What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a condition mostly seen in children and characterized by severe distress when separated from home or caregivers. While this is a completely normal stage of development in infants and toddlers, children who continue to experience symptoms at preschool age or older may have a more serious condition called separation anxiety disorder, which is a diagnosis given when symptoms go so far as to impair daily functioning, such as reluctance to go to school, excessive worry, limited independent activities, nightmares or physical symptoms such as stomachaches.
Although rare, adults can also suffer from separation anxiety disorder, and those who do tend to see it manifested as excessive worry about loved ones and anxiety around big life changes such as moving or changing jobs.
Separation Anxiety Symptoms
Common symptoms of separation anxiety include:
- Recurring and excessive distress when thinking about the possibility of separation from the safety of home or loved ones
- Consistent worrying about bad things happening to people you care about, such as someone getting sick or being in an accident
- Perpetual worry that something will happen to you that causes separation, such as getting lost or being kidnapped
- Being too fearful to be by yourself or without loved ones
- Reluctance to sleep away from home or without a loved one nearby
- Nightmares about separation
- Frequent complaints of not feeling well and physical symptoms, such as stomachaches, headaches, nausea, vomiting, when separation is anticipated
How Serious is Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety typically goes away in young children, but if it continues past preschool age, it can persist indefinitely without treatment, and even lead to other anxiety disorders into adulthood. While not life-threatening, living with separation anxiety can have a cascading impact on quality of life.
How Separation Anxiety Affects Your Life
Separation anxiety can take the fun out of life by inhibiting independence and keeping us from exploring new environments and experiences. It makes it difficult to travel, go away to school, visit friends, or hold down a job. There are also impacts to relationships. When you are perpetually worried about something bad happening, it’s difficult to enjoy the present and experience joy. Lastly, when we are experiencing chronic anxiety, our bodies are in a constant state of stress, which can be very uncomfortable and cause other health conditions as a result.
Separation Anxiety Treatments
The good news is that there is hope for people experiencing separation anxiety because it is treatable with licensed mental health providers. Evidence-based therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy, or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction can be very effective interventions for helping change the way you think, calming your nervous system, and building tolerance for situations that have historically caused anxiety.
How Teletherapy can help with Separation Anxiety
If you are experiencing symptoms of separation anxiety, teletherapy can be very helpful because it can be conducted from the comfort of your home. You can meet with your licensed therapist on video at scheduled times that are convenient for you and gradually expand your ability to cope in new ways at your own pace.