Separation Anxiety (cont.)
Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD
Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Separation anxiety disorder facts
- What is separation anxiety disorder?
- What are separation anxiety disorder symptoms and signs?
- What are causes and risk factors for separation anxiety disorder?
- How is separation anxiety disorder diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for separation anxiety disorder?
- What happens if separation anxiety disorder is left untreated?
- Is it possible to prevent separation anxiety disorder?
- Where can I find more information on separation anxiety disorder?
What are separation anxiety disorder symptoms and signs?
Symptoms of separation anxiety disorder may include
- repeated excessive anxiety about something bad happening to loved ones or losing them;
- heightened concern about either getting lost or being kidnapped;
- repeated hesitancy or refusal to go to day care or school or to be alone or without loved ones or other adults who are important to the anxious child;
- persistent reluctance or refusal to go to sleep at night without being physically close to adult loved ones;
- repeated nightmares about being separated from the people who are important to the sufferer;
- recurrent physical complaints, such as headaches or stomachaches, when separation either occurs or is expected.
Examples of behavioral symptoms that children may exhibit to express the anxiety, hesitancy, reluctance, or refusal of events that separate them from loved ones include crying, having tantrums, whining, or begging. Examples of physical symptoms that separation anxiety disorder sufferers may have include stomach upset, headaches, and diarrhea. To qualify for the diagnosis of separation anxiety disorder, a minimum of three of the above symptoms must persist for at least a month in children and adolescents and at least six months in adults, and cause significant stress or problems with school, social relationships, or some other area of the sufferer's life. Also, the disorder is not considered to be present if symptoms only take place when the person is suffering from certain other mental-health problems, such as schizophrenia or from a specific kind of developmental disability called pervasive developmental disorder. School refusal, also called school phobia, may be a symptom of separation anxiety disorder, but it can also occur as a symptom of other anxiety disorders and is not a diagnosis by itself.
Social phobia, also an anxiety disorder, differs from separation anxiety disorder in that social phobia is characterized by severe fear of most, if not all, social situations, not just events that result in separating from primary caregivers. This illness affects about 1% of children and adolescents and up to 5% of adults.
Individuals with social phobia may be children, teenagers, or adults, and the anxiety may interfere with the person's ability to function. Children with this problem may have difficulty with a number of ordinary activities, such as playing with their peers, talking in class, or speaking to adults.
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