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Separation Anxiety Disorder

(Also Known As: Anxiety Disorder, Separation Anxiety, Anxiety, Child Anxiety Disorder)

(Reviewed by: Paul Peterson, Licensed Therapist)

What is Separation Anxiety Disorder?

Separation anxiety disorder is a condition that involves children displaying significant distress when they are separated from their parents or primary caregiver. The situation becomes worse when the child enters elementary school, but it is also likely in older or younger children. In separation anxiety disorder, the child develops a fear that something terrible might happen to either the child or parent while they are separated. 1

Like many other childhood issues, separation anxiety disorder is normal at certain stages of development. The condition usually takes place from 5 to 7 years and 11 to 14 years old. However, if separation anxiety takes place at later ages, this is already considered a disorder because it no longer follows normal development due to the intensity of the child’s emotional reaction.

Separation anxiety disorder has a negative effect on family routine, work schedule of parents, activities of siblings, and demands of the child. The life of the family is often disturbed by efforts to appease the child. Consequently, this could result in the parents being stressed themselves as they try to stick to their daily routines and obligations, while trying to handle their child’s anxiety.

Children with separation anxiety disorder demonstrate inappropriate and extreme anxiety when they are separated from their home or caregiver. The child is worried that something terrible can happen to the parent or they might experience a disaster when apart from their parents. Thus, the child might be hesitant to go to school or develop a fear of being alone. They will either throw tantrums in the bus or at the door of the school. 2

Separation anxiety disorder can bring about sleep disruption, trouble sleeping on their own, fear of monsters, or nightmares. The ability of the child to monitor themselves or observe their own behavior does not develop until later adolescence.

Could You Have Separation Anxiety Disorder?

Separation Anxiety Disorder Topics

Related Conditions

Anxiety Disorder NOS – pathological fears, anxiousness, stress, exhaustion
Dependent Personality Disorder – psychological dependence on others, submissiveness, dependency
Generalized Anxiety Disorder – irrational worry, anxiety, depression, excessive anxiousness
Social Anxiety Disorder – social phobia, fear of humiliation or embarrassment, abnormal distress, chronic fear