiring that we constantly work to find a place simultaneously for sadness and excitement, loneliness and happiness, and other opposite feelings that emerge at the same time when we or someone we love is separating.

    Some ways to manage these opposites include:

  • Prepare for separation: Think and talk about some of the changes that will come as a result. Talk about and accept your different, often contradictory feelings. And listen to the feelings your loved one expresses, even when theyre not the same as yours.
  • Take it in small steps: If you can, give your pet or your child some brief moments of tolerable separation before asking them to manage longer ones. The more often you reunite after a short break, the easier it will be for them to believe youll come back after a longer one.
  • Get involved in other activities and in meeting other people: Distract yourself, just as you would distract a young child. You will enjoy other activities and other people, which doesnt mean that youll forget your loved one. You are simply working to discover a new balance in your relationship.
  • How Is Separation Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed

    A child psychologist or other qualified mental health professional usually diagnoses anxiety disorders in children or adolescents following a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation. Parents who note signs of severe anxiety in their child or teen can help by seeking an evaluation and treatment early. Early treatment can often prevent future problems.

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    Who Is Affected By Separation Anxiety Disorder

    All children and adolescents experience some anxiety. It is a normal part of growing up. However, when worries and fears are developmentally inappropriate concerning separation from home or family, separation anxiety disorder may be present. Reports indicate that SAD occurs equally in males and females. However, studies suggest that males experiencing symptoms of SAD are more likely than females to be referred for help and receive treatment.

    The first symptoms of SAD usually appear around the third or fourth grade, but this is not always the case. Typically, the onset of symptoms occurs following a break from school such as holidays or an extended illness. It is estimated that about 4 percent of younger children have SAD, while the estimate for adolescents is slightly lower. Children of parents with an anxiety disorder are more likely to have an anxiety disorder.

    Treatment Of Separation Anxiety Disorder

    Dealing With Separation Anxiety

    There are several commonly used treatments for Separation Anxiety Disorder. With children and adolescents, the sooner you intervene and seek professional help, the more likely your child will experience a positive treatment outcome.

    Finding a psychotherapist who specializes in children and adolescents is the first step toward helping your child cope. There are different types of psychotherapy that can be effective in treating Separation Anxiety Disorder.

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    How Separation Anxiety Manifests In Adults

    • 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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