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  • Writer's pictureSimone

Separation anxiety disorder

What is separation anxiety disorder?

  • difficulty being away from parents or other loved ones.

  • excessive worry about harm to loved ones.

  • excessive worry about danger to self.

  • difficulty leaving the house, even to go to school.

  • difficulty sleeping.

  • feeling physically ill when away from loved ones.

Treatment for separation anxiety disorder usually includes therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Therapists can help parents to understand how their behavior may increase their child’s anxiety (for example, allowing their child to skip school). It is very important to seek out medical advice if you are concerned that your child has separation anxiety disorder, because if left untreated, anxieties can grow bigger.

Who is affected by separation anxiety disorder?

About 4 percent of younger children have SAD, while the estimate for adolescents is slightly lower. Girls are affected more often than boys.

How common are anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental, emotional, and behavioral problems affecting children. About 13 out of every 100 children ages 9 to 17 years old experience some kind of anxiety disorder, such as separation anxiety disorder. Approximately 4 percent of children suffer from separation anxiety disorder.

What causes separation anxiety disorder?

Nearly all children experience brief feelings of anxiety about being away from a parent and display clingy behavior. Typically these normal bouts occur when a child is between 18 months and 3 years old, although older children can have passing feelings of separation anxiety during times of stress. The difference between these normal feelings of anxiety and a disorder like SAD is that a child with separation anxiety disorder will experience an extended and extensive period of fear and distress about being apart from familiar people and places and the degree of anxiety or fear is notably out of proportion to the reality of the situation. Anxiety disorders like SAD are linked to biological, family and environmental factors.

  • Biological factors: The brain has special chemicals, called neurotransmitters, that send messages back and forth to control the way a person feels. Serotonin and dopamine are two important neurotransmitters that, when “out of whack,” can cause feelings of anxiety.

  • Family factors: Just as a child can inherit a parent’s hair color, a child can also inherit that parent’s anxiety. In addition, anxiety may be learned from family members and others who are noticeably stressed or anxious around a child. Parents can also contribute to their child’s anxiety without realizing it by the way they respond to their child. For example, allowing a child to miss school when they are anxious about going likely causes the child to feel more anxious the next school day.

  • Environmental factors: A traumatic experience (such as a divorce, illness, or death in the family) may also trigger the onset of separation anxiety disorder.






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