Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation anxiety Disorder exhibits as an excessive fear or anxiety when away from our major attachment figure (e.g. our parents), resulting in emotional distress, sleep difficulties or rumination. While it is normal for infants and toddlers to be in distress when away from their primary caregivers, most of us outgrow separation anxiety by the age of 3. Although less frequent, teenagers and adults may also suffer from Separation Anxiety Disorder and are very attached to their friends or spouses.

 

Signs and symptoms

  • Refusing to sleep alone
  • Being very clingy
  • Panic or temper tantrums at times of separation
  • Excessive worrying when anticipating or away from home
  • Fear of getting lost or separated from family
  • Fearful and reluctance to go out (e.g. avoiding school/work)
  • Extensive worrying about events that causes separation (e.g. being kidnapped, death of loved ones) 
  • Repeated nightmares with a theme of separation

 

Risk factors

✽   Biological factors

    • Genetics (family history with anxiety disorder) 
    • Chemical imbalance in the brain

✽   Environmental factors

    • Novelty: Moving to a new house, school or disastrous events causing separation
    • Emotional: Parents who are going through a divorce, or the loss of a loved one(s)
    • Insecure attachment: Parents who do not meet the child’s need for security and understanding
    • Overprotective parents: Parents’ stress may feed the child’s anxieties

 

Treatment

✽   Psychotherapy

    • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) helps us to understand the roots of our anxiety and better handle such situations 
    • Family therapy helps to improve communication within the family unit and challenge the anxiety appropriately
    • Play therapy is especially helpful for children to express their feelings 

✽   Medication 

    • One of the most effective SSRIs fluvoxamine (Luvox) to relief symptoms of anxiety

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