What does it look like?

Separation anxiety disorder involves extreme and disproportionate distress over day-to-day separation from parents, home or other familiar situations. Many of these children fear something terrible will happen to loved ones or that an event will lead to permanent separation. They often have nightmares about separation.

Some of the common symptoms include refusal to go to school or to be alone without loved ones. They frequently seek reassurance from loved ones. They cling to their caregiver and can have and physical symptoms of headaches or stomachaches.

Separation anxiety disorder is diagnosed only if fear persists, with very extreme reactions and is inappropriate for the child’s age.

Who is affected?

Separation anxiety disorder affects approximately 4% of children and young adolescents.

Where does it come from?

Separation anxiety disorder can occur because of change in environment, such as a new house, school or day care situation. Stressful situations, such as loss of a loved one, including a pet and create a fear of being separated because of something bad happening. In some cases, separation anxiety disorder may be a result of the parent’s anxiety.

When does it happen?

Children usually out grow normal separation fears by age 5 or 6. Separation anxiety disorder usually begins between the ages of 7-11. It often occurs fairly abruptly among children who previously had no problems with separation.

How do we treat it?

The most effective treatment is Cognitive behavior therapy with parent education. Collaboration with school is often recommended if the child is refusing to go to school.