Separation anxiety disorder may be defined as a psychological condition in which the individual experiences severe anxiety or stress by thoughts of or actual separation from home or from the people with whom the individual has a strong emotional bonding. Note that this is also a case of trauma. If there is trauma, EMDR can be used. Even though more instances of separation anxiety are often witnessed in children, this condition may manifest itself in individuals of all ages.
Separation Anxiety in Children
Separation anxiety in children often fades after they reach a certain age and only needs to be addressed with the help of a professional if it continues beyond a certain age. Instances of separation anxiety disorder are also prevalent in animals, with pets exhibiting abnormal behavioral pattern when they are separated from a human or animal companion or when they are taken way from an environment they are familiar with.
Separation anxiety disorder in children is considered to a normal component of the developmental stage when the child cries or may show signs of being in stress when separated from his parents or from home. Separation anxiety disappears when the child begins to feel more secure and is assured that the parents will return after a short absence. If the child continues to show aberration in his behavior every time he is away from his parents or his familiar surroundings, after he has reached the age of five, it may represent that he is suffering from a separation anxiety disorder.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety Disorder
Some of the common symptoms of separation anxiety disorder are persistence of anxiety and stress when separated from home or from loved ones, excessive anxiety about losing a person with whom the individual is emotionally attached, fear of an imaginary event or a situation that may result in separation from loved ones, fear of being alone, refusal to sleep away from home or away from loved ones and manifestation of the anxiety in physical symptoms when the individual is sure that the separation is imminent. In children, separation anxiety disorder may take the form of a refusal of the children to attend school. This is also known as the ‘school refusal’ syndrome.
The most common treatment options for separation anxiety disorder are play therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques and family therapy. These treatments help the child to calm down, understand that the separation from home and parents is a normal phase of growing up and also help an older child to take control of his negative behavior and practice appropriate behavior when separation is imminent.
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