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How To Treat Separation Anxiety In Adults

How Do I Know If Im Having Separation Anxiety

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You can use the different symptoms of separation anxiety in adults to find out if you have performance anxiety in adults. They include:Recurrent and excessive distress about anticipating or being away from home or loved onesSignificant distress when away from home or loved onesStress and worry when faced with being away from home or loved onesExcessive worry about loved ones safety while they are awayExcessive anger, irritability, mood swings, and/or depression when separated from loved onesExtreme agitation and restlessness when faced with being away from home or loved onesSymptoms lasting more than four weeks

What Are The Signs Of Adult Separation Anxiety

Most signs and symptoms adults with separation anxiety experience are common in child separation anxiety, and include:

  • Extreme distress when separated from their primary caregiver .
  • Reluctance to do anything that involves being apart from their primary caregiver .
  • Constant worry that something will happen to their primary caregiver .
  • Inability to go to sleep without being close to the primary caregiver.
  • Adults also fear that their loved one will leave them or that they will be harmed in some way.
  • Adults also experience extreme fear when asked to do something alone.
  • The inheritable component: people who have relatives with anxiety disorders have a higher risk of developing anxiety disorders themselves, compared to those without relatives who have anxiety disorders. Separation anxiety is an anxiety disorder. Even though there hasnt been done much research on adult separation anxiety, its likely that there is an inheritable component partly responsible for the development of separation anxiety. Also recent research shows that 88.5% of the people with adult separation anxiety have other mental disorders as well .*

How Is Separation Anxiety Order In Adults Treated

Separation anxiety disorder in adults also can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy . Your healthcare provider may recommend CBT or another type of therapy. Other therapy options include:

  • Dialectical behavioral therapy , a type of therapy that helps you deal with difficult emotions.
  • Family therapy.
  • Group therapy.

Medications also may be prescribed. Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and anti-anxiety medication can help manage symptoms.

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Symptoms Of Adult Separation Anxiety

In the discussion of adult separation anxiety, again, due to lack of concrete diagnostic criteria, many look to the symptoms of separation anxiety in children as a way to gain understanding. In children, symptoms of separation anxiety include:

  • Distress when attached to a specific figure or figures.
  • Excessive worry about losing these figures.
  • Anxious, “worst case scenario” thinking about separation.
  • Trouble sleeping when away from a specific person.
  • Physical complaints when separation appears imminent.

One might also add the belief that the person cannot live without another person, or that their quality of life will suffer dramatically.

Because adult brains are far more developed than the brains of children, it is likely adult separation anxiety will reveal itself in different ways. Nevertheless, severe distress at the thought of being without someone is very probable to be a central sign of ASA, and some variation of the above list would likely fit into any diagnostic criteria.

How Long Can This Take To Treat

Separation anxiety in adults: Symptoms, treatment, and management

It depends on how severe the separation anxiety is, the age of the child, and the willingness of the family to change existing patterns. However, the goal with our CBT based treatment is for us as psychologists to become redundant as soon as we can. We aim to skill up the parent and child as fast as possible to manage this on their own.

If you feel that your child may be experiencing difficulties with separation anxiety, you can speak to our team at either Narre Warren or Mentone about an appointment.

Dr Nathan Wilson

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Lifestyle And Home Remedies

While separation anxiety disorder benefits from professional treatment, you can also take these steps to help ease your child’s separation anxiety:

  • Learn about your child’s separation anxiety disorder. Talk to your child’s mental health professional to learn about the disorder and help your child understand it.
  • Stick to the treatment plan. Make sure to keep the therapy appointments for your child. Consistency makes a big difference.
  • Take action. Learn what triggers your child’s anxiety. Practice the strategies developed with the mental health professional so you’re ready to deal with your child’s anxious feelings during separations.

How To Ease Normal Separation Anxiety

For children with normal separation anxiety, there are steps you can take to make the process of separation anxiety easier.

Practice separation. Leave your child with a caregiver for brief periods and short distances at first. As your child gets used to separation, you can gradually leave for longer and travel further.

Schedule separations after naps or feedings. Babies are more susceptible to separation anxiety when theyre tired or hungry.

Develop a quick goodbye ritual. Rituals are reassuring and can be as simple as a special wave through the window or a goodbye kiss. Keep things quick, though, so you can:

Leave without fanfare. Tell your child you are leaving and that you will return, then godont stall or make it a bigger deal than it is.

Follow through on promises. For your child to develop the confidence that they can handle separation, its important you return at the time you promised.

Keep familiar surroundings when possible and make new surroundings familiar. Have the sitter come to your house. When your child is away from home, encourage them to bring a familiar object.

Have a consistent primary caregiver. If you hire a caregiver, try to keep them on the job long term to avoid inconsistency in your childs life.

Minimize scary television. Your child is less likely to be fearful if the shows you watch are not frightening.

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Encourage Them To Seek Help

Separation anxiety disorder is a mental condition that might require psychotherapy to learn ways to better manage the condition. However, many people with psychological conditions, like separation anxiety disorder, do not seek professional treatment. Others might not know when to seek help for anxiety problems.

You can encourage a friend with . Talk to them about the benefits of psychotherapy and how it has helped others with separation anxiety. If they do decide to seek therapy, you can offer help by driving them to their appointments.

Excessive Worry About Events That May Cause Separation From The Attachment Figure

What is Separation Anxiety? Fear of Abandonment?

The other symptom of separation anxiety in adults is excessive worry about events that may cause separation from the attachment figure.

This is when the persons worry or fear becomes so great that it causes significant distress and impairment. For example, this might be a person who cant sleep because they are worried that their loved one will die during the night and they wont be there to say goodbye.

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Types Of Separation Anxiety Disorder

There are three types of separation anxiety disorder, which are determined by the age of onset:

According To Age Groups

This type of SAD typically develops before the age of 18 and is characterized by excessive fear or worry about being away from a parent or other loved one.

This type of SAD typically develops between late adolescence and mid-30s. It is characterized by fear or worries about being separated from a spouse, partner, child, parent, friend, etc.

This type of separation anxiety disorder can develop at any point in life after the first two have already been diagnosed. People who experience this type of SAD often struggle to maintain a healthy romantic relationship because they are constantly afraid that their partner will abandon them, even if the person is extremely committed and dedicated to maintaining the relationship.

According To Their Nature

There are three main types of separation anxiety disorder:

Specific Separation Anxiety Disorder

This type is focused on a particular person, such as a parent or spouse. The fear usually revolves around the idea of being separated from this individual and not having them there to care for you.

Generalized Separation Anxiety Disorder

This type is not focused on any particular person. The fear is more generalized and encompasses a range of situations in which you might be separated from your loved one.

Social Phobia-Related Separation Anxiety Disorder

How Is Separation Anxiety Order In Children Treated

Separation anxiety disorder can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy . Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches children how to understand and manage their fears. CBT is used during separations to help children learn coping skills. These skills can be used when a child is feeling anxious.

If separation anxiety disorder in your child is severe, medication may be prescribed. Antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can help manage symptoms of separation anxiety disorder.

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Helping A Child With Separation Anxiety Disorder

None of us like to see our children in distress, so it can be tempting to help your child avoid the things theyre afraid of. However, that will only reinforce your childs anxiety in the long term. Rather than trying to avoid separation whenever possible, you can better help your child combat separation anxiety disorder by taking steps to make them feel safer. Providing a sympathetic environment at home can make your child feel more comfortable. Even if your efforts dont completely solve the problem, your empathy can only make things better.

Educate yourself about separation anxiety disorder. If you learn about how your child experiences this disorder, you can more easily sympathize with their struggles.

Listen to and respect your childs feelings. For a child who might already feel isolated by their disorder, the experience of being listened to can have a powerful healing effect.

Talk about the issue. Its healthier for children to talk about their feelingsthey dont benefit from not thinking about it. Be empathetic, but also remind your childgentlythat they survived the last separation.

Anticipate separation difficulty. Be ready for transition points that can cause anxiety for your child, such as going to school or meeting with friends to play. If your child separates from one parent more easily than the other, have that parent handle the drop off.

Keep calm during separation. If your child sees that you can stay cool, they are more likely to be calm, too.

What Are The Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety in adults: Symptoms, treatment, and management

According to the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic Statistical Manual , the following are symptoms of separation anxiety

  • Unusual distress about being separated from a person or pet
  • Excessive worry that another person will be harmed if they leave them alone
  • Heightened fear of being alone
  • Physical symptoms when they know they will be separated from another person soon
  • Excessive worry surrounding being alone
  • Needing to know where a spouse or loved one is at all times.

These symptoms can cause significant distress that impacts their social occupational, or academic functioning.

According to the DSM-V, adult separation anxiety is diagnosable if the symptoms have been present for at least 6 months, the symptoms are so severe that they affect your social functioning and ability to take care of responsibilities, and if symptoms cannot be better explained by a different disorder.

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Life Stress Or Unwelcome Changes

In some cases, separation anxiety might develop after a significant loss.

If youve just lost a loved one, you might begin to consider your own mortality, and your partners, for the first time.

Surviving a disaster or traumatic event can also prompt some unwanted familiarity with lifes transience. If your partner faced a dangerous situation, you might begin to feel terrified over what might happen the next time youre apart.

Spending a year in tight quarters during pandemic lockdowns can also prompt anxiety as you slowly begin to resume a more independent schedule. You probably got pretty used to each others company, however difficult that adjustment may have felt at first, and the sudden increase in alone time might feel uncomfortable.

Leaving home for the first time can also cause some stress, Botnick points out. Whether you move out to live alone or with a partner, you might feel unaccustomed to your new independence and anxious about being on your own.

Breathing Exercises And Meditation

Studies reveal breathing exercises and meditation can majorly aid in reducing anxiety and stress. According to research, different emotions are linked to different breathing patterns, for instance, anxiety, fear, or anger are linked with harsh or irregular breathing while happiness, calmness, and a relaxed feeling are linked with regular and soft breathing.

Breathing exercises work by stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system by altering your breathing rhythm. As a result of slow and controlled breathing, the heart rate is slowed down, signaling a relaxed response to the parasympathetic nervous system. In other words, breathing exercises and meditation can calm you down and reduce worry.

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Treatment Of Separation Anxiety Disorder

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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Know That The Separation Is Temporary

8 Signs Youâre An Adult Suffering From Separation Anxiety

No matter how long you and your loved one have to be apart, it is super helpful to remind yourself of the temporary nature of the separation.

It. Will. End.

This can be easier to deal with if youre faced with a shorter period of time apart, but if youve got a lengthy separation ahead, try breaking it down into smaller increments to help you manage better. Can you get through a week? Then another week? I bet you can!

Thse the rest of these tips to help you out!

What if you have a fear that the separation WONT end? I think this is what affects me. What if saying goodbye to Nathan is the LAST TIME I get to say goodbye to him? Its an extremely morbid thought, but somehow, my mind goes there.

If that is something you also experience, Id urge you to remember that uncertainty is always a constant part of life. This is a scary thing in many ways, but it also can serve as a reminder that your separation is no different than your typical daily life.

This may not be super comforting, but at least it lets you know that theres no need to have additional fears with the coming separation.

I suggest reading the book Comfortable With Uncertainty.

When I fear uncertainty in separation, it also helps me to focus on the things I know for sure:

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Effects Of Separation Anxiety In Daily Life

Interfering with work: If you are constantly worried about being away from your loved ones, it can be difficult to focus on work. This can lead to absenteeism, lateness, and poor job performance.

Affecting school: If you are a student, separation anxiety can interfere with your studies. It may cause you to miss classes or exams, and it can also lead to lower grades.

Straining relationships: Separation anxiety can put a strain on your relationships. If you are always avoiding situations where you will be away from your loved ones, it can make it difficult to participate in activities with them. This may lead to conflict and resentment.

Making it difficult to leave the house: If you are afraid of being away from your loved ones, it may be difficult to leave the house. This can make it hard to participate in activities outside the home, such as work, school, or social events.

Causing physical symptoms: Separation anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as sweating, racing heart, and nausea. These symptoms can be debilitating and may require medical attention.

All of these effects can make a person face depreciation in the quality of life in personal, social, professional, as well as overall life and well-being.

Trying Coping Techniques For Relaxation

  • 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 worldâs 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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    About The Editor Dr Malcolm Winstanley

    I am a Registered Psychologist with AHPRAâs Psychology Board of Australia and a Chartered Counselling Psychologist with the British Psychological Society, UK. My formal training began with a B.A. in Psychology and Welfare at Charles Sturt University, and B.A. Psychology from the University of Wollongong. I then progressed to the M.A. Clinical Psychology at the same university before moving to the UK to undertake a PhD in Psychology from City, University of London.

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